How to Make a Career Change

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Are you wondering how to make a career change? Perhaps you are feeling stuck in your current career. Or, maybe you’re feeling frustrated and inspired.

How to Make a Career Change

Wanting to find a new career path at 30 or any age is not uncommon.  You deserve to spend your working years doing something that excites and enriches you.

A second-act career change at 40 might make you feel like you’re throwing years of experience away, but if you can’t advance, are unhappy with the work environment, or feel satisfied in your current career it may be worth considering a change. Even a career change at 50, when you’re so close to retirement, isn’t a waste!

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Those remaining 15 years of employment can either fly by or drag on for an eternity. There are so many career choices for any age. No matter your age, if you’re unhappy in your career it may be time to consider something different. And, if you’re not sure how to make a career change, we can help!

How to Make a Career Change

businesswoman working online
You may be ready to take the jump into a new career path but unsure of how exactly to go about it. Below you can learn how to choose a career path in 10 steps.

1. Assess Your Current Job

Below you can learn how to choose a career path in 10 steps. Before you consider a new career path, you need to take time to genuinely and thoroughly evaluate your current position.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when thinking about how to switch careers:

  • What do I like about my current job?
  • What things about my current job make me feel proud, accomplished, or satisfied?
  • What things get me excited about my current job?
  • What do I dislike about my current job?
  • What things about my current job make me feel frustrated, powerless, or stuck?

Be sure to answer these questions over a period of time so that your responses aren’t tainted by a particular workday/week.

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As you review your responses, try to determine whether they are influenced by the work itself, the company, or the individuals with whom you work. This will help you decide whether a career change really is appropriate, or perhaps moving to a different workplace would resolve the bulk of your problems.

2. Assess Your Interests

Man thinking about his passion and Career Change

As you’re looking for a new career it’s important to also assess yourself. If you do decide it’s not just your workplace and you want to change careers at age 30, 40, or 50 years old, you will need to do some self-evaluation.

Think about your past jobs, volunteer work, hobbies, interests, and personality type. What excites you? What will keep you motivated and engaged? What special skills and experience do you bring to the table? Questions like these can help you brainstorm career ideas, and from there you can do job search research to see what qualifications you may need.

Review job descriptions for positions, they provide a lot of insight into the tasks that the job entails so you can see if they are something you like to do or wouldn’t want to do.

3. Consider Various Industries

Marketing executive meeting with staff

Perhaps you enjoy the work you do, but you don’t love the industry you’re currently working in. For example, if you enjoy helping others but you do not like working in the healthcare field, perhaps you can continue helping others with a new career path as a social worker.

Consider the various industries that could use your skills. If you are creative, you may enjoy a more creative role such as marketing or art and design. To ensure you enjoy your new career, try to find an industry that matches the skills and interests you identified in step 2.

4. Establish Career Goals

business coach making notes

Most adults don’t change careers just for the heck of it; they have goals in mind. Ask yourself: What do you hope to get out of this career change?

Are you considering this change in order to make more money? Are you looking for something with a better or more flexible schedule? More or less travel? Are you hoping for more advancement opportunities in this new career? Or perhaps your goals are more personal.

Are you hoping your new career will help you feel more accomplished? More energized? Are you looking for something that will better use your inherent skills? Something you feel proud to tell others about? Acknowledging these specific goals can help you ensure that you’re making a wise career assessment and that your new career will be a better fit than your current one.

5. Acknowledge Risks

Man applying to a job

At the same time, you must also acknowledge the risks associated with a career change. What risks are involved in leaving your current career? How will you afford your bills and insurance until you find a new job? What other perks will you lose? Are you going to have to do training programs?

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What sacrifices will you have to make? What sacrifices might your friends or family have to make? How will you handle childcare or other obligations if you have to go back to school? What if your new career has different hours or travel requirements? It’s important to be aware of your goals and the risks you’re taking when you make such a big decision.

6. Test the Waters

manager shaking hands with a job applicant

Fortunately, you don’t have to jump into a new career blindly! There are several ways to test out a new position before making a big career change.

Volunteering is a great way to try something new, and has the added benefit of helping others! If you have children, check with their school(s) for possible volunteer opportunities. You could volunteer in the classroom or help in the computer lab to gain insight into careers in education or information technology, for example.

Freelancing is another good way to test out a career, and you might even earn a little money. You can tackle small jobs after work or on days off and get a sense of what it might be like to work in that field full-time, before making the switch.

If you’re considering graphic design, for example, you could help build a website, layout a newsletter, or design a logo for a local business.

7. Talk to Others

two managing directors discussing ideas for a project

In addition to volunteering and/or freelancing, you should try to get first-hand information from someone who currently works in the career you are interested in with informational interviews.

