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Advice / Career Paths / Career Change

Best News Ever: A Career Change Doesn't Have to Be So Big and Scary

Does the idea of a career change make you hyperventilate (despite how uninspired you’re feeling at your current job)? Well, here’s some good news. You don’t have to go from being an editorial assistant to being an opera singer to make a positive shift in your career.

Most career changes, as it turns out, aren’t the dramatic transformations you might imagine. The people at LinkedIn just did a study (from the site’s admittedly self-selected group of users), and the career jumps they’re seeing are actually quite tame. Have a look at the results yourself on the Wall Street Journal—just scroll down for the tool that lets you input a position title and see what career changes people from that profession made.

Some common transitions people made include salesperson to marketing specialist, therapist to social worker, and clinical research specialist to project manager. Can you find the common thread between all these pairs? Here’s a hint: Transitioning to a new career is a lot easier if you can bring a hefty set of transferable skills with you. Figuring out your skill set (have a look at your current job description for a place to start) and what other roles can benefit from that skill set is a good way to think about your career, let’s say, shift.

To get a little more specific with your search, pinpoint the areas of your current position that you’re dissatisfied with. Consider things like the content of your work day to day, the people you interact with, and your personal work values (here’s more on how to figure them out). Your skills should help you figure out what types of positions might make sense for you, while your values should inform your decision-making in regards to the types of companies and cultures you might be interested in.

Sure—some people make massive leaps into entirely different fields, and that’s OK too. But before you do a 180 and start all over, consider a lateral move in a similar field. With a little bit of digging and self-reflection, you might find that roles that allow you to use your skills and alleviate your concerns with your current job are closer (and therefore more attainable) than you previously imagined.

In other words: No opera singing classes required.

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