How to Change Careers | The Ultimate Career Shift Guide

Learn how to change careers and stand out from all the other eager job candidates when changing careers.

According to the United States Department of Labor (DOL) people change careers 3 to 7 times during their lifetime. 

One study done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that younger baby boomers (born between 1957 and 1964) changed jobs 11.7 times in their lifetime. 

But, there is a stigma around hopping jobs too much that can sometimes keep people at jobs they hate or that offer no opportunities to grow your career. It can be important to be loyal and dependable as an employee, but at the end of the day you have to keep you and your career's best interests at heart. 

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How to Prepare for a Career Shift 

A career shift is a big change for both your personal and professional life. It can be extremely stressful. 

Try not to rush into a career shift too quickly. Take adequate time to weigh your options and decide what you do and don't want out of a career shift. 

Before actually shifting careers, sit down and form some concrete plans. This can help direct you through this big life change and increase your chances of success. 

Reasons for a Career Change

There are many reasons to make a career change. Maybe you want to go back to school and enter an entirely new field of work. Maybe you are moving and need to find a new job in a new area. Or maybe you are looking to make a refreshing change in your professional life.  

A LinkedIn survey of over 10,000 people found the following to be the main reasons people gave for wanting a career change: 

Career Advancement

45% of the LinkedIn survey participants said they were changing careers for career advancement.  

This can happen when higher job positions aren't available at your current place of work or because you need more certifications or education in order to advance in a job position. 

Dissatisfied with Management

41% of participants said they wanted to switch careers because they were dissatisfied with the management at their current job. 

Managers at work have a lot of impact on an employee's quality of life at work. If you don't get along with management, or the leadership at work leaves something to be desired, it could be time to find a new place of work. 

Work Culture

36% of participants said they were looking for a different work culture that better suited their wants and needs. 

This could be because a previous job's work culture was harmful or not a right fit. 

New Challenges

36% of participants said they were switching careers because they were looking for a new challenge. 

We can start to feel stagnant doing the same thing for too long. And some jobs just don't offer enough diversity and change. 

Becoming too complacent and automatic at a job can also start to dull our skills and weaken the quality of our work. A new job that offers new opportunities and more diversity can help keep us from becoming complacent at work and help keep our skills sharp and up to date. 

Better Compensation or Benefits

34% of participants were changing careers for better pay or benefits. Income is an important factor in the quality of your life. Sometimes it is necessary to consider a career change to better pay for your wants and needs. 

74% of people who change careers got a higher pay at their new jobs. Making a career change usually does result in better pay. 

Lack of Recognition

32% of survey participants said they didn't feel like their work was valued at their previous job. 

You need to go where you and your work are valued. Having your work properly recognized at a job is also important in getting promotions, raises, and other career advancements and opportunities. 

When is the Right Time for a Career Switch?

One of the hardest parts of switching careers is figuring out when it's the right time to switch careers. 

You can start by determining whether any of the top reasons for changing careers apply to you: 

  • You want to advance your career or get a higher position.
  • You are dissatisfied with management at your current place of work.
  • You are dissatisfied with the work culture at your current job and want to find a work environment that suits you better. 
  • You feel bored or antsy at work and crave new challenges. 
  • You don't get paid enough at your current job. 
  • There aren't enough benefits at your current job. 
  • You feel like you and your work are undervalued at your current job. 
  • There's a different field of work you are now interested in pursuing. 

If any of these items sound familiar to you then it might be time to consider a career switch. But it's also important to consider the timing in your own personal life. 

Ask yourself whether your personal life is ready right now to tackle all of the adjustments a career change includes. 

How to Change Careers 

Changing careers can be a stressful and time-consuming process. Because of that, you need to have a solid plan of action. This will help you not lose sight of your purpose in your career changing efforts. 

1. Figure Out What You Want

The first thing you need to do when considering a career change is figure out what you do and don't want in a job. 

This is the time to take steps to figure out what career you really want. Read "How to Choose a Career" to reassess your career desires and goals and figure out what you really want to be doing.  

Changing careers can be stressful. Don't rush into the first opportunity that comes your way. Take adequate time to figure out what you want and make plans so your career change can be successful and stress-free. 

2. Make Career Changing Plans 

Having a clear career change purpose in mind will help you make career changing plans that will bring you success. 

Everyone's career changing plans are different. For some people, this means going back to school. For others this could mean taking a single course to get certified in something that can further your career. 

Once you know where you want to go in your career, make a scheduled plan that includes all the steps you need to take to get there. 

3. Sharpen Basic Job Skills

Regardless of whether you need to further your education or not to change careers, it's always a good idea to sharpen your basic job skills. 

Read this master list of 15 Essential Skills for Your Resume to get an idea of the top job skills you need in any job. 

For a more condensed list, here are the most important basic job skills:

Teamwork Skills

Working well in groups and teams is an important skill to have for any job. Even if you aren't frequently working with others at your job, there's still a chance you'll have to communicate and collaborate with others at some point. 

Being a good team player also lends itself to other useful job skills. 

Communication Skills 

All jobs require a level of communication. In fact, work from home jobs can actually require more communication skills because remote workers have to use more channels of communication. 

