Find out ways to change careers without starting over with tips from Virtual Vocations.

6 Ways to Change Careers Without Starting Over

While 2020 was a challenging year for everyone, 2021 brings COVID vaccines and hope for a return to normalcy. In fact, some experts are predicting that we could see something similar to the Roaring 20s that followed World War II and the Spanish Influenza pandemic in 1918. Whether this boom materializes or not, permanent changes to the economy and the workplace as a result of the pandemic are likely to occur. These changes are beginning to materialize as companies adopt new remote work policies and others decide that virtual or hybrid arrangments are the future of the workplace. In addition, some industries have struggled and businesses have closed their doors while others have thrived creating new opportunities, even for those looking to change careers.

This may seem like a chaotic time to change careers, but it may also be the best time to take advantage of the changes. If you are undecided, take the career change quiz to get feedback on your situation and check out the following article:

If you see the writing on the wall or just want to expand your horizons in a growing market, a career change may be just the ticket. However, you may also want to hedge your bets at this stage of the recovery and not jump in the deep end by starting over in a completely different career. Luckily, there are ways to change careers without starting from scratch.

1. Climb the Ladder

Maybe instead of moving out, you move up! If advancement is part of the plan, can you see yourself taking on more responsibility and managing (more) employees at this point? If so, explore career paths and promotion opportunities with your current employer first. Generally speaking, the larger the company, the more diverse options you will find open to you. The range of positions open to you may be a surprise. This is because large corporations and government agencies frequently have hiring policies that favor internal promotions.

If your options are limited or nonexistent with your current firm, this is still an avenue open to you by undertaking a job search. Get your resume and LinkedIn profile professionally polished and set your sights on the ladder’s next rung. Find out if you are missing any common requirements and develop a plan to remediate or upgrade your skills. Then check out the Virtual Vocation database of over 45,000 hand-vetted remote jobs.

2. Change Industry

Many career paths are not industry-specific. So, if you are lucky enough to be in one of these positions, then a change of industry may be the perfect option. Quell your wanderlust without starting over. Just a few examples of these careers include marketing, public relations, sales, business development, customer service, administration, and accounting. By switching industries, you’ll get to apply your hard won skills and experience to new products, services, and technologies.

That’s not to say that switching industries is without obstacles. Many hiring managers and recruiters will include industry experience in their list of requirements for advertised positions. To combat this bias and persuade skeptical employers, you may need to leverage your professional network. Identify and cultivate connections in the industry to help you get the lay of the land and make a few introductions.

If you have a good reputation in your current industry, you can take advantage of the “halo” effect. This means that if you are considered successful in one field, others will be likely to consider you a good candidate for similar positions in another field.

3. Pivot

If a management position doesn’t hold appeal and you enjoy many aspects of your current position, then just change direction. Think about the parts of your job that you love the most. What other occupations perform the same tasks? Are any of those professions of interest to you?

Take some time to brainstorm and assess your skills and interests. For example, if you’ve been writing technical manuals for software programs, you might be interested in learning to code. Alternatively, you might want to explore blog writing about technical subjects. As another example, if you’ve been managing social media profiles and corporate branding strategies, maybe you’ll find fundraising for nonprofits a fulfilling challenge.

If you’re not sure where to start, you may want to try taking one or more career aptitude tests. Yes, like the ones you had to take in high school. Personalities and priorities change over time and what was once important to us may not be important at all anymore. It’s a good idea to check in with yourself from time to time. Otherwise, you might find yourself pursuing 20-year-old dreams that no longer apply.

4. Get a Side Gig

Another option to slide into a new career without feeling the pinch is to take on a side gig. Also known as a side hustle, this is a great way to flex your entrepreneurial muscles with minimal risk. Although the news has been full of dire stories about failing small businesses, there is reason to be optimistic. Very optimistic. The U.S. is currently experiencing a “start-up boom” with the number of new business applications reaching an all-time high in the third quarter of 2020.