If you already know someone who fits this description, reach out to him or her. If not, you can speak to a career counselor or get in touch with the career office at the college you attended or plan to attend. They can help connect you with local professionals or alumni who mentor or offer job shadowing opportunities.

The first thing you want to do is ask the professional for their honest answers to the questions in the beginning portion of Step 1. Learn what they find satisfying or frustrating about their job and why so that you will have realistic expectations.

8. Job Shadow

Woman job shadowing her friend in her job

Next, set up a time to job shadow. This may be just for an afternoon or for a full week, whatever works for you both. Job shadowing will allow you to observe day-to-day activities and get a general sense of what this career entails.

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Another benefit to job shadowing is the contacts! In addition to the professional you’re shadowing, you will meet his or her bosses and coworkers and a variety of other individuals who may be helpful resources as you research this career path, or even once you’re ready to apply for jobs.

9. Get Educated

young woman working in an office

Chances are you will need new skills in order to change careers. But the extent of that depends on how big of a leap you’re taking!

If you’re staying within the same industry, but want to transition into a different role, the process should be simpler. Your existing degree/education and your work experience have value, and you will simply need to upgrade your skills to fit the new position. To do this, you may need to attend some seminars, take some classes or earn a certificate, which you could do at night, on weekends, or online at your own pace.

But if you are considering a career change into a whole new field, you should expect the process to require more time and effort. You wouldn’t expect someone with a degree and work experience in Advertising Sales to quickly transition into a career as a Dental Hygienist, right?

To research what kind of educational investment may be necessary, visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) online and search for the career you’re interested in. The site will give you a sense of the salary, expected growth, and most importantly, “how to become one.”

You may also wish to talk to someone who hires professionals in your desired career and/or to a career counselor to determine what steps you will have to take to make this transition and how long it might take. Learning how much education you will need, whether you’re talking about a few seminars or a whole new degree,  is a key step in determining whether it’s worth making a career change at age 30, 40, or 50.

10. Rebrand Yourself and Start Applying

Man rebranding himself in preparation for his career change

As the last step in making a career change, you’re going to want to rebrand yourself to fit your new industry and career choice.

Rebranding yourself can include updating your resume to include your new degree, volunteer work you’ve completed, job shadowing you’ve completed, and any new certifications you have earned that show your skills in your new career choice.

For example, if you worked in marketing and are now venturing into healthcare, you’ll want to focus heavily on any healthcare-related qualifications you have earned during your transition. This will help possible employers view you with your new credentials and wonder less as to why a marketing student is applying for a healthcare role.

Why Do People Go Through a Career Change?

Man gathering all documents needed to change career

People who are looking to change careers have a variety of reasons, ranging from personal circumstances to professional aspirations. A career shift might follow a major life change, such as a divorce, or achieving a new academic milestone like graduating with a degree.

Some of the most common reasons for transitioning jobs include:

  • Finding a field or position with higher earning potential
  • Desiring better work-life balance
  • Feeling dissatisfied with management or a toxic work environment
  • Hoping to make a greater difference
  • Following a passion or hobby
  • Developing an interest in working remotely
  • Moving into a growing industry

After working in the same field for many years, employees also often begin to experience burnout. They may feel that their work has become repetitive and want to seek a new challenge, or they may have exhausted their opportunities for advancement and promotions.

In other cases, a career change develops as the result of a hobby or side job. An activity that you once pursued as a pass time, such as writing, photography, or carpentry, may eventually develop into something more.

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Family obligations also change over time. If you become a parent, you may want a job that allows you to spend more time with your children. Later on, parents might seize the chance to seek out more demanding jobs when their children grow older and require less supervision.

Second Career Options

Woman working as part time Real Estate agent

Switching careers is a great opportunity to pursue your passions or explore new areas of interest. These are some second career options that may require minimal training or education:

  • Teacher: If you have advanced knowledge and skills in your field, teaching may offer a natural career transition. Many states offer alternative paths to licensure if you’re interested in becoming a public school teacher. If you hold a master’s degree, you may be qualified to work as a postsecondary teacher in a college or university.
  • Bookkeeper: A second career as a bookkeeper may be a good option if you have strong math skills and a high school diploma. Organizations rely on bookkeepers to manage their financial records, generate financial statements and reports, and process payroll. Some bookkeepers work for a single employer while others work with clients on a freelance basis.
  • Real estate agent: Clients who are hoping to sell, buy, or rent a home often work with real estate agents who help them navigate the process. Real estate agents oversee negotiations between buyers and sellers, create contracts, and develop marketing plans for property sales. Each state has its own requirements to become a licensed real estate agent.
  • Technical writer: Technical writers create documents, such as manuals and guides, and explain complex material in clear, comprehensible language. Many technical writers have scientific backgrounds as well as high-level skills in writing, editing, and research. Creating a portfolio of your best writing may help strengthen your candidacy for a technical writing position.
  • Web developer: When businesses or organizations want to build an online presence, they turn to web developers to design the aesthetic and structure of their websites. Web developers generally need to understand coding and graphic design. Enrolling in a certificate course or bootcamp is a good way to develop these skills.

