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What You Need to Know About Changing Careers and Starting Over


This article originally appeared on I Am Rich Jones. If you find this post useful, click on over to read more on career and personal development from Rich. 

So you’ve been working a few years and realized what you’re doing today isn’t what you wanna do for the rest of your life. You’ve decided it’s time to make a change, essentially pressing reset on your career. You identify your target gig then look for the best opportunity to make the jump.

Looks like you’ll have to take a lower level job.

You look at the pay and realize it’s 20-30% less than you make now, which would cause all sorts of self-inflicted financial hardships. That’s not what’s hot in the streets, so what can you do? Can you really change careers without taking a step back?

The answer?

No. Unless you work for yourself.

We’re in rehab from a devastating recession and there are a ton of people searching that already have the job skills. Why would a hiring manager pick you, the person who doesn’t have the experience, over the person that has a great personality AND the experience to do the job today? Less training, less ramp up costs. Less time to do their jobs because they’re training you.

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I don’t say this to discourage you. I say this based on my recruiting experience. It’s very difficult to switch careers and make the same amount of money off the bat. Let’s just accept that and chalk it up to the game. So what should you do? I have some ideas:

Have a Career Plan

This sounds basic, but so many people drop the ball here. I’ve done it myself.

You should always have an idea of your next step. You should also set time/deadlines for when you’ll make transitions and progressions in your career. If you’re tiring at jobs every two to three years, you shouldn’t be at a job three years and three months “suddenly” realizing your daily drudgery is driving you insane and that the work isn’t fulfilling. Know yourself and know your plan. Make sure you’re doing professional pulse checks on an ongoing basis — maybe every six months to start. If your path involves a transition, you should recognize it sooner. That leads me to my next tip:

Save! Save! Save!

If you’re doing your job well, you should always expect to make more the next year. However, I believe in being prepared to make less. I’m not assuming you’ll get fired, laid off or endure other wack sauce. I’m assuming that somewhere along the way, you may realize you’re on the wrong path. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s part of life. Plan for it. You shouldn’t just be saving for financial emergencies, you should be saving for career emergencies too. Here’s a list of resources to get you started.

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Dumb It Down…But Also Step It Up

Submitting a résumé that highlights your irrelevant expertise (that’s what it is) doesn’t cut it. Don’t start putting internships on your résumé, but you should highlight whatever experience you have that’s relevant to the job. And since it’s a transition, a lot of that real experience may read as entry level. That’s fine if you’re changing careers. But if you’ve got the stuff and it just isn’t your main responsibility, by all means play it up. The more the merry.

I say this because sometimes I see applicants with ten years of other experience and they’re trying to make a transition. When I see all the other stuff, my first question is “Yeah, I get the transition. But why would we hire someone with a ton of experience in this other area when we just need basic experience in this area? There are 50 other candidates that meet the mark.”

So if the job requires 0-1 years of librarian experience, don’t submit an application saying you have 10-15 years of expertise in java and .net programming. You will lose…like every time.

If you focus on these three areas, you’ll be a lot more prepared for a career transition when the realization happens…if it hasn’t happened already. Expect to take a step back so you can go a step further; so when you do hit reset, you don’t feel like you’ve been reincarnated as a bedbug.

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