Changing fields or industries when it comes to finding a new job is a huge thing to do and it can well feel like stepping out into the unknown as we suddenly find ourselves without the support networks and familiarity of home… we start panicking, doubting ourselves and wondering how we will ever make a new space feel comfortable for ourselves.
So here are 7 things to think about before changing career:
1: Career change requires us to play to our strengths
“I’m new to this field, what will I have to offer?” you might wonder. Apart from your industry knowledge, experience and trade specific skills, you already have a number of innate strengths you may not even be aware of.
Are you someone that always needs to make things organized? Are you the person who gets an awkward group talking and feeling relaxed? Are you the one who checks details and makes sure nothing is missed when planning a party?
You already bring your inner strength them to every situation in life, not just work, but you probably don’t even think they’re special because such skills come easily to you. Doing some self-reflective work to figure out what underlying strengths you take to any role is important, so not just can you “sell” your strengths to the company you want to work for, but also you can keep them in mind when selecting roles, to begin with. You should want something that is a good fit with your innate talents and strengths, not just the first and random thing you’ll find.
2: You might feel less confident, and that’s OK
You’ve gone from a senior engineer to a craft beer brewer, you’ve swapped your admin role for starting your own business working with horses, you’ve ditched that high school teaching role to become a massage therapist… you went from being able to work at a high level with confidence in your field, to being back on trainer wheels; you feel nervous – and that’s OK!
Acknowledging that you are learning (and that learning may feel uncomfortable) is an important part of accepting what is going on and getting through this stage with more self-compassion and less stress.
3: Beginners bring benefits
You might be constantly thinking that you have “less” than the others around you. Less experience, fewer years of doing the work, fewer relevant roles on your CV. But remember that beginners are not just “less than” the more experienced staff, as they can easily turn into being “‘more than” in different ways.
Beginners (especially career-changers) are often more enthusiastic and open-minded, they can contribute more to innovation by transferring ideas from one field into another. They are more committed and passionate about the role as well as less cynical and stressed than senior staff.
4: You already have strong foundations
When you leave school, college or uni and find a job, the first stages of the learning often involve the ‘”basics” of work-life: how to communicate professionally, how to work in a team, how to represent your organisation professionally, how to deal with customers and so on: these all are transferable skills you will carry with you into the next field.
If you doubt this, imagine your early 20s self-starting this new career and then thinking about the current you starting this career today. Can you identify all the extra things you know and have in your toolbox that your early 20s didn’t have? See? You aren’t starting from scratch!
5: Letting go is part of the process
When we leave a role or a community that was a big part of our lives for a long time, we often experiment feelings of grief, confusion, resentment and regret – along with the hope, excitement and joy of starting a new career: such mixed feelings can become very confusing. Often they don’t exactly match what our rational mind is telling us that we “should” be feeling.
They can come in waves, and we can get pangs of these feelings even when we thought we had fully “dealt with” leaving our old careers behind. But sometimes what we are really leaving is status, income, connection with peers, the satisfaction of mastery, and even just memories and history. Being clear that grief can be part of the journey, as well being kind to ourselves about that, is an important part of any career transition.
6: Winners get support
Have you ever heard of some Olympic champion who is wholly self-taught and has no coach, no backers and no team? When we are doing something hard, we obviously need people on our side; and when we are learning new skills, we need people who have been there before to help show us the way.
Career transition is not for the faint-hearted: you will ideally have friends and family who support you emotionally and cheer you on. If you don’t have any supporting people in your life, go and find some!
Make sure you have at least one friend, coach, mentor or counsellor who shares this sense of possibility with you and is positive about the change; someone who believes in your potential to make good decisions and to create change in your life.
It is much easier to believe in ourselves if we are surrounded by people who believe in themselves (and in us as well!).
7: Find your tribe and join them
Whatever niche field or industry you may be entering, there is a world of people out there that are already in it. Find them, talk to them, read what they write; this is a gift you should give yourself not just during a career transition, but all throughout your career.
As a newcomer to a new field, it can be reassuring being surrounded by people who are already in: you immerse yourself in the new language and possibilities, and start to feel like you’re part of this new world as well.
This can be as simple as following people on social media, reading blogs, heading to a face to face MeetUp group or attending seminars. There is room for the beginner, the career changer, the student and the job hunter in all of these forums: just go along and claim your spot at the table of this new world you will soon be part of!