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What Are the Steps to Successfully Change Careers?

Are you in the process of switching careers? You are certainly not alone. Labor experts say that the average person will change careers five to seven times. If you are younger, you are more likely to change careers as you learn more about your skills and interests and how they match up to the current job market. However, seasoned professionals switch careers as well due to a wide variety of circumstances.

In this article, we will discuss why now might be the time to change careers and how you can put yourself in the best position to succeed in this very tight job market. We will also look at some of the most popular second careers and how to get your foot in the door. If you need help crafting a resume or cover letter, we have also included tips on how to create a resume and cover letter that will help you stand out among other candidates.

thumb pushing button that says New Career Start

Why Do People Decide to Change Careers?

Have you been laid off due to COVID-19? Millions of Americans are currently unemployed due to the pandemic as non-essential businesses, schools, and public agencies remain closed to prevent the spread of the virus and maintain social distancing.

While the number of layoffs is unprecedented, the shutdown due to the pandemic represents a significant reason why people decide to change careers: They lose their job, discover that they can’t find a new position in their field, and decide to switch fields to one that is hiring.

If you have lost your job or have had your hours significantly reduced because of the pandemic or another external cause out of your control, changing careers might be necessary to find work. The sad truth is that some professions do phase out because of new technologies and circumstances.

Job loss is one cause for a career change, but it’s not the only one. Here are other common reasons why people decide to switch careers:

  • Better pay
  • Non-existent work/life balance
  • Lack of fulfillment or passion
  • Too much stress
  • Desire to relocate
  • No opportunities to move up

People change jobs and fields all of the time, but it shouldn’t be a decision made overnight, if possible. By having a plan to change careers, you can stay in the driver's seat as you move towards a new field and maintain as much control as possible.

If you are laid off or experience an unforeseen reduction of hours or change in your job situation, many of these steps can help you get back on track towards finding a new opportunity that provides steady employment.

creating a game plan

Your Plan for a Successful Career Change

Do an honest assessment of your current situation

Before you start thinking about what kind of job you might want to do for the next ten years, consider what you don’t like about your current job. Take some time every day to journal about your feelings toward your job and what might be causing you to consider changing careers.

  • Is there an issue with your co-workers or manager?
  • Do you feel underappreciated or are constantly getting passed over for a promotion?
  • Are you waking up every morning with a sense of dread because you have to go into the office?
  • Can you not imagine yourself doing your current line of work five years from now and being happy?
  • Do you feel that your job will not be around anymore near the future?

These are all feelings and concerns that you should consider and assess as you determine whether it’s time to move on. In some cases, a career change might not be necessary, and all you need is a change in responsibility or discussion with your manager about career progression. In other cases, though, a career change is exactly what you need.

So, how ready are you to change careers?

Review your skills, qualifications, and experience

If you dream of being a personal trainer or nutritionist but your background is in accounting, you’re going to need to do some work before you’re ready to change careers. You may need to go back to school part-time or full-time, earn certifications, or get volunteer experience before you can be seen as a promising candidate for hiring managers.

As you look at potential careers, we would encourage you to look at job post descriptions to get a better understanding of what companies are looking for in candidates. This will help you determine what you need to make the transition. If you need to go back to school or spend considerable time learning a new craft, you will need to consult your family on possible sacrifices to see if they are manageable.

Consider ways to get your foot in the door

Ask ten people how they got the job they’re working in, and we guarantee you that most of the answers will be different. Looking for listings on job boards and posting application after application is one way, but it very rarely works. Many successful candidates get the job offer because they networked well, started as an intern, or figured out how to stand out among other candidates. Here are some ways people get their foot in the door:

