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Last Updated on February 9, 2021

How to Switch Careers and Get Closer to Your Dream Job

How to Switch Careers and Get Closer to Your Dream Job

You’ve been going to “that job” for many years now. You go to your office, do your projects, have lunch with your colleagues, and take your commute home.

How did you get there?

Was this the job you thought you were going to be doing at age 30, 40…50? Is this the work you had wanted to do back in college when the sky was the limit?

It’s not, huh? What happened?

Like many of us, we did the responsible thing by finishing college and getting a job. We’re the people who show up and work. We have the “lunch-pail-roll-up-the-sleeves” work ethic.[1]

But we shouldn’t hate it. We should be loving every minute of it, and knowing that our vocation serves our purpose.

“It’s too late for me. I’ll never have my dream job.” That’s nonsense. We NEED to pursue our dream job.

According to Business Insider:[2]

The average American spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. But 87% of Americans have no passion for their jobs. And nearly 60% say their jobs are making them insomniacs.The average American spends more than 100 hours commuting every year. And a quarter of Americans say work is their No. 1 source of stress.

Of the country’s approximately 100 million full-time employees, 51 percent aren’t engaged at work — meaning they feel no real connection to their jobs, and thus they tend to do the bare minimum.[3]

Switching careers is hard – but it can be done. Here’s how to get started:

1. Visualize Your Dream Job

You can probably Google a plethora of “dream job meditation” or “dream job visualization” recordings that you can download for free. If that’s too much work, then just do this:

Sit in a chair with your eyes closed, and visualize yourself getting into your car (or on the train, or your carpool) and heading to work.

Where are you headed? Where do you park? What are you wearing? Where do you work? Who’s there waiting for you? What time is your first meeting and who is it with?

Do you get the picture? Think of all the pieces that would get incorporated into your Dream Job and really see them. Write down what you see. Keep this handwritten document with you at all times so you can revisit that visualization.

It’s corny, I know…but it will really help you on the way to finding that vocation you seek.

2. Determine Your Major Strengths and Skill Sets

This activity can help you clearly identify your strengths and skill sets so you know how to represent them on a functional resume.

If you are going to make a change, potential employers want to know what you can do more so than what you have already done.

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Pull out your resume and look at your various positions. You probably have a bullet-point list for each job of your various responsibilities. If that’s the case, start by identifying the skill set you needed to complete each task.

For example:

Let’s say you have been working for ten years as an accountant. You might spend your days working with different clients’ books, preparing reports, and conducting audits. What skills are required to perform those tasks? Self motivation? Business acumen and interest? Organizational skills? Managing deadlines? All of the above?

From the various jobs on your resume, pin point all your skills and then place them into themed groups.

My resume features skills groups such as Management, Supervision, Event Planning, and Budget Management. You can find a guide to ultimate work skills needed for career change here: The Ultimate Work Skills List to Help You Change Careers

Finally, come up with 3 to 5 “career highlights” that can go with these skills. These are the various Feathers in Your Cap that you have initiated or facilitated during your employment that would not have existed without you. Now you’re ready to update that resume!

3. Switch to a Functional (Skills-Based) Resume

If you are truly going to make the big leap and actually change careers, then you are going to need a resume that, once again, shows what you can do for them. If you are a teacher looking to get out of the classroom but stay in education, you may be looking for an instructional coordinator or librarian position. Your skills should reflect the position that you want rather than your resume reflecting what you had.

I recommend 3/4 to one full page of your Functional Skills. Each skill group is a heading, and you follow it with bullet points of the tasks that back that up. Here’s a look at one of mine:

Communications, Social Media and Technology

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  • Proficient in MS Word, Excel, Publisher, Power Point, Outlook; PC and Mac hardware
  • Create/update web content for marketing efforts in student affairs and advancement
  • Collaborate with graphic designer, writers, and Public Relations departments on marketing efforts
  • Utilization of social media for recruitment, programming, fundraising, and collaboration
  • Facebook, WACUHO Forum, Twitter, LinkedIn

Once you have your Skills and Competencies in place, then take 1/4 to 1/2 page on Career Highlights. These are those outstanding contributions that you made to one of your previous (or current) employers. Like this:

Redesigned Operations for PCC Foundation

  • Create process for scholarship awarding and implement new Academic Works software
  • Oversee Foundation committee structure and provide training documents for new chairpersons
  • Manage grant awarding process and realignment

Finally, you can list your previous experience in order from most recent or current position to the oldest one. List only the position title, employer, and dates employed. You can follow that with your education, and then list any references at the bottom.

The two previous steps are going to take some time. Don’t expect to be finished in a day. Make sure to share your updated resume with colleagues who support your career change and get their feedback as well.

You can also find tips on Career Change Resumes here: How to Write a Career Change Resume (With Examples)

Now it’s time to get out there and look!

