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Changing Careers? How to Navigate a Smooth Transition

Aug 30, 2013 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

In this economy, having a job at all is a success. But if you want to make a career transition, you may find yourself starting from scratch—even if you’ve been out of college for the past ten years. Making a career transition isn’t easy—but it’s possible to take a few steps to ensure the change is as smooth and low-stress as it can be. Here are a few tips.

Think about switching to a related field

Instead of switching to a field where you have zero professional experience, consider where you have work experience—and what other jobs might require that type of experience and skill. Think about the specific achievements you’ve had in past careers—and consider in which other careers those achievements would effectively sell you.

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Consider in which new jobs your past experience is an advantage

If you’re transitioning to a new career, it’s not enough to highlight your transferable skills. You’ll be in competition with dozens of other people for that new job who have a background perfectly suited to it—and employers are more likely to call them in than you. Selling yourself over people with an existing background in this field is not just about transferable skills—it’s about a whole transferable history that you can re-frame to show that your alternative background didn’t just prepare you for this career switch—it’s given you an advantage.

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Think about switching to a field where you have friends

Of course, if you already know people in the field where you want to move—you’ll have an advantage. Consider whether you already have professional contacts in a certain field, and what these people can do to help you make a change.

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Don’t make any sudden moves

Before starting to put yourself out there, think about how you’re planning to position yourself. Think about how your background prepared you for the career change and gives you an advantage over people with an existing background in this field—your competition. Refine the narrative you’ll give when people ask why you’re making the switch. You don’t want to give the impression that you “failed” at your past career or got tired of it—this will make you look high maintenance—but that the switch brings you closer to the work you’re most passionate and excited about.

See if you can make the switch without leaving your company

It’s possible you may be able to move to a new career path in the company you already work for. If that’s the case, you’ll already have the inside track—you’ll be able to meet with the department head, talk to Human Resources, and try to negotiate the change from the inside.

Get your company to pay forr your education

Many companies have tuition reimbursement plans for employees who want to further their educations by earning a traditional or accredited online degree. If you see the possibility of a career switch within your current company, find out if you can get your tuition reimbursed. It’s also possible to get your existing company to pay for your education if you want to move to a different company—but most employers will require employees to sign an agreement stating they’ll stay where they are for a minimum amount of time after graduation, so this might have to be a more long-term plan.

Making a career transition is never easy. But it’s possible—especially if you can figure out how to make your previous work history look like an advantage. Think carefully about your next move, and you’ll be more likely to find a way to do it successfully.



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