How To Transition Your Career The Right Way

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Author: Stacey Rivers | Source: HCI | Published: October 8, 2015

Transitioning to a new career can be challenging if you don't know what steps to take before you make an irreversible decision. As technologies advance and companies adjust their strategy, more than ever it is important for you to grow your skills, build on what you have, and take calculated risks to propel your career forward. To remain relevant in the coming years, you must be strategic about the direction you are heading and the skills you are acquiring. Contrary to what some might believe, completing a degree or certification is not the end but actually the beginning of next steps. The goal is to stay ahead of the curve to give yourself choices, and when it comes to moving into a new career, being proactive and thoughtful about how you proceed can make for a seamless transition. 

If you have decided that a career transition is definitely what you need, then don't make these mistakes:

  • Not evaluating your current role to identify your transferable skills. Talk with a mentor or career coach and outline your current skills that will transfer into the new role, possibly giving you competitive advantage.
  • Not taking the necessary time to research and plan for the change. In addition to the role and salary, you should list other considerations before making provisions to changeover. 
  • Not understanding if your new career will actually give you the lifestyle you desire. This is integral to a successful transition and requires research to uncover any conflicts.
  • Not reviewing the impact the decision could have on other aspects of your life. Don't assume those close to you can support you in your mission. Be clear and forthcoming about how any adjustment can alter what everyone is used to. 

 Key Questions for Career Transitions

If you are planning for a career transition, review the questions and suggestions below to take the best approach possible.

  • What will it take to accomplish your goal?
    Assess where you are and where you want to be. Be realistic about what you can take on while you work towards your new career. Answer the hard questions now so you can make the right decisions for your career path.
  • How long will it take to make the transition? Plot a timeline and then forecast how long it will take to move into your new career. Understanding whether the time frame is months or years will put in perspective what you may be faced with. If your career survival is dependent upon this change, knowing the risks and incremental steps to move forward may help in closing the gap.
  • Who can give you a real job preview to help you determine if this is what you really want? Find a job description that fits the role of interest. Review the responsibilities and qualifications with those who can help you understand the pros and cons of the role. This is where your network can provide valuable insight and access to those who can help.

  • How can you acquire the necessary skills to be a viable candidate? In addition to traditional institutions, assess low cost options for developing your skills such as online courses or volunteering with a non-profit organization. If your job does not allow you to utilize the skills you need to develop, find opportunities for practical application. If possible, start now adding relevant experiences. Talk with your manager about stretch assignments that can aid in your development.  If this is not an option, then create your opportunity by taking on side projects to demonstrate your talents and capabilities.
  • What support will you need to stay engaged and encouraged? Find or create a collaboration group to share and learn ways to build your knowledge base. Join professional organizations and attend industry conferences to add connections in the field you are targeting. Enhance your brand online and engage with others who have like interests.

These tips will give you a good foundation as you build your plan for your career. Depending on the industry you are targeting, the barrier to entry can be easy or difficult, so the most important lesson through this process is "learning what you don't know". Most times you can avoid this pitfall by talking often with those in the industry and in the role.