How to Successfully Change Careers

Here are a few tips for transitioning to a new profession in a tough market.

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Heather R. Huhman
Unhappy on your current career path? Ready to move on to something different? Although it can be tough, changing careers is possible—as long as you have the passion, drive, and patience to do it right.

Here are a few tips on successfully changing careers in a tough job market:

Know exactly what you want to do. Match up your skills and passion to decide what career is best for you. Be sure that this new career path lines up with your values, mission, and goals—both short term and long term. Learn about the type of job you’d ideally like to work at by job shadowing and interning at organizations in the field.

[See How to Position Yourself to Change Careers.]

Find a mentor in your field. Support is one of the best ways to stay on track for a career change. A mentor can be a great resource for advice about breaking into an industry. They can also hold you accountable about decisions, such as following-up with a new networking contact or doing necessary job transition tasks.

Have realistic expectations. There are bound to be obstacles along the way to changing careers, so you need to have an idea of what those might be and how you’ll overcome them. It’s important to realize that you might have to start at the bottom again to ultimately land your dream job. Don’t jump into this new field if you’re unwilling to do what’s necessary to achieve your ideal position.

Ask yourself if you’re truly ready. Can you afford to be without a job for several months, or even a year? Can you dedicate the time necessary to additional education, job searching, or learning the ropes? If your lifestyle or family situation can’t afford a career change at this point in time, consider alternatives to a full-on career change, such as asking your current employer for different tasks or more professional development opportunities.

Look at your skills to determine whether they’d transfer to a new career path. What are you good at in your current position? Where do your weaknesses lie? How can your current skills help you excel in this new career path? Your knowledge, skills, and achievements won’t necessarily disappear when switching careers—in fact, they’re likely to complement your new direction.

[See 6 Tips for the Hopeful Entrepreneur.]

Network. Build mutually beneficial relationships with employers, industry professionals, recruiters, and anyone else that can help you make a smooth transition. Join an online group related to your desired field; participate in online chats or forums to learn more about how to make the transition; and have meaningful conversations with professionals already working in the industry to gauge how to best break in. Any personal connection can help you land a job in the field—even if you don’t have experience yet.

Have you successfully changed careers? What other advice would you give to career professionals looking to switch up their profession?

Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and employers. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010) and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.