Here’s the scenario: At your job, you’re unfulfilled, unchallenged, and burned out. What you thought would be an amazing opportunity turned out to be something different. You wish you could be excited about getting to work in the morning, do work that’s meaningful to you, and easily see yourself in this profession five to ten years from now. And you’re realizing that you’d be happier doing something else, which means you’re looking at other options.
But how can I afford to switch my career right now? your inner critic will ask. We live in a time where we have options. You can do anything you want to for a living, if you put in the time and effort to make it happen. The most important question you can ask yourself is, Am I happy? Having an unrewarding job can potentially harm your overall wellbeing. Wouldn’t you be more productive, successful and healthy in a career you’re passionate about?
If you’re ready to take that leap, here are some tips to help you land.
Base your dream career on your values and passions
Put some heavy thought into your core values and what you’re most passionate about. What’s most important to you: adventure, consistency, or simplicity? Now make a list of things you enjoy doing, things you do well, things you’ve always wanted to do, even your childhood dreams. Once you’ve established your values and passions, begin putting the pieces together to find your next career. Be patient with this process; this significant life change will take some time and some serious soul-searching. If you need guidance, I suggest reading Build Your Dreams by Alexis Irvin and Chip Hiden. You can read my review on the book here.
Soak up that knowledge
Take classes, attend seminars and talks, go to meetups and film screenings, read books, do research online, and interview people working in the field you want to be in. Learn everything you can, and put your new knowledge into practice. If you’re going for certification or a degree, try to find an accredited school with a great success rate of job placement. Also keep up to date on your existing skills that can be applied to your new career.
Reach out to your connections
Everyone in your life has the potential to lead you in the right direction — from opportunities for job leads or recommendations, to information about companies you might want to work for. Reach out to your network for advice or leads, and when someone agrees to give you some of their time, offer to buy them coffee or lunch (or barter a service if you don’t know them too well).
Make a plan and stick to it
Map out your quest into overarching tasks and smaller subtasks, and complete them within a reasonable time frame. Start small — what can you get done this week? What should you have completed a month from now? Plan carefully and set realistic long-term goals. Pay off your debt, budget your income, and set aside some savings if you’ll be out of work while pursuing your new career (experts recommend up to six months’ salary).
Get in there
If you’re embarking on your career from scratch, getting experience is crucial. Volunteer for an organization that’s relevant to your prospective career. Temp, take on an apprenticeship or work part-time in this new discipline. Find ways to build a foundation of understanding, achievements and expertise in the field: create a portfolio, edit together a reel, put your work on Dribbble for feedback, etc. And, if you’re inclined, find a mentor to guide you along your new path and give you some professional input.
Stay positive, take your time and be prepared for difficulties — this is a life-changing decision and it won’t be a piece of cake. Things worth having don’t come easy, right? If you need a little boost or words of encouragement, check out the late Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, about achieving your childhood dreams.
Have you switched careers? What was your experience like? I’d love to hear about it — please comment below.
- How to Pick a Career You Actually Like by Penelope Trunk
- The 3 Phases of a Major Career Change by Amber Rae
- The 14 Most Powerful TED Talks for Disruptive Career Change & Making a Difference by Scott Dinsmore