Career Change: When You Know What You Want

3069180895_105af9d6a9_nSo, in the last post we talked about deciding to change careers. As I mentioned, there are three potential paths when making such a change. Let’s talk about the first one, the one where you know for sure what you want to do.

The good thing about this path is that there are fewer preliminary steps. You know what you’re missing out on in your current career and you know where to get it. You’re already past the hardest part: making up your mind.

But hold your horses! Just because you’ve made up your mind doesn’t mean you don’t have any prep work to do.

“Diving in” may be the universal phrase used to mean, “don’t think, just do,” but even diving requires preparation. Just because you see a pool or know a pool is out there somewhere doesn’t mean you should just take off running and leap in its apparent direction. You need to know which end is deep, which end is shallow, if there are pool toys to trip on, if there’s a diving board, if there’s a lifeguard on duty, etc. And not knowing that stuff isn’t just inconvenient; it’s dangerous.

Same goes for changing careers. You shouldn’t needlessly delay the process, but you also shouldn’t dive into it without knowing how it works. Are you going to need additional training? Are you going to need to go back to school? How long will the transition take, realistically? How much overlap will there be while you will have to continue work full-time in your current career in addition to working part-time in your new one?

If you don’t know the answers to these and other questions, you risk unnecessary setbacks. And setbacks, especially ones that come early on, not only cost you time; they cost you morale too. When you have it in your head that your career transition will take six months but then you get started and it turns out it’ll be closer to three years, that’s frustrating, and frustration takes time of its own to overcome, or worse, can stop things altogether.

This is where your network comes in. Do you know anyone who works in the field that you want to work in? Pick their brain. But don’t just email them a questionnaire. If they are doing what you want to be doing, than chances are you admire them. Let them know that. Get it across that you appreciate what they do. Everyone loves to be an expert, so make them feel like one.

Going into a career change with a full knowledge of how it will or should work is like playing a level in a video game you’ve already played before; you’ll know how much energy you need, how much time you’ll need, and you’ll know when to lay low and when to jump.

(Photo by thisisbossi, used under a Creative Commons License.)

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