6 steps to take now if you want to change your career path next year

Here’s the deal though: Changing careers isn’t an easy process, and may require some unpaid downtime to make it a reality.

While humans are creatures of habit, they are also inherently curious, and well, most are easily bored. In an age where very few professionals are ‘lifers’ who remain at the same company for their entire lives, more and more are wondering not only what else is out there, but taking actionable steps to discover their passions. Career expert Steve Grant explains changing a career path is oftentimes an important — or mandatory — step to take to achieve success and fulfillment.

While it shouldn’t be one that is taken lightly or spontaneously, the pursuit of happiness could be the driving force that propels you to make moves, according to Grant. This doesn’t just mean you’re after a rose-colored perspective from the time you clock in at 9 and leave at 6, but rather, you also desire a more challenging role and you want to be more motivated by doing something you love.

Here’s the deal though: Changing careers isn’t an easy process, and may require some unpaid downtime to make it a reality. If this is your professional goal for the upcoming year, experts recommend the actionable steps you should be making right now to prepare yourself for the journey.

Do some soul searching to understand your ‘why’

If you’re sitting pretty in a comfortable gig that you can do with your eyes closed and hands tied behind your back — and still earn a salary — there has to be a reason you’re preparing yourself to quit. Career coach Christine Agro stresses the importance of understanding your ‘why’ before you take measures to shake up everything. This requires introspective soul-searching and becoming vulnerable and candid about your current feelings and expectations for the future. In other words: are you looking for a quick-fix solution, or are you actually inspired to make a difference in your life — or the lives of others?

“If your ‘why’ is a deep calling to do something else, you almost have to answer that. If you don’t, your health and wellness will suffer if you don’t,” she explains. “If your ‘why’ is really that you think your problems will be solved if you are doing something else, chances are, those problems are going to follow you wherever you are doing.”

Make a pro and con list

Much like being emotionally conscious, career and branding expert Wendi Weiner can’t stress the value of a pro and con list. It might seem elementary, but it can be a way to organize your thoughts in a collected, intelligent way. Emotions have a way of running away from us when we’re unhappy with our jobs, but a pro-and-con scribble will bring you back down to earth.

“You have to create a list and compare the reasons why you want to leave into a new career, versus why you should stay in your current career. Compare the positive and negatives. There will always be both, but what it comes down to is whether the pros outweigh the cons and vice versa,” she adds.

Talk to people in the path you aspire to join

So you’ve been working in finance for a solid ten years, but you’ve always made friends with those in the marketing department. You love hearing their strategies and tracking their projections, but the more fascinated you become, the stronger your pull is to not only sign off on their budget — but join them. Agro recommends setting up meetings — whether casual coffee and drinks or a knowledge share — to understand what it takes to become a marketer. Or whatever field you’re thinking of breaking into. This is your best bet of understanding and preparing for the road ahead.

“Talk to people who are on the path you want to shift onto. Find out what their trajectory has been like, what you can expect, what advice do they have about things that worked for them and things that didn’t work,” she explains.

Roadmap the logistics

Fantastical ideas and vision boards are all healthy parts of developing your confidence and remaining positive within your career, but most people do not have the luxury of quitting their job today and figuring out the rest tomorrow. As career expert Jill Tipograph explains, it’s important to map out the tangible, logistical steps you’ll need to follow to shift careers.

Is a formal education required? You’ll need to understand about prerequisites and application deadlines — not to mention how you’ll fund continuing your education. She also explains you’ll want to think about the compensation you can expect with a new role, and how that will impact your current lifestyle. Sometimes the career you want isn’t in your zip code, and you’ll not only be working to change gigs but change location, too.

“If you are going to have to relocate to make the change, either because of where this type of work is located, or because your budget will no longer bear your current lifestyle, work with someone to come up with a realistic budget for moving and re-establishing yourself,” she explains. It’s smart to break these down into monthly goals so you can track your progress.

Save, save, save

One of the most important strategies you can implement instantly is to save more and more hard-earned cash. Grant says the funds required to shift careers is often overlooked by professionals, which can have devastating consequences if you aren’t armed with a handsome savings account. Not only does this give you permission to take off time in between industry shifts and still support yourself or a family, but it also means you can be picky about this next stage in your life.

“This allows you to take your time and interview with multiple companies, to do your due diligence and make the best decision possible,” he explains. “Having a nest egg will keep you from staying at a career which isn’t working for you.”

Hire a coach

Agro says a business/life coach, or a resume expert can speed up the process by providing unique steps to follow for your current situation. You can explain everything you’re feeling, all that you’re hoping, and together, you can brainstorm the best possible way to arrive at your new careers.

“Two heads are always better than one. Set yourself up for success by reaching out to people are poised to support the shift you are looking to make,” she continues. And hey, if this isn’t quite in your budget? Speak with a trusted mentor or friend who will take the time to give thorough advice.

Lindsay Tigar|is a seasoned lifestyle and travel writer