Overcome These Three Common Obstacles to Switching Careers
Lots of professionals dream of switching careers or even industries. But when it comes to following through, many don’t. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking to jump into something new, but with the right information, expectations and planning, it’s definitely do-able. To get started, make sure you know about three common barriers professionals run into when their switching careers – and how to get past them.
The Skills Gap
Let's say you're a high school teacher who wants to start a restaurant or a web development company. Perhaps you're an engineer who's interested in nonprofit management. Chances are, you'll need to acquire a new set of skills or credentials before you can step into a role that's a contrast from the one you were originally trained to do. Read up on your target industry to learn about which skills are most in demand. Talk to people who do the kind of work you want to do. What are some of the requirements for entering and succeeding in that career?
If you decide to return to school, your options range from taking one or more individual courses to earning a new degree. Your background research can help you choose the right courses, certificate program, or degree program for the new career path you aim to take.
Financing your additional education can be another hurdle to get over when you're switching careers. Search for grants and scholarships that are catered to nontraditional students. If you're considering a loan to help pay for your studies, be sure to factor in the estimated earning potential of your new career when calculating how much you can afford to borrow.
Lack of Experience
Having little to no industry experience also poses a challenge for many career changers. If that's one of the career barriers you're facing, there are several possible workarounds.
A volunteer project is one way to gain experience. If you're interested in health administration, consider joining a hospital fundraising project or sign up for Saturday clerical duties. Volunteering as a school speaker or mentor can introduce you to working in an academic environment before you leave your business management job to become a teacher.
Look for opportunities at your current job to work on projects that dovetail with the career you want to move into. These might involve participation on cross-functional teams or collaboration with clients and vendors for your target industry.
Freelance work or a side business can fill the experience gap, too. For example, maybe you could try out a weekend catering gig before opening a restaurant or offer part-time business consulting services to clients in your intended industry. Another approach is to simply be willing to start your new career in an entry-level job — or even an adult internship — and work your way up.
Having no professional connections in your new field can also present a challenge. The solution is to begin expanding your network in the early stages of planning your career move. For instance, you can attend open events sponsored by related professional and trade organizations. Additionally, reach out to coworkers and friends who have experience or know people in the industry you want to join. And finally, search your current and potential LinkedIn connections for opportunities to grow your network and start conversations to gather information and find job leads.
Don't overlook the people who have no apparent connection to your new career field but always seem to be in the know. One of these prolific connectors could be the one to introduce you to your ideal career opportunity.
Expanding your network, along with your skills and relevant work experience, can eliminate some of the biggest career barriers. Start planning now to make the transition to your dream career.