Very few of us will stay at the same job forever. We know that by now. But we also know that switching from one career to another is easier said than done, particularly if you’ve built up significant expertise, experience, and a solid network right where you are.
To make the transition easier, we chatted with a few alumni of The Broad Residency in Urban Education—a program that helps people move into management roles in public education from other industries, as well as develops leaders already working in education—to see what advice they have for people making a switch. After all, hindsight is always 20/20.
Lesson #1: Build Your Network—Now
It’s no secret that having a strong network in your new field will make the transition smoother. But most people start the process of building it far too late. Instead of aggressively making connections once you’re 100% sure about switching careers, you should start reaching out to people as soon as you have an inkling that you might want to make a change.
Why? First, meeting new people earlier in the process will allow you to have a deeper relationship by the time you really need to ask them for help. But, more importantly, starting conversations now will give you time to learn more and make sure the gig is right for you.
Tiffany Small-McKelvin, who moved from the biotech manufacturing world to managing operations at a public charter school network, highlights the importance of building a new network while leaning on your old one. “Find people who have made similar transitions who can help you to navigate this change or advocate for you,” she says. “I also forgot I could reach out to old mentors and old coaches—informal or formal—and lean on them.”
As with most anything, start by doing your research. Where do people who work in your new industry hang out? Whether it’s actual after-work events, professional conferences, or even an online community, look for the places where you can make connections. If you’re having a hard time, you may look into programs designed to help people transition into an industry, like The Broad Residency, which often offer access to extensive alumni networks.
Then, get yourself out there! Remember not to focus on what people can do for you, but rather on meeting interesting folks, learning as much as you can, and staying in touch to build relationships.
Lesson #2: Test Drive Your New Role
Matt Marquez worked in supply chain logistics before making the move to his current job as the Director of School Operations for KIPP San Antonio Public Schools. The change was significant, and he notes that dipping his toes into the water of his new field ahead of time would have been valuable—even if he wasn’t getting paid for it.
“Getting more deeply involved in the work through volunteering, or maybe even touring some schools and sitting in classrooms, ahead of my transition could have helped,” Matt said. “Knowing some of that ahead of time would’ve shaped my expectations and maybe helped me be even more effective on day one.”
So, how do you find the right opportunity? To start, turn to your new network and ask where you might be able to volunteer your skills—this is a great chance to deepen the relationships you’ve begun by offering to help them!
If you can’t find the right option there, it’s time to do your own research again. Start with your dream companies—is there a chance to do some pro bono work? What about within a nonprofit, or even a professional association? Be open to every opportunity to learn more and give back, even if it means doing it (temporarily) for free.
Lesson #3: Learn as Much as You Possibly Can
Speaking of learning more, be proactive about educating yourself on your new industry. At its simplest, this means reading books on your new field, subscribing to industry publications, and following influencers to stay up to date.
The next step up could be registering for a class, workshop, or certificate program. “The Broad Residency made a big difference,” shares Small-McKelvin. “They’ve already done a lot of the legwork with regard to what you need to know and who to tap into—it gave me a chance to see how my skills translate from one industry to another.” Plus, it showed future employers she was serious about making the change.
Learn More About The Broad Residency in Urban Education
But, of course, it’s hard to know what you don’t know. So again, you’ll need to do your research. Start by looking at the job description for the job that you want. What are the skills listed? What would be your responsibilities? Then, think bigger: How can you go above and beyond to be exceptional in this role? What skills would make you stand out from the pack? What would help you seem forward-thinking in your new industry?
Now, look for the holes in your experience. What do you need to learn more about? Where could you sharpen your skills? Then, find the courses that will help fill those holes. There are myriad opportunities—both online and in-person—for further education.
Don’t forget to include your courses and certifications on your resume, and bring up what you’ve learned while networking and interviewing. This is your opportunity to showcase your new skills—make sure you shine!
There are a lot of unknowns that come with making a big career shift—but you don’t have to go into it blind. Start working on these three steps now, and you’ll be well prepared for the change coming your way.
TopicsCareer Advice , Changing Jobs , Sponsored , Sponsored by The Broad Residency in Urban Education , Continuing Education , Career Paths , Career Changes , The Broad Residency in Urban Education
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Jenna Arak is a soulful storyteller. She shows women how to use the written word to share their story: to teach, to connect, to have an impact on the people who need to read about who they are, what they’ve done, and what they do—because through reading one another’s stories, all of our lives will be changed for the better. Jenna’s mission is to encourage women to follow their dreams, build upon their strengths, and bring new, interesting, and innovative ideas into the world through storytelling. She is also a copywriter, an editor, and a denizen of any bookstore’s self-help section. Her writing has been featured on Salon, Thought Catalog, The Everygirl, The Muse, Darling Magazine, Career Contessa, and more. She lives and writes in Pasadena. You can learn more about her work and her writing at jennaarak.com.More from this Author
Sponsored by The Broad Residency
The Broad Residency in Urban Education is a national leadership development program that matches participants with managerial positions in public school systems. By taking on roles within the system, participants lead transformation efforts to improve public education for all children. Concurrent with the role, Residents participate in two years of cohort-based professional development. Learn more now!