5 Survival Tips for a Painless Career Shift

Back in the day, choosing an industry was a one-shot deal. Once you start on a path, you’re stuck with it from your very first day in college until your retirement. However, this has changed significantly in this modern era.

Now, you can easily change courses during college and even have a career shift years later. However, going through such a major change isn’t as easy as it sounds. Many people are still afraid of venturing into an entirely new industry, particularly because they would need to start climbing up the ladder from the bottom again.

Even so, the fact remains that sometimes, change is the only thing that can make you happy. If you’re going through or planning to switch careers, then these five survival tips might be able to help.

1.   Remove Yourself from Your Profession

One major dilemma that may emerge after you decide to change professions is not being able to separate yourself from your job. This question of what your career identity is can be remedied if you address it as early as possible.

In this case, it is imperative that you avoid considering yourself nothing more than a lawyer, an athlete, or whatever your profession is as this can lead to anxiety and depression. Remember that your career identity should be based on who you are and not what you do.

2.   Determine Where You Want to Go

Another important matter you need to think about when you decide to change industries is the direction or new career path you want to pursue. Although your career identity should be based on who you are as a person, don’t make the mistake of thinking that your previous career doesn’t have anything to do with who you are.

Never forget that every experience you go through will have an impact on who you are in the present and what you will be in the future. After all, everyone has to start somewhere.

Keeping this in mind, you should choose a new path based on your previous experience—take the negative and turn it into a positive. List down all the things you didn’t like and would like to change in your previous line of work and start there.

After that, you should start your transition by deciding whether you want to be part of a specific group (home-based freelancers, for example), or stick to a specific industry (e.g. web development or digital marketing).

If you still cannot decide what to do with this, you can try seeking professional help from coaches and mentors. They can help determine the best career path for you based on your goals, interests, skills, values, and past experiences.

3.   Set SMART Goals

Your goals can help determine which path you should take. Sounds easy enough, right? But bear in mind that your goals need to have certain characteristics to be considered viable for your career shift. Here’s a tip: think SMART.

Your goal should be specific and can paint a clear picture of where you want to be and what you’d like to do. It should also be measurable and attainable, which also means you have to choose realistic goals. Finally, choose an endgame that is timely since trends these days can affect whether a person succeeds in an industry or not.

4.   Assess Your Transferable Skills and Gain New Ones

One key advantage a career shifter has over fresh graduates is his or her experience. Although not all the skills you learned from your past jobs can be applied to your new career path, there will always be some that can be “transferred” to your new endeavor. Some examples include teamwork, verbal and written communication, organization and time management, analytical, research, and leadership skills.

Once you’re done going through your transferable skills, it is time to assess the need for new ones. Since most industries these days have integrated technology into their fields, it is important that you keep your skills up-to-date for you to remain relevant.

5.   Practice Makes Perfect

To succeed in a job, you must first practice. This means you may need to do some shadowing, internships, freelancing, and even some unpaid trainee work. While this will entail a reduced income or demotion on your part, it is necessary for you to gain experience and get your foot up one step of the ladder. After all, changing industries is akin to starting a career all over again.

Cheers to a Painless Career Shift

A career shift is a major decision that entails thorough planning and preparation. This means you shouldn’t rush into it and get as much information and firsthand experience as you can before taking that big leap.


Salma El-Shurafa is an experienced Executive Coach and founder of The Pathway Project. She is a Professional Certified Coach by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach from The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and a graduate of CTI’s Co-Active Leadership program.

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