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Career Development

Getting Started With Career Change: Your Top Questions Answered

General Assembly
November 2, 2022

We’re seeing more people re-evaluate their current roles, hoping to swap them for something more fulfilling. The potential benefits of changing careers are plentiful, including increased job satisfaction and higher wages. Despite this, changing careers can be daunting and bring feelings of overwhelm and uncertainty about where to begin.

Our career coach, Sim Khandaker, is answering your questions to help you create a plan for success that aligns with your passion and purpose.

Q: I want to change careers, but I’m unsure what path to take. How do I figure this out?

A: Start by asking yourself this series of questions to help you discover your passions, interests, and motivations:

  • What am I really good at?
  • What are my natural interests?
  • What do I do as a hobby?
  • What’s something that my friends recognize I’m passionate about?
  • What’s ultimately motivating me to change careers?

During this self-reflection, I see people mistakenly consider only their professional interests. When looking to move into the next stage of your career, aim to find something that excites you every time you talk about it. Once you’ve done the internal digging to reach that level of clarity, the direction will present itself.

Q: Where’s the best place to start when thinking about a career change?

A: Exploring free career assessments and courses is an insightful way to examine careers that complement your characteristics and personality traits. General Assembly offers classes that will help narrow down your interests and introduce you to potential options.

Q: How do I prove myself to my manager when entering a new industry?

A: Establishing a relationship with your manager and letting them get to know you and your story matters more than proving your worth. We can all agree that our performances will fluctuate regardless of how much we want to be superstars. However, if we invest in building rapport with our team, those relationships will strengthen over time, allowing them to see our overall impact.

It’s not about proving yourself. You are already worthy.

Q: What if my plan to change careers doesn’t work? What if I can’t get a job in the new field I want to pursue?

A: I’ve found that the genuine concern here is actually about not moving into a new position within an ideal time frame. Our career coaching experience has taught us it’s not about whether you reach your goals. Instead, it’s about when you reach them. 

On average, we see career changers move into their new roles in roughly six months. So, rather than worrying that it won’t work out, consider what you can do now to move forward.

At the end of the day, it’s a numbers game. Believe in yourself, even with rejection and slow periods.

Q: How can I talk to my friends and family about my career change? I’m nervous they’ll be upset with my choice.

A: Sometimes, we forget that most of our friends and family want us to be happy. They may challenge or offer input simply because they care about how our decision might impact us down the road. 

We can help ease their concerns by telling them how they can support us. Often, when we don’t tell our loved ones what we need, it makes them feel helpless as we take this journey into new territory. Once we understand their motive for challenging us isn’t from a place of harm but a place of protection, these conversations can go much smoother.

Q: POC career changers can relate to fears of backlash from friends and family. What should they expect and prepare for?

A: As a person of color (POC), one thing you need to leverage is the strength within your community. A community can provide a healthy place to ground yourself and find encouragement from mentors. LinkedIn offers the opportunity to connect with people like you who do the type of work you aspire to. Choose people who recognize the value of having diverse thoughts and diverse experiences. No matter how you identify, there are organizations and individuals who will support you. 

Find people who will advocate for you and challenge the status quo

Q: How can I stay motivated and follow through in my career change?

Understanding your motivation is critical. Drive dwindles when faced with rejection or obstacles, so identify what will help you stay centered and grounded on this journey. As you progress, take time to pause and ask yourself these questions along the way as checkpoints:

  • Am I still interested?
  • What lessons have I learned so far?
  • What lessons do I need to continue learning to bridge this gap?

If you don’t feel good, it’s hard to get to identify what your next step should be.

Final advice before you get started

Career change isn’t easy, but it’s often a necessary step towards obtaining a more fulfilling professional journey. Before you get started remember: 

1. Patience. Unpredictable timelines are one of the biggest hurdles you’ll face in your career change. A career change typically takes six months to a year, so be patient and nurture yourself. 

2. PIE. Focus your efforts in the right direction. In the 1980s, IBM scientists realized that some people advanced in their careers more quickly than others. People even progressed despite poor performance. Seeing this made them curious to know why it was happening. As a result, PIE was created:

  • Performance: What we do. 

Most believe performance accounts for around 70% of a person’s career advancement success. Unexpectedly, it’s worth only 10%. But even at that 10%, remember that you still need to know what you’re doing. 

  • Image: How people perceive us. 

It was assumed that image was the next most influential factor in career success. The good news is that it isn’t. The narrative that people see you from only accounts for 30%.

  • Exposure: The story you share with others. 

Interestingly, 60% of career advancement is attributed to exposure. By telling your story, you give people a better understanding of who you are and allow them to connect with you on an emotional level. 

Tell your story and keep pressing forward toward your goals. You’ve got this.

To get started on your own career change journey download the Career Changer’s Guide to Doing Something Different.

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