How To Prepare For A Career Change

Profile of pensive woman with laptop and credit card sitting at desk at home looking out of window

When it comes time for a career change, the possibilities are seemingly endless. The key to a successful career change lies in the planning. To really focus in on what you want to do next, you need to have clarity. This clarity comes from taking the time to think things through and not rush into a decision. Here are three steps you should take to start to prepare for a career change.

Make a list of things you like and dislike.

The first thing you should do is make two lists – one for things you like and one for things you dislike. This list is meant to be a brain dump of ideas, so nothing is off limits. Go beyond job titles, industry, and salary, and think about day to day responsibilities and mundane tasks. You want this list to be as thorough as possible, so keep it on your phone so that you’re able to add to it whenever you think of something.

To get started, analyze your current role. What do you like about it? What do you hate the most? It’s often easier to start with the dislikes and negatives, but be sure to not neglect the positives even if they are difficult to think of. From there, move on to what your dream job would look like and add those ideas. Try to work on this list for at least a week to ensure it’s as thorough as possible.

Take stock of your current and past jobs.

It’s important that you take both your current and past jobs into consideration, as both of those things will have influenced your decision to make a career change. Whatever the reason for the change, it’s rooted in your entire job history.

Perhaps you’ve been in the same field forever and there’s just nothing left for you to do. Perhaps you took a job out of college that was in line with your degree and you’ve discovered it just isn’t right for you. Thinking about your entire job history will help you make your likes and dislikes more well-rounded. It will also help you gain clarity on what you’re really looking for in a new career.

Give yourself goals.

Goals will help you stay on track and ensure that the process doesn’t drag on forever. Since a lot of the preparation is rooted in deep dives and analytical thinking, you can easily get lost in the process. Then before you know it, you’ll have lists that are five pages long but you haven’t actually started looking for jobs.

To track your progress and identify your goals, start by choosing a the date you want to start you new career, then work backwards from there. This date becomes your end goal, and from there you’ll want to add in milestone goals that will help you stay on track.

The further away your goal day is, the more time you can spend in the deep dive process. For example, if you want to begin your new career in six months, you could realistically spend two to three months in the deep dive process. If you’re looking at a three-month timeframe, three to four weeks is the maximum amount of time you’d want to dedicate to a deep dive.

Write out your goals and keep them someplace you can refer to it often. This will help you visualize your progress and ensure that you don’t get off track. It also gives you a sense of accomplishment to know that you’re hitting your goals and you’re inching one step closer to a new career.