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Career Development

Is Switching Careers a Good Idea? 8 Truths About Changing Your Career

General Assembly
December 5, 2022

As the holiday season approaches, many are taking the time to reflect on the past year. And some are even taking some much-needed time to slow down and unplug from work. Times like these are helpful in taking stock of the status quo and potentially even igniting change.

It’s a great time to ask yourself questions like: 

  • Are you looking forward to ramping up again in January? Or is going back to work making your stomach turn?
  • Is your job allowing you to take the vacation time you deserve? Or are boundaries between personal life and work life too blurred? 

These may lead you to consider much bigger questions like: 

  • Do you want to stay in your current job? Or is switching careers a good idea? 

We spend a lot of our time at work, and feeling uninspired or bored isn’t the only consequence of sticking with a job you hate. In fact, there can be dire repercussions, including risk of illness, lack of sleep, poor mental health, and stress —  just to name a few. 

For these reasons and more, making an intentional change to your professional journey can be immensely rewarding. As you reflect on your situation and consider your options, here are eight things to keep in mind for your career change journey. 

8 truths about changing your career & advice for getting started

  1. You can change careers at any age

It’s common to think that changing careers is only something you can do when you’re young. But that’s a limiting belief. You can switch careers at any age. 

In fact, according to this AIER study, the majority of older adults who switch career paths are successful. And what’s more — most of them also reported feeling happier. 

A great example is General Assembly alumni Jason Klundt, who changed careers in his 40s, transitioning from a job in bus cleaning to a career in UX Design. Now, only a couple of years later, he’s the VP of Software Engineering at The Bank of America. 

There’s no age limit to going after what you want.

Pro tip: No matter how old you are, ensure you have a support system. Asking for help — whether it be for childcare, advice, or just a friend to be there for you during the tough moments — is imperative to success.

  1. Networking is important

Don’t underestimate the power of a strong network. It’s equally as important as updating your resume and filling out applications for jobs. 

If you’re unsure about the change, talking to people in the field will help give you a better understanding of what exactly the role entails. If you are sure, on the other hand, your network can help you understand what skills are valuable to highlight. Lastly, a network can be extremely beneficial when it comes to actually landing your next role. 

Your network can make introductions and referrals and open new doors. 

Pro tip: If you don’t currently have a network, that’s okay. You might be surprised at how receptive people are to cold outreach when done right. So don’t be afraid to reach out to people on LinkedIn for informational interviews. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. 

  1. Lack of prior experience shouldn’t stop you

While it might not be obvious what skills you bring to your new career off the bat, you have a lot to offer. In fact, the skills you developed in your previous role, even if it was in a completely different field, will likely be of immense benefit to whatever role you land next. 

A team that’s diverse in backgrounds and skills has been shown to increase creativity, improve problem-solving, and strengthen skill sets. Take General Assembly alumni Megan Woolfrey, for example. Megan transitioned from a job in hospitality to UX design. While the similarities may not be evident at first, Megan found there were a lot of concepts that carried over, “like anticipating a guest/user’s needs, thinking about their goals, and understanding how to build a cohesive experience.”

Pro tip: Leverage your transferable skills by highlighting them on your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. Stop thinking of your lack of relevant experience as a hurdle, and start thinking about it as an asset. 

  1. You can change careers without college

The thought of going back to college to do a whole new degree can be intimidating and a huge financial burden. 

The good news? That doesn’t need to stop you. Especially if you’re looking to transition into a new tech job, there are many less traditional career paths you can take. Many people looking to hire care more about your skills, attitude and growth potential than a degree itself. 

Pro tip: Conduct a skills assessment to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. Once you understand the gaps, you can figure out what you need to reach your goals. Maybe it’s a course, volunteer work, etc. 

But this doesn’t mean you won’t need any further education, which brings us to the next point on the importance of learning. 

  1. Learning shows commitment to the transition

While you don’t need a university degree to transition jobs, committing time to learn the skills needed for your dream job is important. 

This could look like a part-time online course, an immersive program, or any form of learning that suits your schedule and goals. 

Not only will it help you gain essential knowledge and know-how, it will also demonstrate to future employers that you’re committed to the new career path.

Pro tip: If you’re not sure what skills to hone to make your career change, here’s a quick list of skills to consider to help get the wheels turning:

  • Data analytics: Data analytics is an in-demand and versatile skill set that you can leverage in a variety of fields — from marketing to product. For example, marketing managers who know Structured Query Language (SQL) make 41% more than those who don’t, and general managers earn 29% more with data analysis skills.
  • UX design: Whether you’re interested in product, marketing, engineering, business strategy or design, you may benefit from learning UX skills. UX/UI is rated as the number one most in-demand product design title and plays a major role in every type of tech product. 
  • Python programming: Python is the number one fastest-growing major programming language with 151% year-over-year growth. For those looking to become a software developer, Python programming might be an essential skill to learn to market yourself and succeed in your next role.
  1. Changing careers doesn’t need to be a massive financial commitment

We often think making a career change means quitting your current job, going back to school and starting from scratch. The prospect of losing your income and then needing to spend more money to start at a lower salary is unappealing and, a lot of the time, unattainable. 

But the truth is, you don’t need to be rich to make a change. You can maintain your current job, find a means of education that works with your budget, and often find a job that pays well — or at the very least, has the potential for more growth.

While there are financial risks to making a change, the reward is often greater. 

Pro tip: If you’re worried about finances, make small changes over time to reach your goals. Slow and steady wins the race.

  1. Finding a mentor will help you along the way

87% of mentors and mentees feel empowered by their mentoring relationships and have developed greater confidence, according to research by Moving Ahead.  

Mentorship goes a long way for career change coaching. 

Similar to the reasons why having a supportive network is important, finding a mentor will help you feel less alone and provide valuable feedback and guidance.  

Pro tip: The hardest part of mentorship is often finding a mentor that’s the right fit. Luckily, there are a lot of resources available now that facilitate these relationships. 

  1. Switching jobs is challenging and rewarding

A career path change is seldom easy. Even with these truths in mind, like any life transition, a career move comes with its own hurdles. But, if you’re feeling unengaged and unfulfilled at work and perhaps are even “quiet quitting,” the leap will likely be worth it. 

There are a lot of amazing opportunities to flourish in tech in terms of career growth, salary, and flexibility. 

Pro tip: Write down the why behind the change. That way, when times get tough, you can refer back to your why to remind yourself what you’re working towards. 

Find your light

With the holiday season in full swing, it’s a great time to assess your current situation and what’s holding you back. 

Don’t limit yourself to what’s in front of you or what others tell you is possible. Equipped with the facts about making a career change, find a path to your goals that will suit you and forge ahead. 

If you’re ready to make a change, check out our comprehensive guide to breaking into tech.

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