Whether you’re thinking about a career change or you’ve started a new position recently, you may have a lot of questions about different aspects of this jump.
How common are career changes? How can you use your past experience to further your new career? How difficult is it to get established in a new position? What is it like to start over?
In this article, we’ll cover these topics and more as we explore everything you need to know about making a career change. Here are six things you should know about career changes:
1. You Are Not Alone
While finding exact data on how often people change careers is difficult, it’s safe to say that it happens with relative frequency. A longitudinal study by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics suggests that people change jobs up to a dozen times or more, on average. But it’s important to note that a job change is not the same as a career change, so career changes likely occur with less frequency.
Career changes can also vary by degree. Sometimes, the change is slight, such as when someone changes from being an elementary school teacher to a school administrator, and other times, the change is more drastic, such as someone deciding to leave a career as a research scientist to pursue professional acting.
Whatever the jump, however, many have been there before.
2. Never Underestimate the Power of Experience
There are things you have learned thanks to experience in a previous career. You’ve likely already worked with others, collaborated on projects, dealt with interpersonal conflicts, and a whole host of other things that go along with most jobs.
While certain experiences are more universal than others, when starting a new career after leaving an old one, you’re starting with more in your pocket than when you first entered the workforce.
In addition to having gained universal job experience, you are likely coming to this new career with experiences that may differ significantly from other new hires. This can be a great asset. It will work to your advantage to find new and creative ways to apply past job experience to your new endeavor.
By leveraging your varied background to become an asset in a new career environment, you will quickly be able to prove yourself indispensable. If you are still in the job-hunting phase of a career change, learning how to reframe your experiences so that they can be seen as unique contributions can help land your new dream job.
3. Don’t Overestimate Your Experience
We’ve all met that person who assumes they know everything because they’re older or they think they’ve had some experience you haven’t. This is particularly frustrating when you know full well they’re missing some piece of the puzzle. Obviously, you don’t want to be that person.
To be fair, it’s a trap we are all capable of falling into. Especially when entering a new career field, you don’t want to seem like you don’t know anything at all. But if you overreach and overstep, those around you who have been in the field for longer may quickly grow frustrated and tired of you, which is the last thing you want.
If you assert your experience over others who’ve been there longer, it doesn’t make you appear knowledgeable at all. Instead, it can make you seem set in your ways and unwilling to learn. That said, it’s certainly always a good idea to speak up or throw out new ideas. Until you get the lay of the land, hold some trust that there might be things others see that aren’t apparent to you.
4. You May Need New Skills and/or Certifications
As you plan on making the jump into a new career, there might be a learning curve you need to leap over. Do your research before making the change if you can, so you have time to pick up the necessary skills first.
Depending on the particular job, you may need training on new technology, programs, or systems. You might need to get certain certifications — or even a new degree. Sometimes, a career change means going back to school for a while.
Depending on how old you are and how long it’s been since you’ve been in a classroom, this can be a scary prospect. If a degree is required — even if it’s just a two-year degree or a one-year certificate — you might be faced with math, English, and other subjects that you’re long out of practice with.
But keep in mind, as mentioned earlier, you are not alone in this. Many people who go back to school for a career change do so by attending their local community college. Such institutions are designed to help people who may have been out of school for a while, and they come equipped with resources to help anyone succeed, including classes offered at convenient times, tutoring, and career resources.
5. You May Have to Climb the Ladder All Over Again
If you’ve been in your previous career for a while, you may have moved up in rank over time with increased responsibility and autonomy. Or maybe this isn’t the case, which is why you’re changing careers!
If you climbed the ladder at your previous place of employment, you know that it can be hard work. It takes proving yourself, sometimes applying for a new position within a company, countless hours of hard work and dedication, and making the right connections with people. The last thing you want is to start at the bottom again, but when changing careers, you should know that this is a very real possibility.
If you are switching into a new field with no prior work history, you may need to start at the very bottom with recent college graduates and others who are entirely new to the workforce, which might be a very uncomfortable feeling.
Fear not, however, because the odds are that your climb up the ladder will be smoother, and possibly faster, this time. You may not come with as much job-specific experience, but you do come with experience, which will quickly show through, especially if this career change is to something you are more passionate about.
With hard work and a little bit of luck, you’ll end up back on the higher rungs before you know it — and hopefully be happier than in your previous line of work.
6. Openness to Learning Is Critical
The following insight applies not only to your new job but also to any time you’re learning a new skill. When embarking on something new and having little experience, it often looks easier or simpler from the outside than it actually is.
Think, for example, about something you do that requires a certain amount of skill. Maybe it’s something in your home life, such as taking care of your dog. Someone who has never owned a pet before probably has no idea how much was involved in raising your puppy into a well-trained dog — a fact borne out by the number of adopted pets that get returned when families realize they’re difficult to take care of.
Do what you can to let go of any preconceived notions of what is involved in succeeding in your new career field and keep your mind wide open for things that hadn’t even occurred to you before. By doing so, you will adapt much more quickly.
Find the Right Career
At Joblist, our goal is to make it easy for you to find the right career by allowing you to search multiple job listings from one place. We also have a vast array of articles providing advice and guidance for all stages of your career. We have everything you need to get started, whether you are changing careers or just looking for a new employer.