If you’ve ever said to yourself, “I want to change careers but don’t know what to do,” you’re not alone.
It’s hard enough to make a career change when you think you know what you’d rather be doing, but what if you have no idea what you want to do or you don’t know what your choices are?
The path to finding a fulfilling job or career path can feel like a complex journey full of uncertainty, but with a bit of patience, persistence, and know-how, it is possible. I know this from personal experience. I’ve made several career changes in my life through trial and error. I’m no expert, but I learned from those mistakes.
This article will explore how to change careers and discover a fulfilling career path using five effective methods. Whether you’re just starting out in your career or have been working in a job that no longer satisfies you, these tips and resources will help guide you on your journey. So, let’s get started!
What do you want to be when you grow up?
When I was a kid, I had lofty career goals.
First, I wanted to be a ballerina, then an airline stewardess, a spy, an actress and a slew of other romanticized jobs. I never considered the economic consequences of these jobs, let alone if they would make me happy.
Then I grew up.
While at University, I took a less romanticized approach to my career planning.
I decided to major in Economics, not because I had a passion for it, but because I thought it was practical and would increase my chances of getting a high-paying corporate job after graduation. It seemed like a good idea at the time, based on the information I had about the workforce- which was close to nothing.
After working in corporate finance and accounting for six years, I realized that despite making a good living, I felt unfulfilled. Deep down, I knew that if I didn’t take a chance and try to make a career change, I might regret not taking action earlier.
The problem was I had no idea how to change careers, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do or if I could even change careers based on my skillset.
My career change successes and mistakes
When I was first considering my career change, the only thing I knew was that I needed to find a job or career where I could use my transferable skills: my talents, abilities and experiences in a new career that was more fulfilling.
Coming from a corporate finance and accounting background, I had strong analytical skills, was great at reporting and reconciliation and had an eye for numbers. However, I was uncertain about what other job opportunities I would be qualified for with my experience and skills.
I initially searched the web for jobs using certain keywords such as “analytics,” but nothing grabbed my attention until I came across something called web marketing. This was back in 2003, and the term was still relatively new back then.
Unfortunately, without direct experience, no one would hire me. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I knew about eBay and thought, why not use my numerical, analytical, and data interpretation skills to start a home-based eBay business and teach myself the necessary skills that would be transferable to web marketing and web analytics — Market Research, content creation, data analysis, SEO, conversion optimization. So that’s what I did.
My eBay business started small. At first, I sourced products from the classifieds, used home appliances, 100 baseball caps from a liquidation sale, and even Pokemon cards. Then, I moved on to sourcing products wholesale in quantity that could easily be sent in the mail. At the time, the SWAT movie and Italian charm bracelets were a hot trend.
I was able to purchase 1000 SWAT watches for around 6 dollars each, which would sell for about 25 to 50 dollars apiece on eBay. I also sourced around 100 modular Italian charms bracelets with removable square links and had similar success.
Less than two years later, I found a market research position for a Silicon Valley startup called Auction Drop. That was my first career change and my first job outside of finance.
I made another career change when that company went under and laid everyone off. I landed a job as a web traffic manager at a company called Claria (formerly known as Gator). I then transferred to a database marketing analytics position within the same company, analyzing user data and learning SQL.
Stepping stone your career change
Although it wasn’t planned, each career change I made was a stepping stone.
It wasn’t linear; it was more like a zig-zag career path journey that would eventually lead me to my ideal career and job in digital marketing and web marketing, two jobs that combined many of my interests, passions, talents and transferable skills under one
I no longer work a corporate desk job; now, my full-time job is this blog. The ad revenue from the banner ads on this site is how I earn the bulk of my income. I don’t need a physical inventory. I can do my job anywhere, including remotely from France, as long as I have a computer and an internet connection- which is perfect for my wanderlust heart and lifestyle.
Looking back, I probably could have found my ideal job and made a career change faster had I done a few things differently, but that’s neither here nor there.
Your career change path may look completely different, but “all roads lead to Rome.”
