Lay the foundation for a career change with a few simple steps

When the career you’ve chosen doesn’t quite fit, you’ll come to a crossroads. In fact, you might be there right now. Does this sound familiar? You’re ready to start down a new path, but you’re not sure where to begin. Making a change in your career is intimidating, but there are many steps you can take to prepare for a career shift. The key is to start. As the publisher of Mac’s List and host of the Find Your Dream Job podcast, I talk to career experts and professionals who have successfully tackled career changes. In a nutshell, the advice I hear again and again is to set yourself up for a successful career change, you need to lay the groundwork before you make the switch. Here’s how to build a solid foundation to launch a great new career.

Know your transferable skills

The best thing about career changes? You’re not starting from scratch. Do some digging to identify the skills you already have to offer in a new area. Ask yourself some key questions. What are your strengths? What are the interests you are most passionate about? What are the skills that will best demonstrate your value to future employers? Career Cue podcast host Danna Redmond calls these your “core competencies.”
The answers serve two purposes. First, they’ll help you identify the industries and job titles you want to target your next career move. And second, you’ll be ready to sell your skills to a new employer. Transferable skills the “the portable things” you can use as the building blocks of your future career, so get ready to use them to explain how you’ll help your future employer.

Identify your must-haves

If you’re not sure what career path is best for you, it can be a good starting point to think about your own personal must-haves for your next job, and for your career. What works for you in terms of starting salary, work environment, office location, benefits and more? Prioritize the non-negotiables and narrow down potential careers based on your requirements. Do some research! Not every career will meet all of your must-haves, but you can weigh future opportunities against these benchmarks when considering future positions. And if you don’t do this work now, you’ll risk getting into a new career that’s still not the right fit.

Know your worth in a new industry

If you’re not confident in the value you bring to the table, prospective employers may doubt your commitment to the industry. Know what you’re worth by determining what the standard salary is for your desired industry and job title, based on your level of experience. And remember your transferable skills here. If you’re moving into a somewhat similar field, your experience still counts! Check out salary resources, such as Glassdoor and, before you start filling out job applications.

Acknowledge your shortcomings

When making a career change, there are going to be gaps between the employers’ requirements and your experience, no matter how many transferable skills you have. But these shortcomings don’t have to be a deal breaker. Don’t self-sabotage your chances. If a legitimate or perceived gap arises, acknowledge it with honesty and transparency without “over-apologizing.” Then, take the time to explain to the hiring manager exactly how you’ll bridge the gap. Prove that you’re a resourceful, adaptable, and quick learner by highlighting examples from your past experiences. Most employers value these traits more than your competency with a specific tool.

Own your career story

Craft your career story into a compelling showcase of why prospective employers should hire you. Share the lessons you learned from your previous positions and explain how each experience has changed your career for the better and strengthened your skills. Explain how these career lessons have led you to this point and how they will set you up for success in the future. When you do the work to know yourself and what you want, prospective employers will appreciate your confidence, enthusiasm, and fortitude.

People always say how important it is to know yourself in order to be happy at work. And while that sounds simple, many professionals struggle with how exactly to do that. Follow the advice I shared above and you’ll be well on your way! The Mac’s List team also created a worksheet to help you find focus in your job search. This is a free download and a great one for career changers!

When you commit to building a strong foundation for your career change, you’re investing in your future happiness and have a far better chance of landing in a job that you love, for the long-term.

Contributed by Mac Prichard, the founder and publisher of Mac’s List, where he writes regularly about job hunting, leads classes on job search skills, and hosts the “Find Your Dream Job“ podcast.


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