Career Woman

5 smart ways to scope a career change without leaving your job

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If you’re feeling frustrated, uninspired or stuck in your current industry than it may be time to consider a career change. It’s the new normal to check out of a job a few years in and consider other options. In fact, Alison Doyle reports that on average, people change their jobs 12 times during their working years. The good news is that you don’t have to start over every time you shift industries. There are several interesting and engaging roles that will allow you to transition existing skills into new challenges. Here are five tips for exploring a career change before you leave your job:

1. Talk with professionals in your desired field

The best way to investigate a career change is by meeting professionals who are in the industry you wish to explore. If you don’t know anyone personally or feel uncomfortable publicizing your career exploration on social media, use a networking app like Shapr to meet professionals from other sectors. Ask for no more than an hour of their time the first time you meet, and pick up the tab for coffee or lunch. Here are some good questions to ask:

  • What does your career path look like? How did you get where you are today?
  • How does a typical day go in your role?
  • Do you find the work you do fulfilling? What are the highs of the job?
  • What are the lows and difficult parts of the job? Long hours? Grumpy clients?
  • Does the work tend to be collaborative? Do people prefer working autonomously or as a team?
  • What skills and personality traits are essential for this role? Any training that I would need before entering this field?
  • Are there any thought leaders, newsletters, or resources I should start checking out to get prepared?
  • Anyone else you may be able to connect me with who would be willing to share his or her experiences?

After your conversation, be sure to follow up with an email or handwritten thank you card, referencing one interesting thing your contact mentioned. He or she will be flattered you listened, and you will lay the foundation for a long-term relationship.

2. Do your research online

Once you’ve gotten a sense of the industry by talking with relevant professionals, check out job descriptions online. Take note of the companies and roles that appeal to you, and identify which skills are transferable from your previous work experience.

Pro tip: keep an excel spreadsheet with the skill needed, and any specific examples of projects you led or work you performed that can be used as an example in an interview. By brainstorming this information early, you will build up your confidence for conversations with potential employers and discover ways to articulate why you’re equipped to make a transition.

 3. Volunteer or freelance to test the waters

Dip your toe in before taking the plunge. Doing a small project is a great way to see if your assumptions are correct, and if the work is as challenging, stimulating, and fulfilling as you hoped.  See if there are any short term or side projects available to get involved in a small way first. If you’re interested in a specific company, see if you can volunteer at an event to get your foot in the door and meet others at that organization!

 4. Take a class to learn more

If you’re still nervous about transitioning careers or lacking some skills you need to make the transition, see if there is a class or online course you can take to get a bit more background in your new field. There are tons of free online resources if you’re budget conscious.

If you take a formal class or training program, be sure to add this to your resume. You can also mention the class during interviews to prove how serious you are about making a career change and demonstrate the initiative you took to get there.

 5. Shift your personal brand

If you have followed steps 1-4 and are ready to start applying for jobs in a new field, the last thing to do is make sure your personal brand is updated. Fix up your resume and LinkedIn profile to show some clear parallels with your new industry. Like and retweet a few thought leaders in this field, and start publicly showing an interest in your new sector. Do you keep a blog? Write an article on the similarities between your new and old field, and a few interesting things you discovered while exploring a career change. Help potential employers see you as a fit, but don’t be afraid to tell them the why and show your passion for jumping into a new career.

Keep in mind it will benefit you in the long term to build relationships, discover inspiring blogs and learn new skills, even if you chose to stick with your current field. Be active and curious in your career, and open to always exploring the things that interest you!

About Mandy Menaker

Mandy Menaker is the Head of PR and Brand Development at Shapr, a networking app for meeting inspiring professionals near you. When not writing about networking, fitness, and travel (three very awesome things) she can be found cycling through Manhattan with her 6 lb Maltipoo catching a ride. Connect with her @mandymenaker on Twitter or visit mandymenaker.com.

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