If you want to change careers, but don’t want to start over in a new line of work, you’ve come to the right place for guidance. Changing careers doesn’t have to be complicated, dramatic, or expensive. There are ways to change careers without completely overhauling your professional life. Consider these ways to dip one foot in new waters while keeping the other safe on land.
7 Ways to Change Careers Without Starting Over
According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report, 35% of employees changed jobs within the last three years, and 51% actively seek new employment. Workers primarily jump ship when they feel dissatisfied with the following:
- Career advancement
- Pay and benefits
- Job fit
If you feel stagnant but don’t want to overhaul your career dramatically, here are some ideas on how to smoothly transition onto a new path.
1. Climb the Ladder
Can you see yourself managing successful projects and teams? If so, stick with your current employer and work toward the next management level in your field. Most companies have three major management rungs:
- Lower-level management: Supervisors and team leads who manage day-to-day activities, enforce quality controls, and help employees with questions and feedback.
- Middle-level management: Branch and department managers who develop policies and processes for lower-level management and employees, coordinate resources and outcomes among teams, serve as a liaison between executives and lower-level managers.
- Top-level management: Executives and board members who oversee the entire company, create strategic plans, and communicate directly with partners, stakeholders, and the public.
Each level of management requires strong leadership and dedication. Some of the critical skills you need to master are:
- Goal setting
- Performance measuring
You can learn these skills from a mentor, online classes, and through personal life experience. It’s helpful to talk to your current manager and human resources department about how to advance in your organization. You don’t have to stay at the same company forever, but it’s easier to get experience under your belt so you can apply to management positions elsewhere.
2. Double Up Duties
If management doesn’t appeal to you, but looking for a new employer sounds worse, consider adding responsibilities to your current job. Talk to your team about taking on new tasks and alleviating coworkers from duties that relate to your skill set.
For example, if you work in online marketing, you can help product teams set prices based on your market and consumer research. You can also help sales teams measure conversion and retention rates. As you work with different departments, find new ways to apply your skills and discover new career interests.
Most coworkers will gladly let you save them time and energy each day. However, some may feel threatened, as if you’re trying to take their job away. To avoid tension, be sure to pitch your services as a way to assist individual team members and help increase company revenue. When your go-the-extra-mile effort becomes invaluable, talk to management about transitioning titles or roles so that you can maneuver naturally.
3. Change Industry
If your career isn’t industry-specific, think about applying your skills to a new field. Jobs in business development, customer service, administrative assistance, and writing are easily transferable since their daily responsibilities are generally the same across companies. By switching industries, you’ll learn about new products, services, terminology, and technology that will help keep you sharp and expand your expertise.
For example, if you’ve been a data analyst for retail companies over the past ten years, try switching to a software, healthcare insurance, or online education company. Occupations in healthcare, information technology, and education are among the fastest growing jobs in the U.S., so companies in those fields need more candidates to fill vacancies.
In fact, the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor data shows there are nearly 1.1 million job openings in the education and health services industry and about 78,000 open jobs in the information industry. Clearly, there is no shortage of jobs, but there is a shortage of qualified applicants willing to try something new.
4. Pivot Slightly
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?
For example, if you’ve been writing user manuals and knowledge base articles for software programs your entire career, you might be interested in learning to code. 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.
Take some time to brainstorm and use these steps to help organize your thoughts:
- Assess your skills and interests. You may find some overlap, but don’t be surprised if they’re not the same.
- Identify what you like and loathe about your current job. Use your current job attributes to guide your job search.
- Set a salary or hourly wage goal. Determine how much money would it take to convince you to switch gears.
- Write your ideal job description. Use the information from steps one through three to create the ultimate job description. Compare job postings to your write-up to help filter search results.
If you get stuck, browse through online job posts to see what employers are currently seeking.
5. Get a Side Gig
Instead of throwing yourself to the wolves, why not dabble in a new line of work during your free time? Coding, writing, graphic design, and translation are examples of typical moonlighting jobs. You can learn skills piecemeal through online classes, books, and tutorials.
When you start feeling confident in your skills, look for job titles with the words “part-time,” “independent contractor,” and “freelance” in the Virtual Vocations Database.
