5 tips for Kickstarting a Career Change

The ongoing pandemic has accelerated work trends including the mass exodus from offices to remote work, the pivot towards e-commerce for everything, and the much talked-about Great Resignation.

“Uncertainty” is a word that has characterized work as of late, but this takes some of the fear out of making a big leap. According to a 2020 Morneau Shepell survey of 3,000 Canadians, 24% had considered a career change, brought on by the pandemic.

Common motivations for seeking a new career:

  • Less stress

  • Better work/life balance

  • More flexibility over hours/work location

  • More stability

  • Better compensation

There’s always risk involved in trying something new, but these days, there’s also risk in standing still. Upshot: Considering a career change? There’s no better time than now!

Here are 5 ways to prepare for a career change.

Career change tip #1: Hire a career coach

A career coach can help you strategize a career change action plan. This can be especially helpful if you’re breaking into a new-to-you industry or are making changes in mid-life.

Your career coach can fine-tune your resume and offer ideas for optimizing your networking, job hunting, interviewing and follow up, using today’s best strategies.

Sure, you could buy a book. But with a career coach, you’re getting real-world knowledge about the local work climate and an empathetic ear to boot. Kathryn Meisner, a Toronto-based career coach, offers an intensive career coaching program aptly named “Guidance Counselling for Adults” designed to put change seekers on the paths best suited to their skill sets.

Career change tip #2: Go back to school

Shore up your skills with continuing education classes. Or enroll in a certification program. Many programs offer a mix of online, in-person or hybrid courses, making it easy to fit school into your schedule (and your comfort level with in-person versus virtual learning).

The benefits of taking a class go beyond course material. You’ll also build your professional network as you get to know your instructor(s), classmates and guest speakers.

Career change tip #3: Build your professional network

Chances are, you’ve got a professional network, but expanding that to include contacts in your new industry will take extra focus. Effective strategies include:

  • Attending networking events, whether virtual or – as pandemic restrictions ease – IRL;

  • Attending trade shows and other industry events;

  • Joining a professional network (see if you qualify as a student);

  • Keeping in touch with your alumni organization through virtual or IRL events

And consider lurking around LinkedIn to identify anyone in your existing network with contacts in your new field – don’t be shy about asking for an e-intro.

Career change tip #4: Volunteer in a related field

Volunteering is a fantastic way to get some hands-on experience in your desired field. Besides the win-win of gaining work experience and industry contacts, volunteering offers mental-health benefits such as reduced stress, greater self-esteem and a stronger sense of purpose — all extremely useful during a time of change and growth.

Career change tip #5: Set up informational interviews

Informational interviews can be a hard ask: not everyone is open to the idea of sitting down for coffee or a Zoom with someone they’ve never met, so they can have their brain picked about their industry. Case in point, Winnipeg-based Eleanor Givens, who made the transition from working in theatre to strategic consultancy thanks to informational interviews. “As I was considering a career change, I set up a series of ‘conversations’ with people I knew in different industries that interested me,” says Givens. “Those interviews are what lead me to my first job outside of theatre as a project manager and put me on the path to my current role.”

Increase your odds of getting a “yes” by being polite (obviously)… and by parlaying any cards you have in your favour. Reach out to mutual contacts (maximize those connections by following tips 1 to 4!) and show an awareness of the individual’s accomplishments and why you’d love a few minutes of their time. Be appreciative of their time – and remember to pay it forward if someone asks you for an informational interview down the line.

By Staples Canada

January 27, 2022