According to a study from LinkedIn, young professionals today change jobs more than their older counterparts. Now, that statistic alone shouldn’t be a surprise or a concern. People change jobs all the time. It’s a natural part of our professional lives and shouldn’t be viewed as a failure.
The same goes for careers. Many individuals find their passion in a profession they did not initially study in school. For instance, television chef Alton Brown was a cinematographer before starting the Peabody Award winning show Good Eats. So it’s normal to think that, throughout the course of our professional lives, we might be presented with opportunities we didn’t know previously existed. And we want to explore or take advantage of those opportunities.
The important part is understanding the reason for the change and having a plan. Jenifer Krueger, senior employee relations consultant with Colonial Life, suggests asking yourself a few questions to help guide decision making.
“Choosing a new career, whether it’s drastic or just a minor shift, can seem overwhelming because there are so many options and you may not know what you’re qualified to do. Here are a few sample questions to ask yourself when getting started:
- If I could choose one person to trade jobs with, I’d choose _____.
- I’ve always wondered what it would be like to do _____.
- If I had the right education or skill set, I’d definitely try ____, because ____.
- My co-workers and friends always say I’m good at _____.
- The thing I love most about my current job is _____, because _____.
- If my boss would let me, I’d do more of ______, because _____.
Then look for some common themes and what gets you excited. Share the results with a friend or mentor because they’ll have an objective eye. Also, there are valuable online assessment tools that can help you work through an inventory of current skills or validate a budding interest.”
Once you’ve asked yourself some hard questions and have identified the direction you’d like to take your career, the planning isn’t over. On some level, it’s just started. Now is the time to find out some of the details about the new career path you’ve chosen.
Research professional organizations that represent the profession. These sites can provide valuable articles, videos, blogs, etc. that give insight into the challenges facing the profession today and in the future. They can also have competency models, like this one from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), that outline the skills for success.
Network with individuals in your new chosen profession. Find out both the positives and negatives about the job. These conversations can validate your understanding. You might also hear some things that you didn’t expect. This will give you an opportunity to process the information. And be sure to learn your future career path in this new field.
Job shadow someone in that profession. If you work for an organization that has the new career you’re looking for – like marketing or accounting – maybe you can spend the day with a person who currently works in that profession. Think of it as a “Day in the Life” type activity. Every job has a few routine tasks that we forget are part of the job. Job shadowing can show us those smaller tasks that make up the whole job.
After getting the details about your new career path, consider updating your resume to highlight your transferrable knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs). Those are the KSAs that you have right now that are also necessary for your new career. These skills create the bridge between your current job and your new career. And that bridge is what you need to start building before speaking with your manager.
Krueger gives us some advice before having a conversation with management about a career change. “It’s not uncommon in today’s workforce for employees to feel they’re in the wrong job. Companies are trying to make do with fewer people and employees often find they’re put in situations where they’re over-qualified, under-qualified or even unqualified for their duties. If you find yourself in any of these situations, it might be time to have a conversation with your boss to find a more suitable position. Feeling prepared is the best way to calm nerves, so take time to sort through the situation before approaching your boss.
In most cases bosses will gain more respect for you for taking charge of your own career path. In preparation, consider the following helpful tips:
- Be prepared with a detailed plan. Have ideas on what you want and a direction on how to get there.
- Know the key points you want to make and stay focused and on point. Have your points written down and rehearse them.
- Schedule the meeting at a convenient time for your boss and set up a 30-minute meeting.
- Figure out how any proposed changes will improve the business, such as greater productivity or increased employee morale. Sure, your ultimate goal is to enhance your career, but it can also have a positive impact on the company’s business.
- This should be a two-way conversation between two professionals with a common goal. Make sure you listen and adjust your pitch accordingly.
Changing careers doesn’t have to be a disappointing or overwhelming decision. In fact, it can be one of the best things that ever happened to you. But it does involve planning and preparation.