Problem Solving Skills

Problem solving, critical thinking, and analytical skills are also important in every job. Each job presents employees with different problems, tasks, and objectives that use critical thinking skills to solve. 

4. Learn New Job Skills 

If you're making a drastic career change, this might include going back to school or seeking out courses or certifications for the field or position you want to move to. 

Even if you don't need further education to pursue a career switch, there are bound to be new job skills your new career will require. 

When you switch to a new career you’ll probably be inexperienced compared to your new peers. You can make up for this inexperience by learning as much about your new career as possible.

Don’t wait around to dive deep into research and training. If you need a specific certification, seek it out. Read trade publications, follow blogs from industry experts, or attend a trade show or convention. Try to get an insider’s knowledge of your new industry, because it will help when you transition into making it your full-time career.

5. Update Your Resume and Cover Letters

After all that hard work it's finally time to update your resume and cover letters for your new career. 

It is crucial that you update your resume and cover letter with each new job application. By tailoring each resume and cover letter to each job, you'll give yourself the best chance to impress interviewers and land the job. 

To update your resume, keep in mind the specific skills and qualifications that your new industry will be looking for. 

To update your cover letter, try to briefly illustrate the experiences you have that give you the skills and qualifications an interviewer is looking for in your new career. 

Read How to Write a Cover Letter and How to Write a Resume to learn more about how to create a resume and cover letter that will lead you to success. 

How to Change Careers at 30

At age 30, most likely you've been working for about 10 years. That's enough to truly experience all aspects of the career you chose.

That doesn't mean you won't realize after 10 years in the field that there are some serious career changes you'd like to make. 

Now is a good time to reexamine your career, what led you to it, and what exactly you would like to change. At this point it's also a good idea to evaluate the professional network you've accumulated so far. 

This network will be paramount in changing careers at 30. 

Top 5 Careers to Change to in your 30's:

  1. Dental Assistants are important members of the dental team. Each dental assistant can have their own specializations in how they assist dentists. They may help with preparing and organizing dental tools, keep patient records, and help schedule appointments.  
  2. Veterinary Technicians are similar to assistants in that they are the assistants to the veterinarians they work for. They help do many of the technical jobs like administering certain treatments. 
  3. Personal Trainers create personalized fitness programs for their clients. They also often help coach their clients through the program. 
  4. Massage Therapists have a knowledge of the body, muscles, and tissues. They use their skills to massage muscle and tissue to relieve pain, stress, and improve circulation. 
  5. Business Managers supervise and lead business operations. They perform many important tasks like creating business strategies, evaluating business and employee performance, and leading teams. 
Career changes in your 30s infographic

How to Change Careers at 40

At 40, most likely you've been in the field for about 20 years. You might be hesitant to go back to school to change careers at this stage, but it's not too late! 

Many career changes don't require more than 2 years of additional schooling. Some don't even require more than a year of courses and certifications to enhance the education section of your resume. 

Changing careers at 40 can be stressful, as it can be at any time in life. But at 40, you should have plenty of past work experience to use in getting into a new job. 

Top 5 Careers to Change to in your 40's:

  1. Teachers educate a classroom of students in a wide range of topics. As a teacher, you can choose to specialize in teaching a certain age group or a certain topic. 
  2. Translators are knowledgeable in one or more languages. They help to translate languages that are written or spoken. 
  3. Dieticians and nutritionists have a knowledge of nutrition and the human body. They use this knowledge to customize a healthy meal plan for their client. 
  4. Social Workers work with children and families. They protect children that are vulnerable and support families who are struggling. They help solve relational problems along with many other everyday issues and hardships that families experience. 
  5. Human Resources Managers work closely alongside the employees at a company. They work in the hiring process and make sure compliance and employee guidelines are being adhered to in the workplace. 
Career Changes in Your 40s Infographic

How to Change Careers at 50

There are a lot of reasons to change careers at 50. One of the most common reasons is to find work that you are particularly passionate about. This work can then be carried on into your retirement years. 

Changing careers at 50 comes with a lot of advantages. You will have past work experience to bolster your resume and a wide professional network to work with as well. 

Top 5 Careers to Change to in your 50's:

  1. Real Estate Agents are versed in the entire home buying and selling process. They then help prospective home buyers visit different available homes and go through the home buying process. Home owners selling their home get help from real estate agents in going through the home selling process. 
  2. Financial Advisors helps their clients create effective financial strategies and plans. They help calculate the numbers, weigh the pros and cons, and consider the possible returns on investments. They help their clients invest, save, get out of debt, and build wealth. 
  3. Counselors can serve in many capacities. Counselors might work in almost any professional field or any age group. Some counselors work in a school district and help provide academic guidance to students. 
  4. Nurses perform a wide variety of duties in doctor offices and hospitals. Some of those tasks include administering medications, inserting IVs, or recording medical information about patients. 
  5. Freelance Writers can work from home writing content for their clients. They might write articles, larger works, or create content for a website. 
Career Changes in your 50s infographic

In Conclusion, 

These tips on how to change careers are the 5 key steps you need to successfully navigate a career change. 

When you’re going through a career transition and you’re in need of some fast cash, just step into a Check City Location near you to take advantage of our friendly financial services!