Small Steps Toward a Career Change

treemoonEver wonder what it would be like to spend your work week doing things you truly enjoy? If so, you’re in good company. In the U.S., 53% of people aren’t happy with their current job.  We’ve heard success stories of people who quit their day job and found something more rewarding. Maybe they went back to school or started their own business. We admire their tenacity because we too would love to find a “dream job”.

Reality then sets in. Many of us can’t take the financial risk of leaving our job. We dream about changing occupations, but it seems impossible to follow in our career heroes’ footsteps. Fortunately, exploring new career options doesn’t mean you have to leave your job tomorrow. There are subtle ways of getting where you want to be. Consider these simple ways to start pursuing a new career:

Talk to people who have your “dream job.” Knowledge is key. Daydreaming about having a different career is not the same as knowing you want that change. Before you make any career move you should learn about your dream job, and what better way to make that happen than to talk to someone who is already doing it.

If you don’t know anyone with your dream job, don’t worry. It doesn’t matter what profession, you can find the right people to talk to. Ask your friends and acquaintances if they know of people in the line of work you are interested in. Use LinkedIn (the social network for professionals) and join relevant discussion groups. You can even cold email people and ask if you can chat with them at a café or over the phone. You will be amazed how many love to talk about their work and are willing to take the time to teach you a thing or two about the career you are beginning to pursue.

Join a networking group. Pinpoint a professional group dedicated to your desired career. Many of these groups have formal gatherings, but others simply meet for happy hour. Begin online by doing a Google search or try to see if a group exists in your area.

Take a class. If you’ve never opened the catalog of your community college, you’re missing out. Local colleges generally offer affordable evening/weekend classes on subjects ranging from “Intro to Art History” to “Advanced Graphic Design.” You can research obtaining a degree in a new field by taking a few classes each term. Devoting time to class will not only gauge if you’re interested in the subject matter, but the professor and some of your classmates will likely know others with the same career aspiration. Gain advice on how to get involved in the local scene.

Start a hobby. If you want to change your career, you need to gain experience. Turn your career passion into a hobby by devoting a significant portion of your free time practicing in the field. If you want to become a graphic designer, upgrade your computer, buy new graphic software, and start creating. If you want to become a mechanic, restore a classic car. Dedicating your time to a hobby will go a long way to making a full career change (and will show future employers you’re committed to making the switch).

Start a part-time business. You may have the skills but not the money to pursue your dream career. It doesn’t mean you don’t have the time. Find part-time work that incorporates your new job skills through job search sites such as If you are able to, start a side business that incorporates your skills. Even if you don’t make enough money from it to pay bills, these experiences quickly add up on a résumé and will make you more attractive to companies with full-time positions.

The road to changing careers isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. Sometimes the best way to make a huge life change is to plot out your first small steps. Even if you ultimately keep your current job, you’ll learn something about yourself and your ability to try something new.

andreaking482014Andrea Killion, MS, NCC, MCC
Careerful Counseling Services

Andrea assists clients in successfully achieving rewarding employment. She works with a diverse array of adults from all industries, backgrounds and stages. Whether you are looking for work, trying to figure out what career to pursue, or unsure whether to stay in your current position, Andrea can assist you with these issues and more.

An older version of this post appeared on this site in May 2011.

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