Some of the perks of taking on a side gig include:
- Setting your own hours
- Making extra income
- Learning new skills while you have stable employment
- Earning tax deductions
- Feeling accomplished and independent
Of course, there are also inevitable challenges like:
- Managing your time and multiple projects
- Finding consistent and exciting work
- Organizing receipts and invoices for taxes
- Feeling alone and overwhelmed
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. Also, be careful how you publicize your freelance work because it may disgruntle your employer. Though you have every right to pursue other ambitions and work multiple jobs, some employers may feel threatened and worry that you’re using proprietary information to make a profit. As long as you’re honest and don’t use company resources for personal and other business use, you’ll be fine.
6. Start Consulting
Do you feel confident in your knowledge and approach? Maybe it’s time to cut ties with the nine-to-five and start a consulting service. Instead of working for one company, why not consult multiple clients on how to do the job?
Consulting might be a good fit if you:
- Feel confident in your industry knowledge and approach
- Have in-demand, highly technical or specialized skills and experience
- Want to disembark from traditional corporate management
- Desire to be your own boss and turn a profit from your hard work
Though consultants can work directly for employers, many choose the independent contractor path. As an independent contractor, you set your own rates, build a client base, and work as much or as little as you want. Such perks make consulting a preferred way to ease into retirement, start a small business, or offer a profitable service to supplement a product.
For example, if you have 20 years of experience in air pollution control equipment, you could help organizations update their systems as cheaply as possible to meet federal requirements. If you have experience designing and developing email marking blasts, you could help startups and small businesses leverage email communication by designing strategic sales funnels.
As another example, say you develop a popular business-related mobile app that takes off and earns you enough capital to start a small company. As your list of products expands, you realize that your apps solve common business problems. So, you offer consulting services to help companies integrate mobile apps into their daily workflow. Not only are you offering tangible products, but you’re also helping organizations function more efficiently, which can decrease costs and increase revenue.
As you brainstorm ways to start a consulting service, as yourself the following:
- What are some problems or success inhibitors that businesses and professionals continue to face?
- What knowledge and skills do I have to tackle such problems?
- How can my unique approach provide solutions and save companies money?
- How can I package my insight and process to make my services stand out?
Focus mainly on providing solutions to problems and how you offer a unique angle that increases revenue and productivity.
7. Try Telecommuting
Maybe after reading all these ideas, you realize you’re not ready to transition to a new career path. Perhaps all you need is a shift in work style so that you find meaning and excitement in your job. If you feel bogged down at the office and you’re struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance, try telecommuting on for size.
Telecommuting allows you to work from home or anywhere in the world. It often provides the freedom to work according to your preferred schedule, which helps balance career with home life. By removing the daily commute, you can earn back hours of each day and spend more time with family and pursue other goals. You can travel more, live more independently, and remove common office stressors.
However, by working from home, you run the risk of mismanaging time, working longer hours, or feeling more pressure to overperform at your job. It’s a balancing act that you figure out over time, and once you do, the benefits outweigh the struggles. You’re going to face challenges whether you’re in the office or at home, so why not give remote work a shot?
To pitch a telecommute option to your manager or boss, use our Telework Proposal Packet located in the Telecommute Toolkit. The packet contains a detailed, professional request form and guidance on how to approach your boss and answer typical questions of concern.
For example, employers are often concerned about telecommuters’ productivity. However, Owl Labs shows that remote employees perform just as well as onsite workers. To convince your boss, create an example work schedule, use some of the language in the packet to develop a convincing narrative, and incorporate current statistics and trends to support your claims. If you feel unsure, include a backout plan so that you can easily transition back to the office if you realize that telecommuting isn’t the right option for you.
Tips for a Successful Transition
Change can be scary, but it can also invigorate your spirit. When fear rears its ugly head, take these tips into account:
- Forget your age. You can reinvent yourself anytime in your life.
- Forget your degree. Many people don’t work in the same field they studied in college. You can apply your knowledge and skills to almost any industry.
- Forget short-term discomfort. Change is challenging, no matter how small. You’re going to feel some growing pains, but aren’t they better than the pain of regret?
- Remember your priorities. What is most important to you in life? If your current situation doesn’t reflect your priorities, then adjust your sails.
- Remember your goals. 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 for support.
Most of all, realize that career change isn’t permanent, and you can always go back to what you were doing previously. Let your years of hard work lay a safety net to help you feel secure when it’s time to walk the wire.
Photo Credits: 1. iStock.com/zimmytws
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