5 Tips on How to Successfully Change Careers

Neutralize the Fear, Navigate the Path

You may have heard the average person will change careers 7–10 times in a lifetime, but there is no reliable data to back those claims. The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t track such data for several reasons, including the fact that it’s hard to define exactly what constitutes a career change. 

What we do know is that Central Penn’s Career Services team spends a significant amount of time counseling students and alumni who are looking to change careers. In fact, many of our students belong to the non-traditional age group (25+), and many of them are career changers.

The prospect of a career change can be exciting, but also incredibly frightening. These five tips can help you overcome your fears and navigate your way successfully to a new job:

1. Find the Right Fit for You 

You wouldn’t buy a new pair of shoes without knowing your shoe size. Don’t guess about the right fit for your career. Take one or more career assessments to determine what field and jobs within that field may be the best fit for you.

At Central Penn, we use a tool called FOCUS2 to assist our students in making informed decisions based on who they are as a person. I’ve had some students tell me they want to study criminal justice because they are a fan of the TV show CSI. Trust me, that is NOT a good way to make an informed decision about changing careers!

2. Interview Your Future Self 

People who enjoy their jobs love talking about what they do. Conduct some informational interviews with professionals who work in your desired career field. Ask them for advice to help you get started in that field. What skills do they believe are most important for you to have/develop?

3. Build Valuable New Experience and Skills

Many career changers become frustrated in their job search because it seems like all employers want people with relevant experience. 

In this regard, the challenge for the career changer isn’t much different from that of a 21-year-old college graduate. How can you gain experience in a new career field if nobody is willing to hire you? 

One way is by offering to work for free. If you want to work in healthcare, contact a local hospital or nursing home to ask to volunteer. Include this volunteer work on your resume, just as you would a paid position. Furthermore, the professionals you meet while volunteering might be instrumental in connecting you to your new career (see #5 below).

4. Reassess the Experience You Already Possess

What skills do you already have that will transfer to your new career? Be prepared to highlight them on your resume and in a job interview. Is problem-solving going to be important in your new career? If so, give examples of how you have effectively used problem-solving skills in the past.

5. Network, Network, Network

While location, location, location may be the three most important considerations for real estate, the three most important tools for career changers are probably networking, networking, networking. Who could serve as a reference and help you connect with people in the field? Join some professional groups on LinkedIn made up of professionals in that field and add to discussions to demonstrate your knowledge on topics relevant to the field.

If you are a Central Penn alumni member or current student, you can contact the Career Services Office and we’ll be glad to help you navigate your career change!

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