Career transitions can be a bumpy ride: you leave the familiar routines of your daily job responsibilities and suddenly everything’s up in the air again, just like it was at the beginning.
While career changes are not for the faint of heart, and can take a long time and a lot of hard work, the benefits of sticking with it to move into something that will be a better long-term fit for you are priceless.
Here’s what you should keep in mind as you navigate through both familiar (and unfamiliar) territory.
Save, save, save
You’ll need a lot of money to stay afloat for as long as it takes to land the right next job, so it makes sense to start saving while you’re still employed — before you make the leap.
LearnVest founder Alexa von Tobel writes about creating a financial “cushion” for herself in a TIME article.
“When I started my company, I had to go without a regular paycheck in order to get everything off the ground. I used my emergency savings—I called it my freedom fund—to support myself. Generally, I recommend at least six months of take-home pay as an emergency fund, but if you’re planning a career change, I’d suggest at least 12 months’ worth, to help you cover costs without having to take a job you don’t actually want,” she writes.
Remember that you’re more than your job
You’re a human being with strengths, weaknesses and a whole life outside of work. So think about what’s important to you in this process. After all, this is a second shot at getting what you really want in your career, right?
A 2014 Gallup poll found that more than half of U.S. employees “get a sense of identity from their job”— while just 42% think work is what they do to pay the bills.
It’s no surprise that something that fills so much of our daily life can become part of our persona. But try not to get caught up in the idea that your job ultimately defines you, particularly when you’re dealing with the disorienting feeling of a work transition.
In other words, work shouldn’t be all you have.
Rely on your network
Before you can get a firm understanding of the industry you’re trying to break into, do everything you can to research it.
Read up on news articles, industry research and books, but also tap into your network — reconnecting with friends or extended networks to find people who work in the field you’re now pursuing. Ask them for insight about the nature of the industry, invite them to an informational interview to get tips, and solicit insight about any events or professional networks you should sign up for.
Then, get out there. Head to networking events, join clubs and affinity groups with people who are passionate about the same things as you, and get outside your comfort zone by looking to speak to those who can also challenge your perspectives.
Monitor your progress
If you’re only judging the passage of time by your proximity to the next job, you’re going to start to lose track of your actual, incremental progress.
Instead, consider setting smaller benchmarks to help keep yourself motivated — and organized — as you move forward.
“Respect yourself enough to track the effort. Monitor how you’re doing and what you need to be doing next. Set up reminders so you follow up on things when you need to,” Jenny Foss, a career strategist and recruiter who quit her job in corporate communications and now runs the blog JobJenny.com, writes in The Muse.
“If you’re going to invest time and energy to make this happen, invest the time and energy to track your progress,” she adds, suggesting a “simple Excel spreadsheet will do you wonders.”
“If you’re not an Excel person, use the tool that makes the most sense to you so you don’t abandon ship on it,” she says.
Don’t forget about your current strengths
Chances are, you already have a wealth of knowledge in another area, so don’t shortchange yourself.
Before she launched the reusable water bottle company S’well, Founder and CEO Sarah Kauss spent time in financial and real estate fields, she said in Fortune.
She said the skils she learned in each industry served her well on the next.
“No matter where you go, you have the opportunity to build on existing skills and find opportunities to create new ones. By understanding what capabilities you’re fostering and being open to how they can be used moving forward, you’ll always set yourself up for success,” Kauss said.
“This takes the pressure off of making a career-move mistake and allows you to look at each position as a positive opportunity for growth.”