  • Set up a job shadow: Your high school guidance counselors or college career office can be great resources to find people who will allow you to shadow what they do daily. Job shadowing is a great way to see firsthand what someone does in your desired field. You can see if your skills match up to the responsibilities of the position and get a feel for whether this is something you could see yourself doing. Here is a good resource that shows how job shadowing works and how  you set up an appointment.
  • Ask to take on additional responsibilities: If you are still employed, one way to acquire new skills and experience is by speaking with your manager and indicating you would like to try different tasks. Many companies offer in-house training to identify talent and retain high-quality employees so take advantage of these programs if available. You will learn new skills, which will help you decide to move on or seek a new role within the company.
  • Volunteer or freelance: Expand your portfolio or beef up your resume by taking on volunteer or freelance opportunities. If you belong to a church or any other organization, chances are they are in need of unpaid help to support their organization. These opportunities are a great way to build up your skills and test your interest before applying for jobs in a new field.
  • Speak with a staffing agency representative: Staffing agencies, like J&J Staffing, offer job seekers opportunities to get placed fast in new roles. They work closely with companies to identify candidates that will be a good fit for the role. If you have been recently laid off, we encourage you to seek out an agency that can help you find a job in a new field. We update our job listings every day with new opportunities in a wide variety of industries.

How to Write a Killer Resume and Cover Letter

Stay relevant

Your resume is still the most important document you’ll need to land that new job. You will need to treat it as such and update it for every job you apply to reflect its responsibilities and how you fit. A savvy hiring manager will be able to identify a copy-and-paste resume quickly and most likely discard it. While it does take time, include relevant information and keywords and phrasing that pertain to the job you’re seeking, so your resume doesn’t get dismissed by a hiring manager or applicant tracking software designed to weed out applications that don’t reflect the job description.

Make a pitch

The concept of “above-the-fold” content goes back to the days of the newspaper where the most important stories of the day were placed on the top of the page so they could be seen when the newspaper pages were folded in half and sold at newsstands. You should include your most important information at the top of your resume where it is most likely to be read. In addition to your contact information, you should include a few short sentences that offer a brief introduction about yourself and why you would be great for the role. You will list your qualifications and experience below the top section, but the pitch is a great way to provide a quick overview of why you fit.

Be clear and concise

Your resume is not the document where you should write in the passive voice or give broad overviews. When describing your previous experience, technical and soft skills, and education, be as specific as possible. For example, don’t just list the responsibilities of a position you previously worked. Include real-world outcomes that show how you were successful in the role and made a meaningful contribution to that organization. This is not the time to be modest. You should always be truthful about your accomplishments. Still, you should also not be afraid to highlight how you specifically made a project a success or solved a tough challenge that made your organization better in the end.

Tell a good story

Nobody wants to read a cover letter filled with cliches or one that just rehashes what’s on the resume. Your cover letter is your opportunity to stand out and explain why you’re applying for  this job or why you want to work for this organization. It is also a chance to describe why you decided to change careers and how your previous experience can help you excel in this new role. Be bold and be yourself when writing your cover letter. Your job is to tell a story that anyone who reads it will want to learn more.
dental hygienist

What Are the Top Mid-Life Careers?

If you dream of becoming a doctor or lawyer, there are countless stories of people who successfully changed careers in their 30s or 40s by going back to school and doing everything necessary to become licensed as a doctor, lawyer, or another profession with stringent requirements. However, other careers are easier to transition to than others, as they will require less schooling or specific certifications and training. Many of the jobs listed below may require a two-year degree or can be self-taught.

  • Computer programmer
  • Dental hygienist
  • Personal trainer
  • Real estate agent
  • Social media manager
  • Market research analyst
  • Data scientist
  • Grantwriter
  • Bookkeeper
  • IT support specialist

If you are thinking about a second career, these are high-paying jobs and offer low entry requirements. What you decide to do is up to you. Be honest with yourself on what you like and don’t like about your job, determine what trade-offs you’re willing to make as you seek a new career, and get a better understanding of the job market and what jobs will be growing ten years from now.

A final note about career development

At J&J Staffing, we help organizations find high-quality candidates to fill a wide variety of roles — from office positions, to warehouse positions, to professional positions. We also provide a resource for candidates to find job postings from hiring organizations. Career development planning is important for employees and employers alike. We encourage you to think about career planning no matter if you're a decision-maker or someone who wants to become one someday.

Staffing Services In the Greater Philadelphia

J & J Staffing Resources is a professional staffing agency that connects local businesses to job seekers throughout the Greater Philadelphia area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

We bring over 45 years of expertise in office, industrial, technical, and professional staffing placements as well as payroll management. We offer a wide range of services for both employers and job seekers.

Need help? J & J Staffing has offices in Newark, Bridgeport, Woodbury, Cherry Hill, Ewing, Princeton, Langhorne, and Horsham. Visit your local J & J staffing center, or get started below.