How To Switch Careers: A Step-By-Step Guide

Updated January 30, 2023

Career changes can happen for many reasons, providing you with new and fulfilling opportunities. If you’re considering switching careers, you may want to research professional options as well as why you want to make a change. In this article, we discuss what a career switch is and provide a comprehensive list of steps to help you change careers.

Read more: Choosing a Career Path in 9 Steps

What is a career switch?

Switching careers is the act of pursuing an occupation outside of your current position. For example, you may begin your career in the health care industry and then decide to move into government. It doesn’t always mean changing industries. You might also search for a job in the same field if you think a different company culture or management style will help you accomplish your career goals.

You might switch careers to:

  • Have a more flexible work schedule

  • Advance within an organization

  • Earn a higher salary

  • Travel more or less for work

  • Work under a different leadership team

  • Reduce stress

  • Feel appreciated

How to switch your career path

Review this step-by-step guide to find a career that matches your core values:

1. Determine if you're happy with your current role

Evaluating your job satisfaction is key to determining if it’s time for a change. Keep a log to help you document your daily reactions to your position. This way, you'll have a better idea about the type of environment you want to work in, how much you like your day-to-day responsibilities and if the management style is a good fit for your professional development.

2. Review your interests, core values and skills

Take a look at different areas where you've achieved success during your academic and professional career. Depending on your experience, your successes might have happened in volunteer roles, professional work experience or classroom projects. Reviewing these details will help you both determine what interests you and also how you might use highlight them in a resume for a new career. Look at free online tools to expand your career options and reflect on your core values to align your motivations with your career trajectory.

3. Consider careers in different industries

Create a list of careers you'd consider outside of your current industry. You can use the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employment projections to discover the fastest-growing job fields and Indeed Salaries to browse top-paying jobs and companies by industry.

Also, speak with friends, family members and your professional network to get an honest assessment of those careers you're considering. Ask if they could visualize you in a different role, for example, as a teacher instead of a business manager. A recruiter at a staffing agency or a career counselor may be a helpful resource if you're still brainstorming suitable career paths.

4. Seek potential job prospects

Research opportunities on job search websites to get a better idea of what's available and if they're tied in with the careers you brainstormed. Make sure to keep a broad careers list so you have a variety of options to consider. Search the company websites for positions that interest you as they can indicate the next step to take in your career.

5. Make an action plan

Creating an action plan means defining a clear goal and milestones to complete it. By this point, you’ve done all the research and should be able to narrow your career change to a specific occupation. It’s time to consider what it will take to get there.

Think about things like education and certification, skill development and opportunities to work within the specific industry or field. Write down what steps you plan to take and a timeline to completion.

6. Rebrand yourself

Before you start applying for new jobs, you may need to undergo personal rebranding. If you’re looking for a change, it’s important to use resources like a resume, cover letter and social profiles to create a personal brand that appeals to potential employers. This may be even more important during a career change because your existing experience may not align with your desired goals without a little thought and planning.

Consider how your existing experiences make you a better candidate for the role you may seek and make a personal statement about why you are a good fit. Use this theme in your resume, cover letter and your profiles on business networking sites. Remember to update any business cards, personal websites and contact information to reflect your new brand.

5. Conduct informational interviews with multiple professionals

Once you narrow down jobs and companies you're interested in, reach out to professionals at those companies and ask if they will speak with you. These informational interviews can render valuable career advice and their responses can help spark inspiration regarding a particular line of work.

Start by looking for alumni from your high school or college to contact. People are more likely to talk to someone with a shared connection or experience. You can also speak with coordinators and managers at specific companies or reach out to professionals in your network.

6. Shadow a few employees from different companies

If you have narrowed your primary career interest, take time to shadow professionals to get hands-on experience in their workplace. Shadowing can last a few hours or days depending on how long an employer allows you to do so. Check with your college's career office and ask them if they know about any job shadowing opportunities in your area.

7. Pursue freelance and volunteer opportunities for related jobs

Another way to advance your career change is to obtain direct work experience through freelance or volunteer opportunities. This can be helpful if you're looking for creative opportunities where there is in demand for freelancers. You can also volunteer at local nonprofit organizations to help feed the homeless, pack school lunches or help at an animal shelter.

8. Consider going back to school

If you need additional education to pursue a new career, consider night or online classes to complete a degree program or certification. You can also attend local seminars, workshops or webinars if you're looking to earn skills in a certain area. Another option is to attend a professional development conference with keynote speakers and interactive courses to improve your knowledge of industry topics.

Related: Upskilling and Going Back To School: When, How and Why You Should

9. Enhance your skills

Often, skills are transferable from one career to another, but just need to be improved upon. To determine which skills you should focus on, you should consider speaking with your professional network and mentors to learn ways they may have enhanced their skill sets. If you’ve decided to stay with your current employer but change roles, talk to your manager about your interest in learning new skills or performing other tasks.

Read more: How To Change Careers

10. Look for positions in your industry

Check for open positions in your current industry. If you're seeking a change, you may need to move to a company or another branch location that better correlates with your skills and long-term goals. For example, if you're a content writer, you might move into a project coordinator role at a similar company if you want to expand your project management skills and become a manager one day.

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