Find ways to showcase (and improve) the skills you'll use in your ideal job. Volunteer for an organization that needs someone with those skills, then feature that position prominently on your resume. Also look to showcase your skills virtually; consider blogging or tweeting about topics you want to be considered an expert on, which will help you establish credibility.
Raise your visibility. Becoming known or at least find-able in your industry applies not only to looking for a job, it's also "useful just for keeping a job," says Laurence Shatkin, a career-information expert and author of the book The Sequel: How to Change Your Career Without Starting Over. It's easier than ever to do this online, but don't overlook old-school methods like public speaking, writing a book, or getting quoted as an expert by media outlets. If you blog or tweet in a way that showcases your skills, you'll simultaneously raise your visibility. And if you don't want to blog, visit other people's blogs about your industry and leave thoughtful comments, Shatkin says. Make sure to use your real name. The more people who know about you, the more offers will come your way. Visibility can also be appealing to employers who want you to bring your network to the company
Network in the field you want to work in. Networking is arguably the best move you can make to prepare yourself to change careers. Attend conferences and force yourself to branch out rather than sticking with people you already know. Invite people you meet to connect with you on LinkedIn, giving you access to their network—people who, of course, work in the industry you want to work. Use your blog to connect with like-minded people. Seek out industry experts on Twitter, and build relationships with them. Once you make connections online, you can bring them off-line, turning them into in-person contacts by attending Meetups and other industry get-togethers.
Stay on top of your target industry. Take a class, attend a conference, or simply do your daily due diligence on the Internet. Identify your industry's leading blogs, and read them every day. "A daily dose of information [will] help you become better informed, better connected for your targeted career," says Collamer, the career coach. Twitter's also a great tool for this; follow thought leaders in your industry. "They're going to be tweeting links to articles, almost like your personal niche librarian," Collamer says.
Find a mentor. Or two. Or an entire personal advisory board, preferably made up of people who have experience in the industry where you're seeking work. Look for "people who will tell you the truth, even if it hurts," says Hoffman. Not sure how to go about this? Check out our 13 tips for finding a mentor.
Fill your gaps. Figure out what else you need to make your leap, and fill those gaps. They're likely in three areas, Collamer says: skills and knowledge, accomplishments and experience, and network. Your needs in those areas will vary depending on which industry you want to move into, so knowing that industry well and understanding how workers thrive there is key to figuring out your next steps.
[Need more education for your dream career? Consider an online degree.]
Project a positive attitude. Especially if you're not changing careers by choice, this can be easier said than done. But hiring managers will sense resentment. "People don't want to hire soreheads," Shatkin says. "They want to hire people who have a positive outlook." So focus on your strengths, reminding yourself regularly that you're a catch—and you'll be more likely to come across as someone who is.