How to Change Careers in 7 Steps [+FAQs]

7 Ways to Change Your Career Path 

Are you one of the thousands of people who found themselves unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Or have you been toying with the idea of changing careers for a few years now? No matter your motivation, deciding to change career paths is a major life decision; but it also presents an exciting opportunity to discover new skills and ignite new passions.

Not sure how to navigate your potential new job hunt? Here is a 7-step guide to changing career paths.

Why Change Careers?

There are many reasons people decide to change career paths — perhaps they’ve earned a new degree or are looking for a fresh start. According to a study by Joblist, the top five reasons people change careers are:

1. To earn better pay

2. Too stressed

3. Want better work/life balance

4. Want a new challenge

5. Bored with current profession

You may already know exactly what you want to do. But if not, identifying what’s driving your need for change is important, as it will help you more successfully narrow the scope on your new career path and make the jump into a new field.

 7 Ways to Change Careers

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to changing careers, but if you’re considering taking the leap, here are 7 ways to improve your odds for successfully changing professions:


1. Self Assess:

Start with some introspection and assess why you feel the need to change careers. Ask yourself some questions: What are my interests? What is a feasible new career? What will changing careers look like for me and my family? Once you’ve got a firm grasp on your “why,” then you can start the fun part of launching a new career. 

2. Research Potential Career Paths:

Researching your career options can be exciting and slightly overwhelming, so try to narrow down your options prior to diving in. During your research process some important things to identify about potential new jobs include:

a. Salary ranges

b. Required education

c. Skills and qualifications

There are endless resources out there that will inform your search, but a few good places to start include Glassdoor, CareerProfiles and the Career Onestop (operated by the U.S. Department of Labor).

3. Make a Plan 

Once you’ve identified your new career path, now is the time to begin planning your transition. At this point in the process you’ve likely identified the required skills, education and requirements to enter this field; so now you should plan out exactly when you will meet those requirements. Create a timeline that allows you to hit those benchmarks without putting too much pressure on yourself. 

4. Use Your Connections

Identify any connections you have to either: 

  • The specific roles/titles you’ve decided to pursue
  • The organizations you’re potentially applying to

This will give you better insight into how a career changer can fare in this specific job or organization and how to go about obtaining said new job. These connections can also help point you in the direction of industry resources or publications that will further enhance your knowledge about your new career.

5. Network, Network, Network

Whether you already have relevant connections in your new field or you don’t know anyone, networking will prove to be hugely valuable as you try to change careers. Use your online professional network or consider reaching out to your college alumni network if possible. Once you’ve made a contact, be upfront about your intentions and find opportunities to get their insight into how they have found success. They may also be able to give you a heads up about upcoming job openings and insider tips on how to ace the interview.

6. Do an Internship

It may sound unconventional, but current professionals can and should pursue internship opportunities in the field they aspire to move into. An internship opportunity is arguably the best way to sample the potential new career path without risking too much — you don’t have to leave your current job or spend a large sum of money to enroll in a new degree program. You may feel awkward at first, but adult internships are becoming more and more common amongst career changers and those re-entering the workforce.

7. Seek Out Education Opportunities

If you’re completely changing career paths, odds are very good that there are some required skills or qualifications that you will need to land that new job. One of the best ways to obtain new knowledge and demonstrate that to potential employees is by earning some type of additional education. Whether that be a professional certificate or an advanced degree, continuing your education is the sure-fire way to make your career transition as seamless as possible.

 How to Update Resume and Cover Letter for a New Profession

When it comes time to apply you’ll want to be sure your resume and cover letter are crafted in such a way that your lack of relevant experience won’t automatically disqualify you. Here are a few tips to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward during the application process.

When rewriting your resume, be sure to:

  • Write an objective paragraph to introduce your resume, and explain why you’re seeking new opportunities.
  • Emphasize your transferable skills and experiences.
  • Include a skills section.
  • Highlight your most recent training or education if it applies to the field.

When it comes to crafting the perfect cover letter, make sure you:

  • Explain why you’re seeking a new opportunity
  • Express your passion for this new career field
  • Highlight your success in previous jobs
  • Connect your prior experiences to the new job tasks

If you’re ready to make that career change or would just like to explore potential options, consider taking a continuing education course. These courses allow you to explore a wide array of career fields and related skills without making the full commitment to a new career. If you’re certain about the new career path you want to pursue, then a professional certificate could be right for you. At the University of San Diego Division of Professional and Continuing Education, we offer a diverse catalog of courses and certificates that apply to nearly every industry. Please contact us to learn more about our options.

 FAQs about Changing Careers

Why do people change careers?

According to recent studies, the top five reasons people change careers are:

  • To earn better pay
  • Too stressed
  • Want better work/life balance
  • Want a new challenge
  • Bored with current profession

When is a good time to change careers?

There is no exact right time, but to prevent any prolonged periods of unemployment try not to make the leap until you have identified your hopeful new role, found job openings and have taken courses to ensure you have the proper skills to land the job.

What are some resources for aspiring career changers?

The U.S. Department of Labor has a few online resources for career changers: CareerOneStop, My Skills, My Future and O*NET Resource Center. Other options include Glassdoor, PayScale and MyPlan. 



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