When you feel stuck in your current job and you look for a more rewarding career, it’s difficult to make a career change especially as a mid-career professional. You’ve established a streak of skills and experience tailored to the current industry you’re in and it’s scary to pivot the career direction into a new path.
The pandemic has also forced talents in all sectors into redefining their career trajectory. Many have been furloughed; some are looking for careers that are driven by purpose. Whatever your reasons are, making a career change doesn’t have to be a painful process as commonly perceived. And you don’t have to start all over again.
Assuming that you have decided on this change, here are 3 steps you can take as a mid-career professional heading towards a new career.
1. Ask yourself what kind of career transition you want.
There are five questions you can ask yourself to determine what kind of career change you need and the next steps to undertake:
- Are you fundamentally satisfied with the current career and you’re only looking for a new challenge in the same field? Chances are you only need to climb a higher level in the career ladder under the same industry where your experience and knowledge complement.
- Are you convinced that there is a lack of opportunities for career progression where you are currently employed? The answer might be a new job in a new organization where they can provide better career opportunities and break the glass ceiling for you.
- Does the reason have to do with ineffective leadership in your current organization? Some managers and superiors that display poor leadership are usually one of the key reasons why professionals lose satisfaction with their work.
- Due to the pandemic, have your priorities changed? Are you focused on meeting the needs and wants of your family than your personal career goals? What you might need is flexibility in your job. Some employees have been on a work-from-home arrangement and flexible hours especially in the wake of the new normal.
- Have your personal values affected your career goals that’s why you want to find a more meaningful career? Even 10 years down the line, mid-career professionals may want to reinvent themselves entirely. A shift from a corporate job to a more purposeful career can be one of the reasons why career change is inevitable.
With these questions, you can evaluate whether you need a total career change or you just need a job. If you need help in clarifying your answers and priority ask your friends and family or consult a career coach for additional insights.
2. Map out an action plan for your career change.
Once you’ve determined the kind of career change you want, identify your ideal job through a career plan. Planning is where considerations and responsibilities are factored in. This is to ensure that the goal and steps involved are realistic as much as possible.
The plan should contain the basic elements of S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely). It demonstrates how articulate and clear you are in achieving your goals. Once you’ve laid out your plan properly, you would be able to break it down into a specific set of tasks to accomplish your goals.
Other steps in your plan are:
- Spend time in understanding the specific industry and organizations you want to get into. Exploring this will give you an idea of the qualities they look for in talent and how they hire so you can have a sense of your natural fit.
- Assess your current skills and experience, but don’t ignore your values. If there is an apparent skill gap, look to fill that if it resonates with your values. For example, if you are required to have a specific experience, strategically choose to engage in a volunteer program or training so you can build the skill and credibility.
- Create and commit to a timeline with the defined to-do list for your career change. Account the time you need to get to the other side. This gives you the opportunity to track your progress and how soon you can achieve the goal. In the meantime follow the sector’s updates and ask yourself if the plan still excites you.
- Mirror the language of the industry. In your plan, you need to make sure that your CV has been updated and arranged in a way that the employer can understand immediately the value you can bring to them. Especially if you’re changing industries — say you want to apply for a job in the global development sector, new terminologies need to be your best friends. Reframe your experience to match job descriptions and focus on your transferable skills..
3. Find a mentor or someone who can guide you through the change.
Because career change is difficult, most professionals would rather stay where they are even if the thought of changing a role or trying out a new industry is there. A mentor can help you transition and decide more effectively. It’s crucial that you have one, especially if you’ve decided to enter a new industry as this is when your target mentors are outside of your immediate network. (link smart networking)
If you are looking to join the social impact sector, for example, look for a mentor who is in the said industry and in the position you aspire to be in. They are knowledgeable of the industry and often have useful professional associations. Aside from the information you can get from them, they can introduce you to the right people as well — and who knows, help you land your next contract.
Here are some tips to find a mentor for your career change:
- Start with a list of who you look up to and whose values you most align with. List down at least 10 and dig deeper with your research of their background and works. The more you explore, the more likely you are to find what kind of mentee you are as well.
- Attend webinars or online conferences hosted by related organizations or industry associations. Insightful leaders speak at these events. They provide valuable information and they can be your potential mentors. If you are allowed to ask, prepare your compelling question one that they can resonate with. Make sure to thank them for their answer. At the end of the event, let them know that you value what they shared but would like to know more about their work. Continue to engage and express your thoughts about mentorship afterward.
- Know your boundaries. Mentors are sages who can provide career advice and thus career guidance. Understand as well that these are busy professionals; and there is a chance that they won’t respond right away or at all. If it’s the latter, move on to the next in your list.
- Decide when your engagement ends. Based on your goals, you decide how long mentorship would last. It’s advisable to keep engagement on a short-term basis~4 to 6 months or stay connected if appropriate.
- It’s better to have several mentors instead of just one. Different people provide different ideas. When you have various mentors to ask and get advice from, you can see from different perspectives thus helping you grow and make better decisions in your career.
- Connect potential mentors on LinkedIn as it’s a fairly obvious avenue where professionals are. Reach out to them directly through a connection request and thank them if they have approved. Ask them a well-thought question and surely, 89% of them will respond back to you.
Career change is an overwhelming process especially if you don’t know where to start. Managing it will take lots of patience but with a good strategy to back you up, you’ll accelerate it faster than you think. Add in hard work and focus and you’ll surely land a meaningful career in no time.
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