Many of these careers also offer the opportunity to choose whether you would prefer an in-person, remote, or hybrid work environment.

Tips and Advice for Changing Careers

Man attending an interview for a new job

No matter the reason, changing careers is not a decision most people make lightly. It requires self-reflection, evaluation of your skills and abilities, and an honest assessment of where you are now and where you hope to be in the future.

Answering a few questions like these may help you narrow down what you’re hoping to achieve:

  • Why exactly are you unhappy with your current position?
  • What skills have you developed in your current career?
  • What interests you professionally?
  • What kind of work environment is most appealing to you?

After you have answered these questions, the next step is to do some research into the basic requirements, average salary, and day-to-day responsibilities of various careers. Identify the ones that align most closely with your goals.

Some career paths require a high level of academic and professional training. For example, a teacher who hopes to become a doctor must first attend medical school. It may be possible to achieve the credentials and knowledge you need in other ways, such as:

  • Taking certificate courses, bootcamps, and online classes
  • Volunteering with relevant organizations
  • Reading books and study materials in the field
  • Practicing necessary skills as a free service for a non-profit organization or charity

You may also want to consider reaching out to working professionals in your preferred field and asking for their insights. Reach out to your friends and family to help make connections.

Pros and Cons of a Career Shift

Woman preparing requirements for her plan on Career Shift

Making a career switch can be exciting and empowering, but it also involves a lot of uncertainty. When you are debating whether to shift careers, it’s helpful to take both the benefits and drawbacks into account.

For many professionals, the pros of changing careers include:

  • The opportunity to grow and learn new things
  • The chance to earn more money
  • Reduced stress levels and greater work-life balance
  • Finding a position that aligns with your passions and interests
  • Taking control over your future

Seeking a second career allows you to explore your skills and interests in a way that you may not have been able to do in the past. It may also give you the opportunity to advance into a higher-level position or make a significantly higher salary.

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Career changes also come with a number of risks, and transitioning into a new position may not always be the best choice.

Keep in mind these potential cons to switching careers:

  • Taking the risk of financial instability
  • Experiencing stress because of an unfamiliar environment and responsibilities
  • Completing additional training or education requirements
  • Starting in a lower position than your previous company
  • Facing the unknown

While your second career may ultimately be an improvement over your previous position, it will also likely bring along its own set of challenges and complications. You will face a different kind of pressure as you build your experience and background in a new field.

What is a Career Change?

Man applying for a job in a different field

A career change is when a person takes a position that differs significantly from their past work experience. Unlike a job change, a career change involves totally new responsibilities.

You may experience a career change if you receive a promotion at work and become a manager or administrator. Alternatively, you might seek a new career entirely, choosing to pursue a job with within a different focus or field.

Career changes often require you to redefine your goals, develop new skills through training or education, and redesign your resume.

Can I Make a Career Change at 30?

Man in his 30s considering a career change

Yes, you can make a career change at practically any age. While some people may aspire to be well-established in their careers by their 30s, there is always time to make a change.

By optimizing your resume and highlighting relevant skills, you may be able to shift careers without pursuing a new degree or extensive training. The abilities that you have developed over the course of your career may translate well to a different position.

If you need to change careers, don’t be afraid to find your passions and go after them. An exciting new career path may be waiting.

Changing Career Paths

Young woman talking to her client in the office

Are you ready to choose a new career path?  Changing professions can be overwhelming, so take the time to answer these important questions and consider the risks and rewards. You may even be searching for the best careers for moms going back to school.

You likely have people who count on you, children, a spouse, other family members, and maybe even coworkers, and this will factor into your decision. But remember, it’s you who has to go to work each day, and you deserve to find fulfillment in your second career. Even better, online degree options allow you to keep commitments to others while you explore a change in career path.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with making this change for yourself whether you are 30, 40, or 50. It’s never too late to do what you enjoy. To start your career path journey, you can start researching accredited online colleges that offer your desired degree program.

Ready to start your journey?
Kama Offenberger
WRITTEN BY Kama Offenberger

Kama has a master's degree in English from Virginia Tech and a bachelor's in English from Concord University. She previously taught college-level English composition, literature, and English as a second language courses. She is now a full-time writer in the education field, with a particular focus on educational technology and pedagogical best practices for English language learners.