Career Woman

5 Tips for successful career transition


Some people have an innate ability of being able to reinvent themselves and their careers but in my experience they are the exceptions. Many who face voluntary or involuntary career changes find they need help to navigate and evaluate career options and make the next and subsequent career moves. It can be a daunting experience to even contemplate a shift in career direction let alone action it. There’s not much more debilitating than a feeling of not having career options. So if you have a sinking feeling that something has to change but don’t know where to start then feel comforted that you’re in good company as many find they are in the same predicament. By following some basic steps to change careers and perhaps getting some help from an internal (hopefully your boss) or external career coach can make opening up career options and making significant career changes can made a lot easier.

Tip 1 – Know yourself!

I’m often asked, “how do I know what I want and if it’s right for me?”. We often describe what we want by what we don’t want but this is not very helpful. Self-insight falls broadly into 2 categories, trainable and non-trainable. Non-trainable elements include motivational, career and culture fit. These stem from our values (career drivers) and self-insight means determining (rather than changing) what fit means for you. Skills, competencies and industry knowledge are highly trainable. It’s not just about knowing what skills you have but more importantly the ones you enjoy using, particularly transferrable skills because these are your passport to alternate careers. These self-awareness measures provide personalised fundamentals (and imperatives) for career satisfaction.

Tip 2 – Research, develop & evaluate career options

Self-awareness measures when combined with research will assist you to identify and evaluate career options. Researching market elements such as industries, organisations and geographies will uncover opportunities for the career growth you’re seeking. Research will also provide valuable insights into what will meet your defined ‘fit’ criteria and technical/transferrable skill sets established in Tip 1.

Analysing your last 3 jobs, noting what you did and didn’t enjoy in each and whether you’re career satisfaction criteria was evident is also a valuable exercise. Networking with people that have experience and skills in the areas you’re targeting is another extremely worthwhile activity and may uncover some surprising and exciting opportunities in the process!

Tip 3 – Set SMART career goals

Having established your career satisfaction drivers and corresponding career options,

it’s now time to determine your career goals, remembering to make them ‘SMART’ (Specific, Measurable, Attractive, Realistic and Time-framed). Also avoid setting so many that you become goal diffused, as a rule of thumb 2 or 3 are about right.

Tip 4 – Close capability gaps with targeted development

With your career goals now in place, you’re ready to consider any capability gaps that may exist to achieve your career aspirations. This may mean undertaking additional training/professional development, qualifications, learning on the job and coaching/mentoring or some combination of all of these. Whatever you decide it’s important that it directly targets the capability you need to achieve your career goals.

Tip 5 – Write a career plan, self-market & review progress

All that’s left to do now is write a career plan with clear actions and dates for
achievement. Your plan should include a summary of your career drivers and transferrable, skills, career options, and goals along with development and self-marketing initiatives. Make sure your resume, professional social media profiles and interview style and content as well job applications match your career goals. You will also find that targeted networking is not only valuable for researching career opportunities but also for implementing your career goals. Don’t forget to regularly review progress to stay on track, celebrate success and change what’s not working!

Following these tips will put you on the right pathway to transition to your next career (and subsequent career transitions). My book ‘Career Conversations’ has a number of practical and easy exercises that will further help you enhance your self-awareness as well as many more tips, insights and case studies to assist you in navigating your career development.

About Greg Smith'

Greg Smith is an expert in career development, talent management and organisational leadership. The co-founder of HR consulting firm, deliberatepractice, he helps aspiring, emerging and experienced leaders to develop their everyday leadership skill set. He is the author of ‘Career Conversations: How to get the best from your talent pool’ (Wiley). Find out more at

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