4. Work Your Personal Network

Through your visualization work, you hopefully came up with some places and experiences that feel right for you. So it’s time now to step up and find those opportunities.

Start with your personal network. This would include current Vital Work Friends, colleagues in other industries, and your buddies. Do any of them work in a desired industry of yours? What about their other friends? And those friends’ friends? Make a list of possible connections and invite them to coffee.

A colleague of mine just recently embarked on a “30 Coffees in 30 Days” game plan as a strategy for finding a new job. Working your personal network for contacts can open doors and get you moving in the right direction.

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These tips can help improve your networking skills: How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life

5. Let Your Family Know What You’re Doing and Inform Your References

You’ll get additional support from your family and your references, especially previous supervisors. You may even want to talk to previous supervisors while you are working your personal network.

Letting them know that you are wanting to make a change and getting their insight can also help you get some direction. These folks once aided in your professional development and may even have been mentors to you. They know your skills and abilities as well as anyone, so make sure to use them as resources, too.

And obviously, you are notifying your references (and providing an updated resume) about any job applications and pending interviews.

The Bottom Line

Career change is scary. But it can also be incredibly rewarding when you land the gig that has just been waiting for you. And it IS out there. Make the decision and the time…do the work…and reap the benefits.

You’ve got this.

More Articles About Advancing Your Career

Featured photo credit: Tim van der Kuip via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] PETER KESERIC, 2016
[2] Busiess Insider: 17 seriously disturbing facts about your job
[3] CBS News, 2017

More by this author

Kris McPeak

Educator, Author, Career Change and Work/Life Balance Guru

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Published on March 24, 2021

8 Easy Steps To Finding A Career Right For You

8 Easy Steps To Finding A Career Right For You

In the U.S., workers on average spend 90,000 hours of their lives working.[1] This means that it is likely you will spend more time working than with your spouse or partner. For this reason, it is especially important to love your job. When you are in a job you love, it feels custom-made just for you. You feel your values reflected in the company’s mission. You feel rewarded just for working there — “Thank God it’s Monday,” you think each week, and the paycheck is nice, too.

Here are 8 steps for finding the career that fits your personality like a glove.

1. Look At Yourself Carefully

Firstly, Look Inside

Some diagnostic tests help you assess who you are and what jobs make a good fit. Among free assessments you can take, the Myers-Briggs personality test is among the most popular for gauging how you perceive the world and make decisions. It consists of some 90 either-or questions that indicate whether you consider yourself an extrovert or introvert, and what influences perceptions.

Knowing yourself and the qualities associated with your personality type can help you decide whether you would be more comfortable in a front- or back-office setting, are more of an “ideas” or “execution” person, or prefer an open office or a quiet, enclosed setting to do your best work.

Career Explorer is another diagnostic careers tool, and offers a free Career Test to reveal how your interests and goals match up against some 1,000 careers. The test asks your general interest in a handful of random careers, along with your career satisfaction in previous jobs, and predicts career matches that fit your profile.

Then, Look Outside

Your friends and family members often know you better than you know yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask them, “What kind of career do you see me in?” or “How can I find a career that’s right for me? and pay attention to their answers.

Also, think back to talents you enjoyed in your younger years, particularly those that elicited comments from others along the lines of “You’re going to make a great ___________ some day.” Others often see special abilities in you that you may have overlooked.

2. Write Lists

The perfect career awaits you if you do your homework. Keep careful lists of the qualities you possess and which types of businesses will reward those qualities.[2]

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Similarly, when your friends have ideas for you, write them down. You want to be able to go back and reflect on different career paths.

Putting pen to paper — or fingers to keyboards — and allowing yourself to follow ideas where they lead is a valuable step for finding the career that is right for you.

What elements of past or current jobs and experiences stick out as the most enjoyable? List them. Think of careers where you could recapture some of those elements.

Write down the activities where you find real joy. Do you love decorating or rearranging your living room? Could this translate to fulfilling work in interior design or merchandising? Or do you find children endlessly entertaining? Perhaps you would find teaching or youth development a rewarding career path.

Generate a list of ideas, no matter how eccentric they may seem, and see if any patterns emerge.

Write a Master List of All Your Strengths and All Your Weaknesses

Be as specific as possible. If you hate waking up before 11 a.m., it is going to be hard to hold down a 9 to 5 job (unless you can work remotely in another part of the country with a different time zone). If you love talking to people, maybe the back office of a research department is too isolating for you.

Are you high energy or laid back? Do your strengths or weaknesses tend to make you a natural leader or more of a maverick? Own your particular personality strengths and quirks, and think about the various work environments where you could make the most of them. Do you like receiving direction or chafe when someone gives you feedback?

