Changing careers is a big, scary feat.
Scratch that. A huge, terrifying feat. When your dream job has pretty much nothing to do with what you’ve been working toward your entire career—bridging that gap can feel overwhelming.
I’ve been there. I used to wake up daily with the sinking feeling that my job was not what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life. Most days I’d push it aside—I wasn’t happy, but changing careers felt less like a leap and more like the trip from California to Jupiter’s third moon.
One day, though, I decided to do something different. I pulled up a pitch I had written to a magazine months ago, and I finally sent it in.
Spoiler alert: It was rejected. But getting a byline in print wouldn’t have been the real reward anyway. After that baby step, I found that taking another one didn’t feel so hard. The next week, I called a contact who worked at a magazine and told her about my goals. The following week, I signed up for a writing class. Each week, I challenged myself to take one tiny little step in the direction of my goal, one of which (eventually) led me to my dream job at The Muse.
For me, and for most people, making a career change isn’t some big leap. Of course, there are overarching strategies you should think about, such as pivoting to a new role or industry, not both at the same time, or getting hands-on experience via a side gig or volunteer work, or joining an understaffed startup where you’ll get to wear all kinds of new hats.
But the most powerful move I made was just doing one little thing each week that got me a little bit closer to where I wanted to go. The momentum was energizing, and I finally felt motivated to keep going, no matter how long the change was going to take.
So, what kinds of little things could help you move toward your dream career? I’m glad you asked. Here are 25 ideas that’ll work for just about anyone.
Or, get inspired by the story of a successful career changer—like one of the many featured on Careershifters.
Buy a career-related book. Muse writer Rachel Moffett recommends Moving the Needle: Get Clear, Get Free, and Get Going in Your Career, Business, and Life if you’re feeling stuck, and Now What?: 90 Days to a New Life Direction when you’re ready to make a change.
Look up five people who have your desired job title on LinkedIn, and study their profiles. What skills or experiences do they all have in common? This isn’t meant to be discouraging (“Ugh, they all have 10 years of experience)—it’s meant to help you identify skills you could start to add to your own resume. On that note:
Create a “networking spreadsheet” where you can keep track of all your contacts in the field. Write down anyone you know now. Then, next week’s task can be…
Identify one person you know who’s in the field you want to go into, and invite him or her out to coffee or lunch (your treat!).
Reach out to a totally new person and ask for an informational interview. We’ve made it so very easy with this plan.
Pick one company you’ve always had an eye on, and spend 30 minutes researching what it’s really like to work there. Here are eight company research tips to get you started.
Do it again—and then start a spreadsheet where you keep a list of these companies and what you’ve learned.
Set up a Twitter list (see section #2 in this article for instructions), and add 10 people in your desired industry.
Sign up for an email newsletter to get up-to-the-minute industry updates. Not sure what to pick? Start with SmartBrief, which has offerings for pretty much every industry on the planet.
Write down three transferable skills that you could bring to another job. This might seem challenging if you want to move to a drastically different field, but remember that things like client communication and project management are pretty useful no matter what. This’ll come in handy down the line when you start working on resumes and cover letters, but for now…
Write a new bio for yourself—one that focuses far more on what you want to do than what you do now. Muse editor Erin Greenawald offers two easy templates.
Or, practice your elevator pitch. Career expert Lily Zhang has a step-by-step template to follow here.
Simpler than either of the above? Write a tagline for yourself that can be used on your LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social profiles.
Tell three people that you’re thinking about making a change. Let them know you’re not totally sure of the details and timeline yet (to sidestep questions you’re not ready to answer), but use the opportunity to get your ideas, thoughts, and fears out into the open.
Create a vision board or career manifesto, and keep it somewhere you can see it to inspire you.
Buy a journal, and write about your dreams, goals, fears—anything that comes to mind. Here’s a great guide to getting started.
Sign up for a meetup, conference, or professional event.
Say “yes” to an event, party, or gathering you wouldn’t normally attend. You never know who you might meet.
Identify one new project or task at your current job that will help point you in the direction of your career goals. You might have to get really creative, but hey, you’re already coming to this place every day, so you might as well make the most of it.
Brainstorm three side gigs. If your career change will involve time spent in classes or taking a pay cut, you’ll want to have some savings built up. And one of the best ways to do this is to make some money on the side—whether you take on a consulting project, become an Uber driver, or rent out your spare room.
Make a list of even more small steps! For each field, it’s going to be a little different, so jot down a few ideas of your own that would apply to your specific scenario.
What are some other little steps career changers can take? Have you successfully changed careers? Let me know on Twitter!