5 things you must know about yourself before you make a career change

With the pandemic and massive layoffs everywhere, a lot of people are looking to switch careers. Since women are disproportionately affected by the current state of the working world, it’s no surprise that many women are looking to find more stable ground career-wise.

However, changing careers is hard. Convincing people, clients or employers (and before that, hiring consultants) that you have what’s required for the new career path is not easy. So pandemic or not, first make sure you know why you want a new career. The rest won’t be that hard from thereon! Here are some pointers that can help you through that journey.

1. Consider: do you want a career change or a job change?

Think with a clear head. Do you really want to change careers? Or do you simply want to change your job? Often there are persistent issues in our current job, from unsupportive coworkers to an awful commute (while there’s a pandemic, not everyone is working from home and not all jobs can be done from home). Sometimes there are long hours or you have to work on weekends. There are so many things that can make us hate our job. Is it your current job you hate rather than the area of work? Does your situation warrant an entire career change?

Pro tip: Make a pros and cons list of your current job and your current career area to help you decide what kind of change you’d like to make.

2. Draw a systems map.

Draw a map with all the players in it: people who are directly and indirectly affecting your work life. This could be anyone from your family to coworkers to bus drivers.

List other elements that factor into your work life: your work schedule, work responsibilities, commute, courses you are taking and courses you want to take. Add in your expenses, financial situation, personal responsibilities outside of work (like ballet classes for your kids) and fun expenses (like weekend trips with girlfriends).

Now, with you in the center, map it out and see how it all connects.

Why do this? A systems map, or ecosystem map, gives you a full picture of your life in black and white. It will not be pretty; in fact, it will be messy. That’s life! Crisscross with different colors to see how things are connected.

This also helps you understand the problem at hand. Maybe it isn’t the job that’s bugging you, but rather something else. Problem definition is the hardest of them all, and a systems map helps.

Pro tip: Here’s a simple template to get you started. It is set for an A4 sized page easily printed on a home printer. If you’d rather start from scratch, simply sketch one for yourself.

3. Ask critical questions about other employers and yourself

Get a better understanding of what it’d be like to work in a new field at a new company with these questions.

  • Who are small, medium and big players in this field?
  • How do companies in this field support women in the workplace?
  • Would it even be feasible, geographically, to work in one of those companies?
  • Do I have the needed qualifications for the new career path?
  • Do I have old certifications I can renew?
  • Do I need new certifications and attend courses to update myself, and can I afford this?
  • Is this a field I once looked into? How much has it changed since then?
  • Does it need licensing? If yes, can I get a license within a reasonable amount of time?

4. Use your network in creative ways

First, think broad and be creative about who you know in that new field: current and old friends, alumni, neighbors or maybe even the neighbor’s sister-in-law. Don’t rely on LinkedIn alone. See how else you can reach out to people in unique ways.

There are several articles on the internet about how to get responses while networking and many have contradicting advice. Let me tell you this upfront: there is no mantra here and using any one tactic does not guarantee a response. What works is honesty and simplicity. Tell them why you’re reaching out and what you hope to get from it.

5. Be humble

There is no room for ego when making a career change. Instead, be humble and be prepared to learn, even from those less qualified than you. You should be prepared to accept a lower position than what you are in now. Chances are, you will not start in the same position as you are in now unless you are well qualified in that field.

Even once you’ve landed a new position, practice your elevator pitch over and over…and over. You need this especially in a new line of work. Your answer should include at least one in-demand skill and one thing about your new path that you’ve always loved.

All said and done, switching careers is an enriching and enlightening journey. You’ll be surprised how much of what you learned in your old career you’ll use in your new setting, no matter how different it may have seemed at the beginning. There’ll be times you will regret the move and times you’ll crave for your old life. Remember that there’s a bigger reason you did this: to be happier and more content in life.

Are you thinking of a career change? How did answering these questions help you make a decision and take action? Here’s wishing you the best of luck.

A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.