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Practical Advice for Transitioning to a Career You Actually Enjoy

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If you’re less than thrilled with your job, you’re probably looking for a way out. But with today’s job market, it may seem impossible to make a career change.

I know I thought it was nearly a year ago when I was stuck in a teaching career I just didn’t find rewarding. I wanted out, but there were so many unknowns: What else was I qualified to do? What did I want to do? Would I even be able to get an interview let alone an actual job?

I read a million articles on career changing and found the advice to be largely, well, vanilla. Nothing they suggested seemed like advice for real life! And while trading one line of work for another is inherently difficult, there are a few things I learned along the way that actually made my transition a little smoother.

You’re Not as Young as You Used to Be

Sad, isn’t it? But true. And if you’re a career-changer, the chances of you working for someone younger than you are rather high.

But don’t let your ego get in the way! What you lack in field experience, you’ll make up for in life experience and maturity. So keep your head down and be patient with your younger superiors. Because you have general work experience, you’ve been able to develop interpersonal and time management skills that will serve you well in any career.

So let go of the age issue and put in your time. Let yourself learn from the younger folks, and trust that you’ll catch up.

Money Isn’t Everything

OK, OK, I know money is important. However, if you’re entering a new field with little-to-no experience, you can’t demand a high salary.

That’s right: you’re probably going to have to take a pay cut. Spend some time researching entry-level salaries in the field you’d like to pursue and decide if it’s even a possibility for you financially. If you get an offer that’s lower than you’d like, don’t be afraid to ask for more, but tread lightly—you don’t want to scare off a potential offer!

It’s also worth asking whether or not there’s room for growth, stock options, and an insurance plan. All factor in to your overall budget. Consider, too, that you could always take on a second job, like freelancing, in the interim. You’ll be busy, but at least you won’t be broke – and you’ll be doing something you actually enjoy.

Move It

The reality is, there aren’t jobs everywhere. Depending on the field you want to pursue, you might have to consider a move, and you might have to fund it yourself.

This might seem like a lot to take on, especially if you’re taking a pay cut, too. But if you can swing it, being mobile makes your job prospects that much greater.

I had to fund my own move across several states, but was able to do it relatively inexpensively by enlisting the help of family, driving the moving truck myself, and getting my new landlord to lower my security deposit. Moving isn’t fun or easy, but in this case, it was worth it.

Invest in Yourself

Find classes, webinars, or networking events where you can work on your professional development. A lot of opportunities are offered free or at low cost either on the web or through local community centers.

I was able to learn some basic HTML skills and a lot about social media via free classes and webinars online. LinkedIn is also a great resource for professional development communities and networking. Use your resources and spend time (and maybe a little money) to add some skills to your resume.

Will Work for Experience!

Intern. Apprentice. Do something pro bono for the community. Maybe there’s no pay involved, but can you really put a price on resume builders?

The answer is no! Make the time to gain some experience and hone your skills by working for free. While many internships are offered to college students, a lot of smaller companies are happy to have extra help from anyone willing to give it.

Search for local businesses in your field of interest, call them up, and offer your services. You’ll gain valuable work experience and make connections along the way.

The added bonus to this is that you get to try out the job. If you find it’s not for you, you haven’t lost anything.

Are you trying to make a career change? What’s the most challenging part for you?

Melissa Woodson is the community manager for @WashULaw, one of the premier LLM programs offered through Washington University in St. Louis. In her spare time, she enjoys running, cooking, and making half-baked attempts at training her dog.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.