Finding a Job

How to Change Your Career Path in 12 Steps

February 11, 2021

There may come a time in your working life when you decide to change careers. Career changes happen for several reasons, but when they do, there are advantages to being strategic about it. For example, a strategic career change will likely lead to greater job satisfaction. In this article, you’ll learn about why someone might change career paths and how you can plan your next career move.

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Why do people their change career path?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is no consensus on how many times adults will change careers in their lives. However, we do know career changes, as well as occupation and industry, happen often. There are several reasons why someone may change their career. Common reasons for career changes include:

  • Stress reduction
  • Flexibility
  • Salary increase
  • Opportunity for advancement
  • Feeling of appreciation

How to change your career

If you’re considering changing careers, here are some steps to see you through a change in career path:

  1. Take a personal inventory.
  2. Decide if you want to change industries.
  3. Brainstorm careers.
  4. Search for potential job matches.
  5. Do your research.
  6. Make an action plan.
  7. Rebrand yourself.
  8. Mobilize your network.
  9. Look for hands-on opportunities.
  10. Consider educational resources.
  11. Develop new skills.
  12. Track your progress.

1. Take a personal inventory

To do this, start a journal. First, consider your reactions to your current job and how they impact job satisfaction. Write down recurring themes, notable events and how they make you feel. Ask yourself tough questions like, “What is it about your job that you do or don’t like?” Answer them and read your answers. From your own notes, you’ll begin to see a picture of what job satisfaction looks like for you.

During this time, you also want to be taking a personal inventory of skills, values and interests pertinent to your work. Consider times you’ve been successful and think about what you were doing—be it a job, volunteer situation, internship or something else. Determine what skills contributed to your success and how they can apply to various roles you might be interested in.

Related: Creating a Personal SWOT Analysis for Your Career

2. Decide if you want to change industries

While you are discovering more about yourself and what fulfilling work means to you, you should also define in what way you want to change career paths. For some people, changing your career path might mean starting over in an adjacent industry or a completely new one, while others may seek a new occupation within the same industry. 

For example, Monica, a multimedia advertising sales representative for a television network, might lean on her sales skills to get a job as a donor relations manager for a home healthcare non-profit. In this example, the candidate is using applicable skills to change industries from broadcasting to health and personal care.

The donor relations manager that Monica replaced, Natalie, used her financial and administrative experience from being in the role to secure a job as controller for a hospice service. In this example, Natalie stayed in the health and personal care industry, but changed occupations. Deciding what’s best for you means using your personal inventory to decide what types of occupations and industries best meet your needs.

3. Brainstorm careers

There are several ways to get informed on what career to choose. First, you can look at the work you’ve done so far and brainstorm careers and industries that would be a good fit for your skills and values. If you’re finding it a challenge to come up with a career that fits your needs, ask other professionals in your network. You can also seek professional guidance in the form of career counseling where you’ll likely learn more about your personality and how it fits into the evolving workforce of today.

4. Search for potential job matches

Using resources at your disposal like Indeed, you can brainstorm potential careers and make a shortlist to research. Taking this preliminary step before diving into thorough research will help you narrow your focus through the next steps in the process.

5. Do your research

With your career shift narrowed down to a few positions, you’re able to begin research. One way to learn more about a field of interest is to conduct informational interviews with people in that field. One way to do this is to talk to people you know in the field you are interested in learning about. If you don’t have an established network, consider browsing your college alumni association and reaching out to people who can assist you on your career journey.

6. Make an action plan

Creating your 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 educations and certification, skill development, attending networking events and seizing opportunities to practice within the specific industry or field. Write down what steps you plan to take and a timeline to completion.

7. Rebrand yourself

Before you start reaching out within your network and applying for new jobs, you may need to undergo a bit of personal rebranding. It’s vitally important that any candidates looking for a job use resources like a resume, cover letter and social profiles to create a personal brand that makes sense to employers. This may be even more important during a career change because your existing experience may not clearly 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 are applying for and use that to make powerful statements about why you are a good fit across your resume, cover letter and any business networking sites. Remember to also update things like business cards, personal websites and contact info to reflect your new brand.

Related: How to Write a Powerful Personal Statement

8. Mobilize your network

At this point, you’re ready to start reaching out to your network. Be strategic. Speak with only professionals you can trust to put in a good word and keep you aware of opportunities. Be mindful of what industry and position you want to work in as you select contacts to reach out to. You can do this on the phone or via text, or even a referral email or note on social media.

Related: How to Include a Referral in Your Cover Letter

9. Look for hands-on opportunities

Any opportunity to get some hands-on experience in your field of interest could be a good stepping stone to gainful employment. Seek out opportunities to job shadow, volunteer or intern. This will help you decide if the industry or field is a good fit and will also give you some experience that could give you a more competitive edge.

10. Consider educational resources

If you’re considering moving into a field that requires education or certification, making a career change could mean enrolling in school to complete requirements. There are several resources from college campuses to online classes that can help you gain the knowledge you need to make a professional career change. You can even use free online resources that deepen your understanding of necessary information.

11. Develop new skills

If you’re currently employed, find opportunities at your current job to gain skills you need to make a career change. For example, a marketer who wants to move into finance may ask for control over the marketing budget to gain skills regarding working with ledgers. Seizing opportunities like this one is helpful, but only if you remember to apply those newly gained skills to your resume and cover letter. Make sure you’re taking opportunities to hone your skills and recording them where it matters most.

12. Track your progress

To keep yourself motivated to make important changes, tracking your progress can be helpful. Consider using a spreadsheet to track milestones as you make your way toward a full career change. Sometimes, changing your career can take time. By tracking your progress, you acknowledge all the small victories along the way, and that can make you feel a sense of accomplishment as you make the switch.


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