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How to change careers without feeling like you’re starting back at square one.

If you’re reading this, the thought of making a huge career change has probably already crossed your mind. You might’ve hemmed and hawed about it over the last weeks, months, or even years, never fully taking the plunge for one reason or another. Don’t feel bad; your hesitance is completely understandable. Switching jobs in this economy isn’t easy, particularly if you’ve been in the game a long time or intend on exploring a vastly different field. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, though. We’re all for people chasing their dreams so here’s some advice to help make your career change a rewarding one.

First, figure out your priorities.

How would you answer if someone asked why you’re switching? “A change of scenery” may be enough for conversational purposes, but what’s truly motivating you? Are you dissatisfied with your day-to-day tasks, or naggingly curious about a new line of work? Have many of your colleagues been leaving your organization recently? How passionate are you about this new field? Does pay have anything to do with it?

These probing questions are important to answer because they’ll help you discover what lies at the root of your decision. For example, feeling restless or bored could be a sign that you’re not being fulfilled or challenged—but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to quit your job. Maybe you just need to request more responsibility or be moved to a new department. Or maybe not, in which case it’s time to move to the next step.

Do a lot of research.

Once you’ve determined the real reasons for your big career move, it’s time to learn. Reading this article is a great first step, but you’ve really got to dive in deep. Use all the resources at your disposal to soak up everything you can about the new role and industry you’re pursuing. Basic information like hours, salary expectations, job description, and required education will be easy to find online, but for more nuanced questions you should consider reaching out to someone who can share their firsthand experiences. They’ll probably be able to tell you which organizations have stellar cultures versus which ones are toxic, and might even help get you in the door. Don’t know anyone in the field? No problem. A quick LinkedIn search and a few phone calls later, you’ll have your answers.

Straighten out your finances.

No matter how well you time your transition, there’s always the possibility that you could be without income for a while. Many people forget to account for this, assuming they’ll get hired immediately and at a similar salary. You can save yourself a world of worry by creating a budget to determine how much you should have saved to cover any life expenses that occur while you’re between jobs. Don’t forget to factor in the expected amount of your first paycheck, especially if you anticipate a lower salary at your new job.

Make a timeline for your goals.

As previously mentioned, often people believe changing careers is just a matter of quitting one job and accepting another. However, in an increasingly competitive workforce it might also involve taking a course, apprenticing, or even earning another degree entirely. These interim steps will all delay your transition so it’s important to budget your time too. Can you wait four years to finish the required degree? If not, it could be better to take a condensed course load or get a comparable diploma instead. Keep in mind certain decisions like this may affect how employable you are in the long run. Mapping out your objectives on a timeline and weighing the pros and cons will help you avoid future surprises.

Keep bridges unburnt.

Even if you’re miserable at your current job nothing good can come from burning bridges. Word travels quickly regardless of industry, and you don’t want to put yourself at a disadvantage by earning a reputation. Moreover, you never know when you’ll run into your former colleagues so it’s best to keep things civil. When you’re ready, give your employer requisite notice, be courteous in your resignation, and leave any grudges behind you.

Leverage your existing skills.

You might feel like everything you’ve done until now has just gone to waste, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You’ve gained invaluable skills along the way, many of which can probably be applied to your new role. In fact, depending on which industry you’re coming from those skills may even give you an edge over other applicants, so be sure to identify them as strengths and highlight them during interviews.

Get career advice every step of the way.

Just because you’ve signed on the dotted line and are now happily settled in your new career doesn’t mean you’re done. Professional development is ongoing, which means you can always improve. We make it easy to brush up on leadership, interpersonal, and managerial skills by providing our users round-the-clock access to our expert-led resources that cover all these topics and more. To find out how you can start using LifeSpeak to boost your career, ask your HR representative to get in touch with us today.