3. Set up 15-Minute Informational Interviews

All of this introspection will help you narrow your search criteria, but then it must lead to action. Ask around to see if there is anyone you know who would spare a few minutes to discuss her field with you. It could be a friend or a friend-of-a-friend or even one of your parents’ friends. You may be surprised to find that people often want to offer advice on the steps to take to start out in their field.

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Prepare some questions in advance, for example: ask how the person ended up in her field, what best prepared her for her career, which aspects she most enjoys, and how the field is changing.

Depending on how forthcoming the person is, you might also ask if she would mind if you sent a resume to keep on file in case of any future openings.

4. Read Job Postings

Before you apply for a job, start reading job postings in the two or three fields that excite you. You can find postings on LinkedIn, MonsterJobs, Indeed, Glassdoor, and Simply Hired. Do you feel goosebumps zipping down your spine when you read about certain jobs? It could be an indication that this is the job of your dreams.

Familiarize yourself with job descriptions to learn common industry terms, roles, and in-demand skills. Glassdoor, for example, gives you an insider’s perspective on what it’s like to work for a given company — but keep an open mind, too, knowing that former employees with a grudge are usually the most motivated to post reviews.

5. Write Your Resume

Your resume should reflect the skills you possess and the specific skills sought in a job. But be sure to customize and change your resume appropriately for each position you pursue. Don’t be afraid to parrot some of the words on the list of requirements back to the company. Many times, companies will actually use the key words mentioned in the job posting when screening resumes.

Research the organization that you are targeting and try to work in examples that have relevance to their customers or clients, or to issues taking place industry-wide. State how you can add value by quantifying results you achieved in former jobs or even volunteer activities. For example, “coordinated silent auctions for children’s advocacy organizations that brought in $29,000.”

Ideally, you will want to concisely recount your skills to make a riveting impression as a professional ideally suited for the position.

Check out these 10 Killer Resume Tips to Nail Your Dream Job.

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6. Watch a Movie or Two That Features a Character Working in the Field

While movies tend to exaggerate, you may see something that either confirms that you belong in that environment or scares you away from it. Career conflicts are a genre in themselves — you can find most any job represented in some form on the big screen.

The character played by Anne Hathaway in “The Devil Wears Prada,” who successfully navigated her nightmare boss played by Meryl Streep, showed the ups and downs of working on a fashion magazine. Meanwhile, “Legally Blonde” likely inspired a whole horde of young women to enter careers in law.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Risk

When it comes to job-hunting, the biggest risk is not taking a risk. Write a cover letter that truly reflects your own personality. Remember that you need to stand out, not just blend in to the hundreds of “blah-blah-blah” letters.

So, if you’re funny, be funny. If you’re serious, adopt a more measured tone. If you’re intellectual, use bigger words. Be you, not what you think you should be. When you’re authentic, it improves the likelihood that the career you find will be the right fit for you.

Think of ways to show passion for the career path you are pursuing — and then make the case for why it is the right fit for you. Hiring managers look for candidates with dynamism behind their desire to work for the company. Choose words that reveal that you are passionate, not passive: instead of “helpful,” your findings were “game-changing.” Instead of “useful,” your discoveries proved “transformational.”

Here’s How to Write A Cover Letter That Stands out from 500 Applicants.

8. Thank Everyone Who Helped You — and Especially Everyone Who Interviewed You

The gracious job-hunter lands a job faster. Even if you don’t snag a job the first time around, when you remember to thank the people who granted you an interview, those people will remember you and think of you for other opportunities. Thanks should also go to those who provided you with a recommendation or who took time with you for an informational interview.

While it may seem old school or downright quaint, a handwritten thank-you card still carries cachet. It shows that you took time to be appreciative. Or, if you send a note electronically, sincerely show gratitude and help the person remember you by bringing up something he said that you found helpful or insightful.

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A thank you to one person should not be able to be swapped with a communiqué to any other person who helped you in your search.

You Are on a Campaign to Land a Job until You Land the Job

You will likely have to meet several people in a company. Inevitably, those people will talk to each other. Make sure the emails that you write them are different from each other instead of canned notes with different names attached. Take a look at these tips on how to write a thank-you email.

Show unwavering cordiality and professionalism to everyone whom you encounter in the company. Even if you come across the receptionist entering the restroom at the same time as you, politely hold the door. Your good impression will travel throughout the office network.

Bonus: Return the Favor When You’ve Landed Your Job

Congratulations! You finally landed! Now it’s time to pay it forward.

Remember all those who helped you follow the key steps to your sought-after career, and never pass up an opportunity to help others land jobs they love.

Returning the favor will make you even more appreciative of having found the right career for you. And, when you look for your next job, you will find that you’ve built a network of helpful people on whom you can rely.

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Featured photo credit: Saulo Mohana via unsplash.com

Reference

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