You’ve decided it’s time to make a big change in your professional life: You want to switch careers. But figuring out exactly how to change careers isn’t easy when you’re not quite sure what direction to take. Here are three steps that can help you chart your course:
Step #1. Identify what’s missing from your current career
If you’re not sure how to change careers, reflect on why you want to make this move. That will enable you to develop a baseline strategy for your search. For example, if you’re seeking more challenging job responsibilities, does that mean you also want to escape your current industry? Maybe not. Perhaps you just need to pivot to a new role at a different type of company that is in the same or a similar industry.
Two important questions to ask yourself when trying to pinpoint the core reasons for your current lack of job satisfaction are: When was the last time I felt inspired by and proud of my work? and What do I really like to do most, both professionally and personally? Your answers are likely to be very enlightening and may even take your new career search in an entirely unexpected direction.
Step #2. Assess your skills, experience and potential
Once you have a general sense of where you might want to forge a new professional path, you should evaluate whether you have the right skills and experience to reach your desired destination. To make that determination, start reviewing job ads to find out what employers seek in candidates for the roles that interest you most. Also, ask trusted contacts in your network for their thoughts on the professional strengths and weaknesses you have that could impact your ability to switch careers.
Another consideration when deciding how to change careers is your potential to change. Do you think you could quickly gain the necessary skills to fill any gaps, either on the job or through other learning? If you will need additional training to launch your new career, the tight hiring market could work in your favor: Many employers are willing to train promising candidates for certain roles.
Step #3. Consider working with an employment agency
Another option for charting your new career path is to tap the expertise of an employment agency (or staffing agency, recruiter, search firm or staffing firm — they’re often called by various names). The staffing professionals who work for a reputable employment agency can:
- Offer tailored tips and advice on how to change careers
- Share industry-specific information, including details on market trends and in-demand skills
- Bubble up job opportunities that may pique your interest
- Provide job interview tips and resume guidance
- Present your qualifications to potential employers
And, when you have a better sense of how to change careers, recruiters can match you with temporary and project-based work that can help you build transferable skills and gain experience in your new area of focus if needed. A staffing firm can also help you find a full-time job in your chosen field when you’re ready to make that leap.
A staffing agency such as Robert Half can help you when you want to change jobs or careers.
Tips for choosing and working with an employment agency
The basic rules for finding the right staffing firm for your needs are what you might expect: Do your homework and look for a resource that specializes in the industry you’re targeting. Review the firm’s website and learn about its reputation within your chosen field. Take a critical look at the agency’s operations and request specifics about its process for placing job candidates.
Once you’ve identified an employment agency you’d like to work with, how should you reach out? There are two ways: You can respond to a specific job posting, or simply register as a potential candidate who is open to a variety of opportunities with client companies.
The agency’s staffing specialists can provide valuable insight on how to change careers by giving you specifics about available positions, potential employers in your chosen career and industry, and relevant trends in the job market. They can also assess your suitability for open roles.
What else can you do to help the process?
Before you engage an expert resource to be your guide on how to change careers, make sure you are fully committed to the journey. Also, your relationship with an employment agency will be far more productive if you come prepared with a good sense of at least the general direction you want to take. You should also be aware of compensation trends in your industry and local market so that you can approach new career opportunities with reasonable expectations.
Even if you’re not 100 percent sure what type of job you’re after, go into a meeting with a recruiter with a firm grasp of your own skills and talents and the confidence to present yourself. (See Steps #1 and #2!) That determination will create a great first impression and help the agency find the right opportunity for you. The more assured you are about your career objectives and what type of job and organizational culture you seek, the better able an employment agency will be to help you.
While a staffing firm can be a valuable resource to help you sort out exactly how to change careers, the relationship will be most beneficial if you’ve already taken a few steps down your desired path — for example, by earning an in-demand credential. If you possess at least some of the skills needed in your target field by the time you begin your job search, recruiters will be more likely to make a successful match between you and a new employer.