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A 10-Step Guide to Preparing for a Career Change

Great things never came from comfort zones graphic

December 21, 2015

By: Anthony Belef

The most admirable leaders—not just in business but in the world—show us time and time again how beautiful change can be. And yet we as humans are innately programmed to be skeptical and even fearful of change, especially when it comes to big decisions that we must make for ourselves—like a career change.

How do you know when it’s time to refresh your career path? The answer is different for everyone, but here are a few signs:

  • You’re no long feeling motivated or inspired
  • You come to work feeling tired before the day has even started
  • You pause and/or give a neutral answer when people ask if you enjoy your job
  • You’re not genuinely happy, despite having excellent benefits, pay, perks, etc.
  • You wouldn’t want your manager’s job

If you identify with these types of statements, or if you are just passively exploring alternative careers, read on for a 10-step guide to a successful career change.

Step 1: Discovery

Even a minor career change starts with a preliminary discovery process. With a world of information at your fingertips online, you can conduct far more research than generations past. This includes getting a feel for the people, companies, resources, trends, and numbers within the industry you wish to pursue. Subscribe to relevant blogs, updates, and social feeds, so that you can truly educate yourself on a daily basis.

Step 2: Decision

Evaluate your prospective new career based on factors such as lifestyle, opportunity for growth, salary, etc. This will help you to come to a clear decision, which will in turn give you the confidence to embark on a life-changing journey!

Step 3: Master Plan

Success is rarely achieved without some sort of plan. You should certainly embrace the thrill, but you’ll feel a lot more confident if you have a basic outline for your career. Besides, there’s a physical and mental satisfaction to checking items and goals off of a list, especially over a long period of time. Your plan should address everything from networking and professional development to how you will overcome the age-old, “can’t get a job without experience, can’t get experience without a job” conundrum.

Step 4: Pre-Networking

Networking with a new group of professionals can be an unsettling thought. Luckily, you don’t have to do that just yet. Believe it or not, the chances are high that you have some sort of connection to the industry you have your sights set on. It might even be through a friend or family member.

Dig into your network (especially on LinkedIn), and get in touch with anyone who might be able to offer (or make an introduction to someone who can offer) any bit of useful information. This will help you to not only gain new insights but also warm up your networking skills without subjecting yourself to a room full of strangers.

Step 5: Immersion

So, this is the part where you might have to talk to strangers. But seriously, don’t be timid or scared. Immerse yourself in your future career: join professional organizations, attend industry mixers, volunteer your time, and learn the language. Most importantly, have fun in the process! Remember, these are all people who share the same passion you have recently discovered. You will enjoy speaking with and learning from them.

Step 6: Integration

Repeat Step 5 consistently, and you’ll progress from immersion to integration. Networking will get easier, your knowledge base will expand much faster, and you will become fully in-tune with what’s going on in the business.

Step 7: Job Prospects

At this point, you have refocused and built your résumé to align with your new industry—possibly without even realizing it. Now you can engage and interview with potential employers. The most important thing to keep in mind during this phase is that “looking the part” absolutely matters. Some industries are more conservative, while others are laid back and loose. If you’re in doubt, overdressing is more passable than underdressing.

Step 8: Opportunity Assessment

When you’re considering job opportunities, take into account how each one will affect your job level, salary, commute, relocation, and other factors that are important to you. It’s not always realistic to maintain the same level of job you have now, so be open to humble opportunities, as long as they’re viable. A step back is not always a setback; sometimes, you have to pay your dues before you can move up in a new career.

Step 9: Skill Mastering

In most jobs, you learn new things simply from showing up to work every day. But when you’re seeking a new job in a new line of work, you have to make a conscious effort to compensate for the lack of daily on-the-job exposure by actively expanding your skill set. You can do this by taking on freelance work, assigning projects to yourself, or completing an online learning program.

Step 10: Education

Perhaps the best way to enhance your skill set and create new career opportunities is to seek a higher education program that has a track record of producing polished professionals who go on to become great leaders.

The Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) Master’s Program at San Diego State University can put you ahead of the pack and help you discover your dream job. The HTM curriculum is centered on real world trends and information, but its reach extends far beyond academics. Click here to see how the HTM Master’s program can change your life.


Author: Anthony Belef, Director of Human Resources of Omni Hotel (LinkedIn)

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