7 Expert Tips for a Career Change

By Katariina Jalas, Career Coach

Do you want to change your career?

But you do not know where you would like to work next or how you can get there? When we take a big leap in life such as changing careers, we can feel scared of taking the next step. Especially when we are not sure where this will take us. If it is starting your own business, changing your industry or going back to school, decisions need to be made. You can end up feeling overwhelmed and stuck. 

But starting something new should be exciting and inspiring. You are embracing possibility. I want to help you with finding the right path for your career change. I have been working as a transformative career coach for 5 years, and I am happy to share my seven expert tips for a significant career change with you. 

1. Articulate your wildest dream.

Articulation is critical when you are trying to do something different with your career. Our careers form an integral part of our identity. If we want to be able to do something new, we need to be able to articulate our desire for a new identity. It also has a self-affirming effect – the more you say it, the more seriously you take yourself. It even has an impact on the ones you share your desire with – they will look at you differently and will, therefore, speak about you differently to others. Instead of being the friend who is stuck in the wrong career, they will say that you are the friend that is working on a new career path while still working their day job. Which leads us to our next tip.  

2. Who got you here is not going to take you there.

If you want to forge a new career, you will need to create a network around your new interest. Getting entrenched in your current network may feel comfortable and safe, but it is not going to help you in finding other like-minded people in the career direction you want to embark on. Your current network is a starting point, but you probably have not yet met the people who will be pivotal in helping you with your new career. So keep renewing your network by attending events outside of your normal environment and connect with people.

Be open to new directions.

3. Find the Time.

You will need to carve out time to create your new career. You can do something as radical as going on a career break, or quitting your job, but you can also be less hardcore and adjust your daily schedule. If you analyze how you spend your time, you will likely find an hour every other day to research ideas, to read up on relevant topics or to map out the new industry you are headed for.

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4. Explore and dabble.

Not everyone has a clear idea of what they might want to do. Many people have a sense of unease about their current situation but have no idea about what to do next or how to find out what they would like to do. The best antidote to this is dabbling. When I was in Middle School, my school organized “mini-courses” once or twice per year where students could pick an alternative schedule from a long list of out of the box activities for one week. 

Mini-courses are the only time in my life when I studied Japanese, designed a living room in a shoe box using interior design tips and learned how to do origami. While the mini-courses did not result in me moving to Japan after graduation and training as an origami artist, they did expand my understanding of which possibilities exist for creative expression and which ones of those appeal to me.

The best thing you can do to find your next career is to dabble – whether it is in the form of taking a course, volunteering, signing up for a conference or writing a book. This way you will also meet new interesting people outside of your day job (see tip 2).

Try out different activities and explore what you like.

5. Anyone can live like a pro for a year.

I read a great blog post by Jamie Anderson that inspired this tip. He set himself a goal to win a cycling race. He decided to devote an entire year of his life on this aim believing that anyone can live like a pro for a year.

This is sound advice for anyone considering a career change. I often hear about money concerns when people contemplate a significant career change. Having a well-paying day job (or just a day job) is hard to trade for something more uncertain. But it is surprising how little money we need when we are focused on a goal. You hear of people living in mobile homes while their new house is being built, or selling everything they own to go on a round-the-world sailing trip. Consider it as an investment in your sustainable career. Just like you invested in your vocational or university qualifications, you now can invest in your next career by buying yourself some time to get it off the ground.

6. Invest in a coach.

Speaking of investment: If you want to ensure the success of your career change and limit the psychological collateral damage that easily comes from any project that requires change, I would highly recommend hiring a coach to support you during the first 6-12 months. If athletes use sports coaches to ensure their success in achieving their goal, then why don’t you? A coach can keep you on track when your self-doubts are about to sabotage your progress, and they can bring new perspectives to a situation which seems impossible.

7. Take the first step to your next step.

The power of change lies in the small steps. A big career change rarely comes in one big leap, or if it does, it may not be sustainable. Too much needs to change in a very short time frame. It takes time to turn around a large ship. For you to truly forge your new working life, you will need to go through a few options until you get to the masterpiece.

Good luck with taking your first step to the next step in your career!

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Katariina Jalas is a leadership and career coach. She had worked in international Human Resources for nearly two decades before she started her own coaching business. She offers transformational leadership and career coaching to private and corporate clients. If you want to find out more about Katariina or work with her, have a look at her profile.

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