How to change careers: 5 ways to find your ideal career or job when you don’t know what to do
A career change can be a long process. However, dedicating some time to research, self-reflection, and assessing your skills and experience can save you time in the long run. Additionally, it can help you avoid choosing a career that doesn’t align with your lifestyle, goals, interests, or skills.
Trust me, you don’t want to skip this step, especially if you’re unsure how to change careers and uncertain what job you would rather be doing.
If I had to do it all over again and had limited time, here are some of the tools and resources I recommend using to make the transition smoother
1) Take a career test or personality test to see what jobs might make you the happiest
When you take a career test or personality test (also known as a psychometric test), certain factors are considered to determine the jobs best suited for you: your ambitions, life goals, motivations, self-reported skills, personality type, etc.
These factors get mashed together, and out comes a list of “best potential careers” for you to sift through and choose for further research.
Unfortunately, psychometric assessment tests cannot tell you which single job is “THE BEST ONE.” Remember, you may be suited for several different careers. It’s up to you to determine which, if any, is the best match for you.
There are many tests to choose from, but here are two to get you started.
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Personality tests that you can take right now.
2) Work with a career coach/counsellor
In addition to taking a career assessment or personality test, you could work one-on-one with a career coach. Before dismissing the idea, consider its potential benefits.
Even the best golfers, like Tiger Woods, need an expert coach for continued improvement. Similarly, a career coach can help you improve your efficiency in searching for that perfect career change or job by providing expert advice on planning your career change.
A career counsellor can also guide you in making an action plan, dealing with the emotional side of a career change, boosting your confidence, re-defining your career goals and recommending courses or training you might need. These are all things that a career test or personality test can’t do or can’t do as well.
When choosing the best career coach, make sure you choose one that is experienced and trained. Expect to pay anywhere from 100 to 500 dollars per session. Yes, it is pricey; however, when you think of the long-term ramifications- happiness in your future job vs staying in a position that makes you unhappy, it might be worth it for some individuals.
3) Research your potential jobs
Once you’ve discovered the best possible career matches, you’ll need to do some practical research about those jobs.
Here are some ideas to help you learn more about potential jobs and careers.
- Interview other people who are in the job role you want to do.
- Job Shadow someone who is in the role you want to do.
- Search career websites for more information about the job you’re looking into. You can discover things that career tests and coaches can’t tell you about salary, job culture, training, etc.
- Take some courses to see if you enjoy the subject matter. For example, if you want to become a programmer, take an online programming class.
- Read career change websites. www.careershifters.com is an excellent place to start. They have an online community where you can talk with other career changers and get moral support.
www.learnhowtobecome.org is another good site for career research. All you need to do is enter your desired career, and it tells you a little about that job, salary range, education or training required, etc.
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4) Training or continuing education
After narrowing down that list of possible careers, it’s time to figure out if you need additional training or certification. You may not need any training if your current skill set is transferable. However, certain careers may require obtaining a master’s degree, which might be off-putting or a deal-breaker and help rule out specific jobs.
If you do need some additional training, ask yourself:
- Can you afford the training program?
- How long is the training?
- Will you need to take a career break to pursue additional training, or will you keep your day job and go to class at night?”
- Can you do the training online?
- Can you get on-the-job training by taking a lower-level job or entry-level job and use it as a stepping stone? I found this method practical for me when I couldn’t afford to take time off work to get official training.
Hopefully, after all the self-reflection and research, you’ve narrowed down your list to one, maybe two careers. Now is the time to take action- any action, big or small.
- Have you updated your resume?
- Did you update your social media profile on Linkedin?
- Did you network with your peers and tell them you’re looking for work?
Don’t let information overload give you analysis paralysis. It’s more important to get things moving because your path may not be linear but rather one big zig-zag like mine was.
Other things to consider if you’re wondering how to change careers
No one should choose their next career change solely from online tests or others’ advice. However, they are useful tools for discovering jobs you might not have thought of and discovering if you’re well suited for certain careers or not.
You have the final say in determining the best career path you want to take for your unique circumstances.
Good Luck, and stay strong.