Whether you’re in a long-term career or have just gotten started, it’s possible to change your work trajectory. The job you hold now — even the career you went to school for — does not have to be how you spend the rest of your life. In fact, it’s silly to stick with something just because it’s what you’re already doing. If you’re not happy or believe that doing something else would make you happier, then it’s time to take action.
You can change careers and land a dream job, but doing so will take some work. Putting yourself on a new path is often not easy and you may have to make short-term sacrifices, but if you set an end goal and make a plan, you can get there.
1. Be confident, but realistic
If you’re a teacher but wish you could be a nurse, that’s an attainable goal. If you’re a nurse who wants to be an astronaut, well, that may not be possible.
Examine your desired profession and the paths people have taken to get there. Make sure that one of those paths remains open to you, and that there’s at least some chance of your efforts to change careers leading you where you want to go.
2. Make a plan
If you want to go from managing a hotel to managing a restaurant, you might be able to make that change without doing much. Simply apply for jobs and explain why you want to change, and the positions are close enough that someone may give you a chance.
Most career changes are not that easy, however. Look at your new chosen career and honestly examine if you have the necessary skills. You can’t be a limo driver without a driver’s license, and most professional writers are pretty good with grammar.
Figure out if you need more schooling or a specific certification. There are companies that are becoming looser on what counts as qualified, but you will still want to check as many boxes as possible, whether that be formally or informally by gaining needed skills on your own.
3. Be ready to fail
In many cases, the people doing the hiring will be skeptical. They might skip over your resume in favor of people who have followed more traditional paths. That’s to be expected, and you should be mentally prepared for a lot of rejection.
4. Work your network
Because you are not a traditional candidate, you may have more success by tapping your network. See who can make an introduction to someone who might hire you, or who might know someone to pass your name to. Sometimes even the smallest of connections can be enough to get you over the wall of skepticism.
You should also be proactive. Attend industry events and reach out to people who may hire you. An introductory email and a request to meet for an informational interview — and interview when there is no specific job opening — can help you make connections that will lead to getting hired.
Be humble and prepared
When you enter a new profession after gaining experience in another one, you may have to take a step or two back. That might mean taking a salary hit, or moving to a position that’s a few rungs down the ladder.
If you truly want to change careers, accept that. Get your foot in the door and then be prepared to outwork everyone else to show you belong. You can get where you want to go as long as you’re realistic and willing to do whatever it takes.