How to Make a Career Change at Any Age

How to Make a Career Change at Any Age

Change Your Career With Confidence

While working your job, do you find yourself thinking about another career possibility? This isn’t atypical. Career change is something that most people experience several times in their lives.

For example, did you know that less than 30 percent of people work at a job related to the degree they received in college? That represents the idea that a vast majority of people took the leap and changed what they wanted to do after getting a degree that pointed them in an alternate direction.

It’s a reminder that, as you are moving along in a career path you shouldn’t be beholden, necessarily, to the decisions that you made as an 18 year old, or even what you may have thought five years ago. 

The truth is that most people go through around a dozen jobs in their lives. Those 12 jobs are generally not within the same industry either.

Career paths are said to change dramatically around six times per lifetime. These changes might take place because someone needs to make more money to support a family, or they might just find an avenue they like more. 

You want to be smart about any professional transition so that you do not end up leaping before you look.

Career changes are often rocky and can lead to financial and personal strife. This is not to say give up on riskier dreams because you are in a comfortable place financially, but it is crucial to be realistic. 

Choose feasibility

A famous Monty Python sketch surrounds an accountant named Mr. Anchovy who wants to be a lion tamer with his only qualification being a light up hat that flashes “Lion Tamer”. Don’t be Mr. Anchovy.

The advice given to the accountant-to-lion-tamer wannabe is actually pretty sound. Because it is possible to change careers many times, you shouldn’t feel  like you need to make a direct leap from one aspect of your professional life to something completely different.

You can go through incremental stages instead of diving head first. If you are a lawyer and want to get into film directing, for example, maybe you can look into working in a legal capacity for a film company, before moving toward your dream of directing the next Oscar winner.

Do research

Make sure you research your proposed career and speak with experts about your chances of success. Go further and try shadowing someone who has the ideal career you are looking for.

There may be aspects of the job that you didn’t consider that make it difficult for you to continue, or there may be variants of the position that are more suited to your skills.

In all, it is a good way to make sure that what you think you want to do is in fact something you are interested in doing. 

In your research, a good rule of thumb is to look at the direction your desired industry is headed, not where it is right now.

Change happens quickly and it’s important to know what skills you will need for the future to prosper in a new career.  

Get educated

Does your career switch necessitate a specialized degree of some kind?

Even if you don’t require a degree, it’s likely that getting an education in your new career path of choice will improve your prospects.

You could consider investing in educational programs that will allow you to work at your current job at the same time.

Online school options have grown exponentially and allow people to make career transitions more easily, however you need to be vigilant when looking at online schools. 

Only choose schools that are fully accredited or you may be wasting your time and money. The best way to make sure that a school is accredited is to choose an online program that is associated with a major university. Doing this is especially useful because your remote degree will not be any different from anyone that graduates from the school. 

Investing in university education could also be a great way to build networking possibilities that lead to a new position and to find practical experience through hands-on classes and internships.  Additionally, most universities will have a career center, or faculty that can point you in a positive direction. 

The best part is that you can generally do this while still working at another job. While it might be difficult (and you should make sure to discuss everything with your family beforehand regarding your time commitment) it is something that people often do to get a better life or find something they are passionate about. Indeed, nontraditional students are highly sought after at all stages of life by colleges and universities. 

Don’t hide your light under a bushel

When starting out in a new career path, there is a tendency to cover up or feel embarrassed by a slightly divergent past.

Those who are hiring, however, will likely find your unconventional or circuitous route to this position to be refreshing and intriguing. Try to focus on the skills that your previous life gives you when looking at a new career choice.

For example, if you were an actor, but are looking toward becoming a lawyer, it’s great to focus on the skills of active listening, working in the moment, and understanding character that fellow lawyers might not have the training to pull off. 

Have your financial ducks in a row

Transitions often mean taking a financial hit. Career change generally means starting lower down in the hierarchy than you were as a legacy employee — usually this translates to less income for some amount of time. One idea could be to look online toward credit resources to help facilitate your new career transition. 

Is your budget something you understand properly?

This kind of change means taking another good long look at your budget. Are there ways you can tighten your belt temporarily with the understanding that you will likely be able to cover more expenses when your new career takes off?

Get a good idea of what you absolutely need each month and then look at what is on top of that which you feel you can’t do without.

After that, you can tackle luxuries that perhaps you can cut out or cut down on for a short time (even just a few months) while figuring out what’s next for you.

Things like streaming network subscriptions, cable, and eating out, can all be put on hold and you’ll be shocked at how much you can save in just a couple of months. 

Do you have anything socked away?

This is that proverbial ‘rainy day.’ Putting together an emergency fund of savings for this transition is crucial to make sure that you don’t regret your career transition.

Experts theorize that what makes up a comfortable emergency fund is about three to six months of living expenses put away. This should cover lost revenue from your job shift. Of course, having a little more available can’t hurt.  

What’s your debt level like?

If you have the wherewithal, pay down debt on higher interest accounts. While debt doesn’t necessarily preclude you from making a career change, you want your debt to be at 25 percent or lower of your income. 

Are you thinking about retirement?

You might think that the financial burdens associated with changing your focus means that it is a good time to break into retirement funds. However, early withdrawal is almost never a good idea.

There’s a 10 percent penalty for this withdrawal and you have to pay income tax on anything you get. This ultimately results in a loss of thousands that you may have saved for later in life. There are no scholarships or grants for retirement, they say, so take whatever you have saved seriously.

If you are going into a field that doesn’t have a 401(K) available, you could explore rolling over your money into an individual retirement account (IRA).

Be your own best advocate

It’s likely that you will have to begin to see yourself as a kind of incorporated entity when looking for a new career. That means you have to go over and update all of your professional materials like your resume, CV, and cover letters.

Getting online with LinkedIn, or updating your profile, is a good plan for anyone looking for a new career. 

In addition, seek out networking opportunities wherever you can and learn to project how your previous skills may apply to the new work. In interview you want to focus on soft skills, where you showed leadership, and how well you successfully stewarded projects. 

The most important thing to remember when switching careers is that you are not alone. It can feel isolating, but there is an enormous precedent for nearly everyone in life to switch not just once, but many times.

Embrace the new challenge, be smart with your funds, and grab for what you are passionate about doing. 

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