13 Steps for a Successful Career Shift [+ Free Template]

Learn how pay, stress, work-life balance, and passion play a role in making a career shift. Plus, get a free template!

Making a career shift is a major decision and should not be taken lightly. Luckily, there are tons of ways you can explore alternatives before going all-in and taking the leap. From crafting a clever cover letter to shadowing someone in the workplace, there is lots you can do to prepare for a career shift.

In this article, we’ll dive into tips, tricks, and best practices for making a career shift. You can expect to learn about the importance of confidence and prep work in addition to learning about the benefits of upskilling and brushing up on your existing skills. 

How to make a successful career shift

1Understand what you like and dislike in a job

The first step to making a successful career shift is understanding what you like and dislike in a job. If you aren’t clear on these parameters from the get-go, you may end up shifting and starting a new career you don’t actually enjoy. Making a change of this magnitude can be life-changing, so it’s extremely important to do your due diligence before you make the switch. Understanding your preferences will ensure that when you’re ready, you make the right switch. Identifying what you like will open your eyes to the numerous opportunities that are within your reach, and identifying what you dislike will ensure you don’t end up in a position that you don’t enjoy. 

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2Decide if you want to change industries 

One of the main things to consider when determining whether or not you’re ready to make a career change is deciding if you want to change industries. Just because you’re not happy in your current role doesn’t mean that you have to change industries all together; your discontent may just mean that you need to upskill or explore alternatives within the same niche. If you’re eager to switch industries altogether, you can rule out any careers in your industry and get to work exploring industries that align with your interests and values. 

3Browse for jobs with your qualifications and skills

With the internet at your fingertips—and resources like LinkedIn and Indeed—browsing jobs has never been easier. Applying to job after job with little to no success can be discouraging, which is why it’s important to browse for jobs for which you’re qualified. Leveraging online tools to explore opportunities within your realm will open your eyes to the many opportunities that are available to you. 

4Look for companies that align with your goals and objectives

You may be considering a career change because your current company doesn’t align with your goals and objectives. Failing to start your journey with a company that aligns with your goals and objectives may mean you end up feeling the same way, even if you do choose to switch industries. Identifying your goals and objectives and ensuring they align during the interview process is a great way to set yourself up for success. 

5Job shadow someone 

In addition to research, job shadowing is a great tactic you can leverage to make an informed decision before switching careers. Conducting research online is great, but nothing compares to getting first-hand experience in an immersive environment. While shadowing, it’s important to be vigilant and ask questions. This is a great opportunity for you to gain additional information that wouldn’t otherwise be accessible. 

6Be confident in your abilities

Confidence is key, especially when it comes to putting yourself out there and embarking on a new adventure. Chances are you’re well equipped for your new role, and you have what it takes to thrive. The age-old saying “fake it until you make it” couldn’t be any truer in this scenario. If you’re keen and eager to learn, your new colleagues will admire your tenacity and you’ll have nothing to fear. If you’re confident in your abilities, others will have confidence in you, too. 

7Use your network 

Never underestimate the power of your network. Did you have an excellent manager at your former job? Maybe you completed an internship a few years back and one of your counterparts is now in a position to hire? No matter what the case may be, it’s important to nurture these relationships so you can lean on them in a time of need. In addition to leveraging your network, you should also expand it! Tools like LinkedIn make sourcing mentors or new work besties easier than ever. Simply remain cordial and seek out conversations. You would be surprised by how many people are willing to lend a helping hand or offer a word of advice when you simply ask. 

In addition, tools like Fellow make it easier than ever to remember past conversations and meetings with a tool that allows you to view an overview of past meeting agendas. This is great if you’re hoping to reference a piece of advice or find contact information for a member of your network. 

8Prepare for rejection

Nothing is quite as discouraging as rejection. However, if you go into it with the proper mindset, you’ll learn to accept rejection and embrace what comes your way. What will be will be and there’s no point in wasting your valuable energy being upset by a rejection. If you prepare and understand that everything happens for a reason, you’ll be able to brush off rejection and make time for the opportunities that are truly meant for you. 

9Don’t have expectations

Having unruly expectations is the quickest way to get discouraged. If you enter into your new adventure with little to no expectations, you’ll be thrilled with the outcome. This new venture should be taken seriously, but it shouldn’t be all-consuming. You should enjoy your career and take the time to enjoy the process of finding what’s best for you. 

10Expand your skills with educational resources

The number of educational resources at your fingertips are bountiful. Whether through LinkedIn Learning, Google Certificates, free courses online, or simply by reading and educating yourself through online forums, there are always ways you can expand your skills. 

11Prepare a cover letter and update your resume 

Chances are you haven’t updated your resume or cover letter in a while. If you’ve been working the same job or circulating throughout the same industry, you may not have taken the time to update your credentials. In addition to updating your resume and cover letter to reflect where you are today, you should also craft a resume and cover letter that appeal directly to the job to which you’re applying. This is especially important if you’re choosing to switch careers and completely change industries, since you’ll have to make tweaks and explain how your former experience has prepared you for future endeavors. 

12Determine what your priorities in a job are 

Whether you prioritize working a fulfilling job or having a rewarding career depends on your mindset. You can’t rely solely on your job for happiness and fulfillment. Instead, you have to ask yourself why you do it. What motivates you to make money? What keeps you going every day? Why do you wake up every day and get excited to go to work? Maybe it’s career development? Maybe it’s putting food on the table? Maybe it’s building a better life for you and your family or having complete financial freedom? Everybody’s reason for working varies, and it’s important to identify yours before pursuing a new path. Knowing your why will help you get through the day-to-day while ensuring you’re working towards your greater goals. 

13Be open-minded to new opportunities

If you’ve been working within the same career path for a number of years, it can be difficult to broaden your horizons and open your eyes to everything that’s available to you. Many job seekers miss out on excellent opportunities simply because they aren’t aware of what’s out there. One of the best things you can do for yourself when exploring career shifts is keeping an open mind. If you remain positive and open-minded throughout the process, you may be surprised by the opportunities that come your way. You may even surprise yourself and find something new about which you’re extremely passionate!

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Are you ready to make a career shift? 

A number of factors can contribute to one wishing to make a career shift, including poor pay, stress in the workplace, and limited time for self-improvement. Working in a career that you don’t love can take a toll on your mental health, so it’s important to make a career shift if you aren’t passionate about, interested in, and fulfilled by your job. Finding a career that allows you to prioritize work-life balance while honing in on new skills and interests is the ultimate way to find fulfillment within the workplace. Luckily, these tips, tricks, and best practices for making a successful career shift will point you in the right direction when you’re ready to start exploring alternatives.


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About the author

Hannah Ross

Hannah Ross is an experienced content creator and digital strategist with a demonstrated history of working with SaaS startups and technical founders to develop and manage scalable digital marketing campaigns. As a Social Media and Content Marketing Lead in the tech space, Hannah is incredibly passionate about solving complex marketing problems with innovative solutions.

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