One big challenge is not to let your side gig consume so much of you that you have little time and energy to complete your full-time job. If you’re not up to starting a new business, there are plenty of contract, part-time, and freelance gigs that you can cut your teeth on. You can identify these opportunities in the Virtual Vocations jobs database by adjusting the “employment status” filter. Also, make sure to check with your current employer and confirm you are not violating the terms of your current agreement.

5. Deliver Consulting/Professional Services

If you have the experience and education to offer specialized advice and services, this is a great way to smooth the career change path. You can start small, taking on one client at a time until you are confident enough to leave your full-time job. This approach is good even if you are trying to completely transition careers because consulting can pay well and is flexible enough to give you more opportunity to work on other interests.

The list of consulting opportunities is long and varied. Some professions that naturally lend themselves to this type of work include marketing, public relations, event planning, web development, accounting, recruiting, and so on. The keys to being a successful consultant include specialized experience, demonstrated success in your field, and an engaged professional network that will vouch for you.

In addition to determining the type of work you are qualified to undertake as a consultant, it is important to understand what need you will fill for your client. For example, are you going to solve organizational problems as a management consultant? Perhaps you’re delivering an outsourced service as a small business accountant? Maybe you’re helping to start a new businesses, establishing core functions in your area of expertise?

6. Work Remotely

If you can’t change your career, change your lifestyle. Of all the changes brought about by the pandemic, one of the most impactful is the move to remote work. If you are not already working from home, then you may want to consider a move to remote work as a way to change careers without starting over. Maybe after reading all these ideas, you realize you don’t want a new career path, you want a new life path.

If you are already working from home, then make sure you take advantage of the opportunities it affords. Assign the time you would normally be commuting to exploring new job opportunities or interests. Try changing up where you work and other habits to find what makes you most productive and encourages creativity.

In addition to changing up your daily routine, many remote positions allow you the opportunity to move. This is a wonderful perk if you live in a city with a high cost of living and you want to improve your lifestyle. This is also a perk if you’ve always had a yen to live somewhere where you would normally not be able to find work, like a mountain top or an island. Becoming a digital nomad is no longer a far-fetched idea with destinations around the world launching extended visa programs for remote workers.

How to Change Careers at 30, 35, 40, 50…

The older you get, the more difficult it is to contemplate, let alone initiate, a mid-life career change. The longer we stay in a certain position or career field, the more we have to lose by changing directions. We worry about losing income, seniority, status, and the need to undertake more training. However, almost everyone will at least consider a career change at some point in their lives.

One reason for the growing number of workers changing careers is the increasingly temporary and changeable nature of both our jobs and our career paths. This is due to several factors including the rise of new technologies, changing economic circumstances, globalization, and evolving social values. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the magnitude of many trends as well, such as the move from brick and mortar retail outlets to online sales and home delivery.

Today, for better or worse, most of us will complete at least one career change. However, there is no need to panic whatever your age. If you take the time to thoughtfully research and plan your transition (perhaps using one or more of the methods above) you can ensure your success. But, be prepared to be patient. Based on the study cited above, the average career change took 11 months, so consistent effort is required.

Tips for a Successful Career Change

Contemplating ways to change careers can be scary, but it can also invigorate your spirit. Manage your fear by remembering the following tips:

  • Discomfort is temporary. Feeling out of your depth is natural and easily resolved with familiarity. You are going to feel some growing pains, but aren’t they better than the pain of regret?
  • Keep your eye on the prize. Remind yourself why you are changing careers. No one is going to chase after your goals for you. Only you can pursue your dreams.
  • Remember you’re not alone. Though career change feels lonely at times, you’re not the only person who has transitioned careers. Seek counsel from someone who’s been through it if you need some extra support.

Most of all, realize that the only permanent thing is change itself. Hanging on to situations that no are no longer contributing to your quality of life is a recipe for unhappiness. And, if you change careers only to find yourself in a position you don’t like, count that as important knowledge. Use your hard-won wisdom to seek a new direction more in-tune with your aspirations. There are no wrong answers in the game of life, only opportunities not taken.

Did you change careers recently? What helped you make the transition smoothly? Connect with Virtual Vocations on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts and tips. We’d love to hear from you!

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