According to a Washington Post survey, one in three workers under the age of 40 have thought about making a career change during the pandemic. With a record number of people quitting, it seems like people are making good on their dreams, but it isn’t easy.

Most people we talk to know that they want a professional change, but they don’t know what they want to change to. Even if they know the change they want to make, the path from A (your current career) to B (your new, next, happy spectacular career) isn’t always clearly illuminated, and it can still feel like a big and difficult transition to make alone.

There are a few steps that we encourage everyone to take when they’re thinking about a career change but aren’t sure what it looks like:

  1. Why do you want to make a career change? Are you running toward something or running away from your current situation? If it’s the latter, it is important that you identify why you want to leave your current job. Being able to clearly name that why will help drive you, and it will help you clarify what you need to do to make your change successful. This is important to nail down for yourself because people will ask you why you want to make a change, especially once you start interviewing, and having a compelling story about the value you can bring on your new path will set you up for success.
  2. What are your professional values? What are your motivators? These will help guide you so that your career change is both fulfilling and sustainable, and they can help you to identify and name the type of company culture where you will thrive.
  3. Dig into your interests and skills. Just because you are good at something doesn’t mean you like doing it. How do you want to be spending your time at work? One way to get at this question is to keep a log of what you do in your current job and for each task, note what skill you use to complete it and if it’s something you enjoy doing.
  4. What are your non-negotiables? Lots of people make a career change to find something more fulfilling, but many find it difficult to balance passion and the practical elements. What salary do you need? Would you be willing to take a pay cut for a new job and if so, how much? Or are you making this career change specifically to make more money? If so, how much more is worth the change? Are there compromises you would be willing to make in terms of lifestyle, location, and increased pressure for example, for the salary you want?
  5. Now it’s time to put the rubber to the road with your research. As you’ve started to pull together some of these important elements of steps one through four, what job descriptions match the type of work you want to do. What companies fit within your parameters?
  6. Network, network, network! Networking and informational interviews are some of the best ways for you to learn whether or not a specific career change is right for you. There’s only so much you can learn from Googling and LinkedIn. Connecting with people you have made the kind of career transition you are considering, or who have the job you want can help you learn if this new path is right for you, build confidence in your career change plan, and make valuable connections that can help you actually make the change when you’re ready.

These straightforward steps can help you get started on your career change, but sometimes sticking to the plan isn’t as easy as it seems. If you’re still struggling to ideate, plan, and execute your career change, working with a career coach is a great way to give yourself even more structure and build more accountability into the process.

To see if working with a career coach is right for you, fill out the form on this page and we’ll send some helpful information and potential next steps.

Nora Philbin

Nora is a co-founder of Happy Spectacular, which she still can't really believe, and she's on a lifelong quest for the world's best cheeseburger (applicants accepted).