1. Career Advice
  2. Career Change
  3. A complete guide on how to change careers successfully
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A complete guide on how to change careers successfully

Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova

  • 3 reasons people switch careers
  • Financial
  • Personal
  • Career Satisfaction
  • How can I change my career with no experience?
  • The complete how-to guide on changing careers
  • 1. Think about yourself
  • 2. Do research
  • 3. Update your resume and professional profiles
  • 4. Begin your job hunt
  • 5. When to inform your employer
  • 6. Follow-through and patience
  • Key takeaways

Make your career change sustainable, fulfilling, and even lucrative. Use this how-to guide to switch your career path, whether you want to change for personal or financial reasons.

A successful career change is the result of thoughtful planning and preparation. It can be overwhelming to know where to begin, so we’ve compiled everything you need to know for your career-changing journey. Regardless of where you are in the process, reviewing these steps on how to change careers can help keep you moving in the right direction. If you are just beginning your career change, you’re off to a great start. 

In this article we’ll discuss:

  • The top reasons people feel motivated to change their career

  • Options for those changing careers without experience

  • A step-by-step guide on how to change careers and make it last

3 reasons people switch careers

The act of changing careers typically refers to leaving your current industry in pursuit of a different one. It can also apply to people who are staying in the same industry, but drastically changing their mode of work. For example, a receptionist at an upholstery company becomes an upholsterer.

There are many reasons why someone might decide to change careers, but they can generally be boiled down to three main categories: financial, personal, and career satisfaction.


An inevitable truth of the world is that not all jobs are paid equally. Many people feel that they are not fairly compensated for the effort they put into their jobs, leading them to change careers. People may seek out a  higher salary, greater hourly wage, or more benefits. 


Personal reasons for changing careers could be discovering a new passion, being curious about other industries, or wanting to work from home. Some people find themselves needing a career that allows them to care for a loved one or undergo their own therapy. It can even be as simple as a change of heart. 

Career Satisfaction

When you picture yourself in 20 years, what does your career look like? When you consider this and reflect on your current employment situation, are you able to map out a route for achieving your future career goals? Will you be able to advance and/or use your relevant skills and education? For those who can’t, a career change might be on the horizon. 

How can I change my career with no experience?

It is very normal not to have experience in the industry you are hoping to move into. The best way to gain initial experience is to start taking online courses or attending certification classes in the evening while you still have your current job. Then, when you feel ready, you’ll be able to transition to either an entry-level position or higher up, depending on the amount of time you spend in your professional development. 

There are also jobs that require no prior experience, education, or certifications. The easiest jobs to transition into with no experience are administrative assistance, sales, data entry, and customer service. 

The complete how-to guide on changing careers

1. Think about yourself

The best way to ensure your career change is successful is to align it with yourself. Think about your goals, motivations, and passions. Ask yourself what it is about your current career that is motivating you to go a different route. Management style, salary, and schedule flexibility are all common career elements that can be modified based on the industry you pursue. Take a moment to consider how those elements look in your dream career. 

2. Do research

Some people approach a career change with a solid idea of their calling. For those people, the process can be more straightforward. Others experience the desire to leave their current career before they know which direction they want to go. To alleviate some of the confusion, simply dive into some research. 

If you’ve been curious about a career or industry, but aren’t in a place where you want to commit to it yet, there are tools available to explore industries in a fact-finding way. Reach out to a company you admire and ask if you could have an informational meeting with someone in the department that interests you. 

Another route that has been introduced since LinkedIn started is the use of online groups. LinkedIn groups are basically digital community spaces for like-minded individuals. The next time you’re on LinkedIn, try typing the name of a position or industry that interests you into the search bar. A drop-down menu will appear giving you choices, look for an option that refers to a group. Example: Instructional designer groups. 

3. Update your resume and professional profiles

It’s easy to procrastinate, but beginning your job search without an updated resume can make the process much more frustrating than it needs to be. Finding your dream job but missing the deadline because you didn’t have your documents ready is a terrible feeling. Luckily, it’s easily avoidable! Do yourself a favor and update your documents before beginning your job hunt.

The best way to propel your career change forward is to write your resume and online profiles so they represent the direction you’re hoping to move your career. That means that you should only describe information and experience that is relevant

If you are switching careers from a librarian to a receptionist, remove anything from your resume that is so specific to the library system that it can’t be applied to administrative duties. If you believe a skill or achievement can be applied to the new job, then it’s good to include it. Details like this are referred to as transferable skills, meaning that skill is diverse among many industries; it can be learned in one industry and applied in another. Examples would include management, customer service, and communication. 

You can strengthen your resume even further by using industry-specific language on your resume. Again, this should be specific to the direction you are moving, not where you came from. 

Expert Tip

Do you have a LinkedIn or a personal website? Triple-check all of your profiles to ensure consistency. You don’t want to show an employer a resume with no employment gaps, but then have a LinkedIn that shows a three-year gap.

4. Begin your job hunt

The time has come! You have considered your professional goals, researched different industries, and updated all of your documents. Now comes the job hunt. 

Online tools like LinkedIn, Upwork, and Fiverr are all great places to start. The last two are specific to contractor and freelance work, whereas the first is applicable to the workforce at large. Check them out if you’re thinking about switching careers. 

One of the most valuable tools for anyone changing careers is their network. Reach out to your close and distant connections and tell them about the transition you’re embarking on. Ask if they have any insights or leads, or if they’d be willing to put in a good word for you. It can be nerve-wracking to do, but in the professional world, it’s very normal to inquire about. 

If you don’t have an existing network, try networking as you move about your day. Did you see someone at a cafe working on a program you’re familiar with? Go up and start a conversation. You never know what will unfold from putting yourself out there. 

5. When to inform your employer

There is some debate about the best time to inform your employer about your career change. Some would advise to not let your current employer know you’re moving on until you already have something lined up. 

The other camp would say that you have to create the space in your life for a new career to fill. These people would suggest quitting earlier on in the process. With the newfound freedom, time can be spent in professional development courses or diving into a more robust job search. Of course, the feasibility of this option will change from person to person, as having savings to live off of is crucial. 

6. Follow-through and patience

To ensure that you’re making a sustainable move, do your best not to jump at the first opportunity that comes your way. Waiting for the right fit will also help you from returning to your old career. Changing careers is all about your long-term success; be cautious of eagerness that might land you in an unfavorable situation. 

If you ask people who have successfully switched careers about their journey, most will say it took longer than they expected. Anyone pursuing a job change should prepare themselves for the number of rejections they will inevitably receive. It can be discouraging, but persevering through it is the only way to reach the other side. Don’t give up, be patient with yourself, and know that every single industry is competitive in its own way. 

Key takeaways

  1. A successful career change is possible for anyone who is willing to plan ahead, effectively prepare, and be steadfast in their transition. 

  2. Get in touch with your needs and wants in a job, and let that guide the direction you take in your career. 

  3. Do yourself a favor and update your resume, documents, and online profiles early on in your career change journey. 

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