If this year has taught us anything, it’s that nothing is forever. Maybe you’ve been furloughed this year because of COVID, or maybe spending so much time working from home has made you realize you don’t actually love what you’re doing. Either way, if you’re feeling the urge to make a sudden career change, you’re not alone. Trust me, I’ve been there. As someone who originally planned on working in the corporate finance industry forever, that urge to make a change comes on swiftly and it comes on strong. I like to believe that’s your gut telling you that you’re ready. If you spend hours daydreaming about a different career or find yourself simply o-v-e-r it every day you have to log on, maybe 2021 is the year you shake it up. But before you make any rash decisions, make sure you cover your bases first.
Sleep on it
Look, I’m the queen of hasty decisions, but there shouldn’t be any messing around when it comes to making a career change. This is your livelihood we’re talking about, after all. Thinking about what you aren’t happy with in your current career will help provide a basis for looking for a new path, but it’s also important to consider the factors. Are the things you don’t like temporary? Is there any way to easily fix them? Could you delegate certain tasks that drain your energy or demotivate you toward the rest of your job? Take a big pause before taking a screenshot your middle finger and texting it to your boss on Monday morning.
If you do decide a career change is in order, you will need to evaluate your values, skills, personality and interests using self-assessment tools. You have to understand what makes you tick. Are you driven by the size of your paycheck or the flexibility of your schedule? Do you want to work from home or do you thrive better in a busy office? Ask yourself, “What would I want to work on and give my time to if I was doing it for free?” Once you have a better understanding of your strengths and motivations, you’ll be able to pinpoint a career that energizes you.
Aim for growth
One of the best ways to take the first step forward is to look for opportunities in high growth fields. For each career path on your list, you will want to look at the job description, educational and other requirements, advancement opportunities and earnings. You can find most of that information directly on job listings, or from websites such as Indeed, CareerBuilder and Glassdoor.
Brush up your skills
Often a pivot in your career means taking on new skill sets. I’ll use myself as an example. I shifted from corporate finance into the editorial world, and it was a huge learning curve. I had to learn graphic design, web design, the ins and outs of partnerships and more. When you change careers, you’ll inevitably learn a lot on the job, but it will help you land the position in the first place if you learn the skills ahead of time.
Start by identifying the skills that you’ll need in your new career. For a lot of people, rapidly changing technology can present the biggest threat. Fortunately, one of the most dramatic technological changes is the enormous advance in valid, legitimate and flexible online education. Take advantage of the access you now have to curriculum, educators, classmates and degrees in order to prepare yourself for a change.
Don’t burn any bridges
During my time in the corporate world, it became really easy to see when an employee had checked out mentally. Whether they were getting ready to quit or just burnt out on their current role, they lost their steam. So if you have the luxury of a job, even one that you hate, keep your nose to the grindstone while you look for greener pastures.
You’d better be sure you have a soft landing spot before you take the plunge. Unemployment is one of the worst positions from which to seek a new job. And of course, the longer you’re out of work and on the hunt, the more prospective employers can smell the stink of desperation.
You never know when you’ll need a glowing review from your current employer, so do your best work, make yourself valuable and channel all of your frustrations into making yourself the ideal candidate for the next prospective employer.
The level of impact your finances have on your career change will differ from case to case. If you’re heading into a situation or going back to school, you can plan on not making any money in the beginning. You need to have three to six months of rent and living expenses saved up before making the jump.
Make a career action plan
A career action plan will help guide you as you pursue your short- and long-term goals. The first step to making your action plan is listing out all your goals. Once you have your goals listed, you should write the concrete steps it’s going to take to achieve each one. You will also want to write down any potential barriers that would stop you from accomplishing your goals. Having this information in front of you can help you prioritize the actions needed to achieve your primary objective—which should be finding a job.
Build that network
At the end of the day, it truly is all about who you know. You aren’t the only one who has gained experience and stature over the years. So have many of your friends, classmates and neighbors. You never know who might be in a position to pass along your résumé, put in a good word, or even hire you directly. Use social media to build your network in the area that you’re pursuing, it’s an incredible tool when you’re trying to make a career change. If you find tactful ways to make your intentions clear to your friends and contacts, you might be surprised at the eventual source of your salvation. Opportunity can come from the unlikeliest of sources!