You know one thing for sure: Your current career is not the career for you.
But beyond that, things aren’t quite as clear. You may have an idea of what you want to do next—and all the determination in the world—but if you don’t have the right experience or connections, you may not know how to actually get there.
And while a major career change is absolutely possible, it can be tough—so it’s not something you necessarily want to do over and over again. With that in mind, it’s important that when you decide to make a shift, you do it right.
To help you make that move, we’ve partnered with TUMI to bring you five strategies that will help you figure out how to get from where you are now to where you want to be (plus a chance to win a career-boosting prize!).
Enter to Win
Ready to take your career to the next level? Submit this form with your email address, and you’ll be entered to win a prize from The Muse and TUMI. Three lucky readers will win:
- Up to $1,250 in TUMI merchandise, hand-selected for you
- One hour of career coaching with Christie Mims of The Revolutionary Club, a certified professional career coach with a Forbes Top 100 website for careers, to help you take actionable steps toward your professional dreams. (If you really want to find work you love, grab her fancy-pants free workbook on the 6 Simple Steps to Find Work That Makes You Happy.)
Winners (3) will be chosen at random and notified via email. All entries must be submitted by Wednesday, February 17 at 11:59 PM EST. There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition. You must be over 18 to enter. By entering this contest, you agree to the terms and conditions outlined here and to receive emails from The Muse and TUMI in the future.
1. Focus on What You Really Want
In the desperation of wanting to make a switch, it’s surprisingly easy to convince yourself that you want anything other than your current role. But to make a meaningful—and lasting—change, you have to put some serious thought into what will truly fulfill you.
This can look different for everyone. Maybe you have a deep-rooted passion that you’ve been ignoring in lieu of a more profitable career—or, you have a business idea brewing and are ready to take the plunge.
Others, however, may only know that their current position isn’t right—and that there must be something better out there; something that doesn’t fill them with dread every Monday morning.
Before you do anything else, take some time to narrow down what you want. Think about the kind of role and responsibilities you want, as well as the type of office environment you see yourself in. Will you work in a startup? A large corporation? Launch your own business? Or freelance?
It’s only when you have a specific vision of what you want that you’ll be able to take the next steps toward actually landing that dream job.
- 9 Career Change Success Stories That Will Seriously Inspire You
- 7 Ways to Lay the Groundwork for Your Next Job (Even if You Don't Know What it Is)
- 3 Questions to Ask Yourself When You Don’t Know What You Want to Do
- The 11 Best Career Quizzes to Help You Find Your Dream Job
- The Simplest Way to Figure Out What You Should Do With Your Life
2. Test Drive Your New Career
The last thing you’d want to do is quit your full-time job, go through the pains of job searching, land a new job in a new field, and work for just a few weeks before you realize it’s not quite what you expected—and it’s time to make another switch. So before you take the plunge, figure out how to audition your new career path.
You may, for example, be able to work part-time, freelance, volunteer, take an internship, or even start a blog—whatever you can do to get a real-life taste of what that full-time job would be like.
If you’re not able to do the actual work, scour your contact list to line up informational interviews with people who are in (or have been in) the position you want. Use these conversations to find out as much as possible about what it’s like to be in the role—both the good and the bad.
Your goal, whether you can experience the work first-hand or simply hear accounts from others, is to get a clear, realistic idea of what that kind of role would really be like—and make sure that’s still what you want.
- 5 Ways to Test-Drive a New Career
- How Informational Interviews Can Cure Your FOMO
- 7 Secrets for a Successful Side Gig
- The Totally Unintimidating Way to Get Started on Your Business
3. Expand Your Network
Networking is necessary in any job search—but when you’re hoping to switch career tracks, it can seem like you’re starting from scratch. The contacts you’ve gained in your finance career, for example, won’t be much help if you’re trying to break into web development. Right?
Not necessarily. Because the beauty of networks is that they extend and overlap in ways you may not initially anticipate. And you never know who in your circle knows someone who knows someone who can introduce you to a valuable contact. The more contacts you're able to make—and nurture—the better your chances of developing the network you need to make a significant career switch.
LinkedIn is a great place to start, as you can easily see who your current connections are linked to. With a well-written message, you may be able to garner an introduction, which can lead to an informational interview, advice, or even a link to your dream company.
- 5 Smart Networking Strategies for Career Changers
- How to Ask for an Introduction: An Email Template
- How to Brazenly Ask for Favors to Boost Your Career
- How to Find an “In” at Your Dream Company—Fast
- How to Write LinkedIn Messages That Actually Get Read
4. Build an Action Plan
As you delve further into your dream career through informational interviews, a side hustle, freelance work, or otherwise, you’ll start to get a better idea of what exactly you need to do to land a full-time position. With that information, you can put together an action plan that will help you get from point A (your current career) to point B (your dream career).
You may figure out, for example, that you’ll have a much better chance of switching tracks if you get an MBA—so the next step for you would be grad school applications. Or, maybe you’ll determine that you need to take a certification class, learn to code, or build your portfolio before a company will consider taking you on full-time.
You'll also need to set aside time to revamp your resume with any relevant experience for the shift, as well as tweak your cover letter to better explain why you’re qualified for a position in your new field. And at some point, you’ll need an exit plan to escape from your current role.
With the right research and foresight, you should be able to determine what you need to do and how long it will take to get you into your ideal position.
- How to Break Out of a Career Rut in a Month
- Do You Have a Career Emergency Plan? (Hint: You Should)
- How to Land Your Dream Job by the End of the Year
5. Start Building Your New Brand
In such a big transition, you may feel like you have to take it slow when it comes to developing your brand. Since you’re making the change mid-career, it’s easy to feel inferior compared other professionals who have been in the role for years—and that can make you hold back.
But if you’re serious about landing a full-time position and moving up in your new field, you should start building your personal brand, both in person and online, now.
That could mean boosting your presence on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, sharing information and interacting with others in your field, or starting a blog or contributing to an existing publication to establish yourself as an expert.
You may also find you need to reflect your brand in the way you dress—whether that means suiting up for a corporate interview or showing that startup you’re a great fit by donning jeans and a hoodie. To support that new brand, here are TUMI’s suggestions for the bags, accessories and supplies you need to get you started on the right foot in your new career.
Photo of man on bike courtesy of Shutterstock.
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