How to make a career change in 5 key steps

How to make a career change in 5 key steps

Feeling out of place in your current career? You’re not alone. A career change is a big step, but it’s a very possible one! LinkedIn report that people change career paths around 4 times in their working lives. Whether you don’t like the path you’ve started on or you’re considering a shift after years of experience, these steps will help you decide and commit to a new career direction! 

Career changes are increasingly common as people seek more fulfilment and a better work-life balance in their jobs. A JobFlex survey run in 2023 discovered that 58% of the respondents surveyed were actively seeking to switch careers, with the prospects of remote work, higher pay opportunities and a better work-life balance being the top three motivations for change.

Whatever your motivation, or your timeline, we have lots of career advice to help you on your way to your new career path! Start with working through these 5 simple steps to switch career in the right direction, and get all you want out of your next chapter!

Our global expertise in recruitment across digital industries means our leading digital recruitment agency is perfectly placed to help you find a job that matches your new career aspirations. Check out our career advice latest job listings for more insights.

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5 Steps to considering when taking a career change

1. Analyse your reasons for a career change

A career change is a big step, and each person’s reasons for a change are different. 

You might want to change careers to:

  • Find more flexibility and work-life balance.
  • Do more of what you love at work.
  • Move up the ladder if you’ve hit a ceiling.
  • Gain stability or a higher salary.
  • Work with new teams or on a new challenge.
  • Better manage your stress or health.
  • Align your work with your lifestyle and priorities.

It helps to examine your reasons for a career change before you start the process, so you can keep them in mind when you’re deciding on your next steps. This is often called a self-assessment – and it’s a moment to take stock of where you are and what you want!  The pressure to find something new might mean what you’re actually looking for gets lost on the job hunt.

Here are some activities you can try out to help you reflect on your career change motivations:

  • List down your values, interests, personality, and skills (your VIPS). This is a great starting point for a self-assessment, and can help you make sense of your feelings and aspirations about work.
  • What do you like and not about your job right now? Make a list of pros and cons.
  • Reflect on where you felt you have achieved success in general and why it felt right for you.
  • What is most important to you in a job or workplace? Try ordering elements like learning, salary, managerial style, team structure, work culture, progression and mission in order of priority for you.

If you’re in a digital role now, or looking to move into a digital role in future, career changes are often valued by employers for bringing fresh perspectives and diverse experiences. Recruiting for digital roles across marketing, creative, sales and technology industries worldwide, Salt’s expert consultants see this first-hand, for example showcasing an analytical background as a strong asset in technology or marketing careers where data-driven decisions are key.

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2. Target your job search to roles that fit your career aspirations

Once you have a clearer idea of what you’re looking for in your next role you can start scoping your job search. It’s ok if you still aren’t sure on specific roles yet, looking at what’s available with an open mind can help you form a great list of options.

For your career change, you might already have a specific industry in mind, or you might be more focused on the activities you enjoy and want to do more of in a new role (creativity, technical challenges, or leadership opportunities, for example). 

Job hunting, particularly when you’re juggling lots of potential roles or directions, can be overwhelming. Use our ultimate job search checklist to help stay on top of your search!

List industries to target
If you’ve not got an industry in mind, take a moment to list potential industries you’d like to work in. It can help to speak to specialist recruitment consultants and also search job boards or job market reports for inspiration.

List activities to target
Reflect on what activities at work, in volunteering or in personal projects you’ve enjoyed, and with these in mind, list skills or responsibilities you’d be interested in doing as part of your role. Search for these terms on search engines and make a note of any skills, platforms or functions associated with them. 

  • If you love being creative, you might find roles in social media, graphic design, UX design, or content marketing appealing.
  • If you’ve loved organising volunteering projects, you might like conscience marketing, sustainability and green roles, project or product management or consulting roles. 
  • If you like to build things and feel most positive about being able to see the results of your work, you might like coding or programming, particularly front-end roles! 

List skills you’d want to learn
You might be set on a career change now, but sometimes switching lanes does take some time. In the process of researching industries and activities you’ll likely see some technical and interpersinal skills listed in roles you’re interested in. Even if you’re not ready to make a change, you can start to upskill in those areas.

To showcase your learning, you could:

Continue to learn
According to the 2024 workplace report by LinkedIn, 8 out of 10 people say learning adds purpose to their work. Depending on the industry or role, there will be specialist platforms or academies with resources, training and certifications too. Building learning into your career progression helps not just in the your current role, but will provide you with the language and context to impress in an interview, and with something to add to your CV and LinkedIn profile.

Reach out to contacts
There’s nothing like experiencing a work environment for yourself. If you’re able to it’s a great idea to find opportunities to experience a new industry or shadow someone in a prospective role to get a sense of what it’s really like, and if it’s right for you. This is also a great opportunity to network, showcase your skills and get in front of potential hiring managers if you do like the experience – as well as building out your CV!

Start a personal project
Showcasing your interest or skills doesn’t have to happen in a work environment. Whether you’re an aspiring graphic designer or an app developer, you can try your hand at a project outside of work for a personal project. If it works out well, you can show this off as an example in a portfolio or CV. It could also be something you share with your network for their thoughts, feedback and advice – which is a great way to build connections in your target industry.

Volunteer with an organisation you admire
Volunteering for a cause is another great way to develop and showcase your skills, all while furthering a cause you’re passionate about. If you volunteer already you could talk to your team leader about the skills you’re wanting to practice and see what opportunities there might be. It’s a good idea to pick something small and finite, so it’s feasible and so you have results you can point to on your CV and in interviews. 

It’s hard to know what’s out there, and roles are changing rapidly with new technologies like AI changing the way we operate. It can help to work with a recruitment consultant or career coach to help understand how your skills could transfer, what industries or roles might suit you and how to define (then achieve) your aspirations.

Pro tip: You can use LinkedIn’s Economic Graph data to look at trending skills in an industry or in a particular role, by location! Try it here

3. Change your CV with your new career in mind

Once you’ve committed to changing your career, your next step is to change your CV to match. It can feel daunting applying to new roles, but skills learnt from your past career are valuable and worth outlining. Particularly interpersonal skills like management and communication are transferable to other roles, and learning them from a different industry or sector might set you apart from your competition in a positive way. However, when applying for roles as you change your career, the way you outline your experience does need to align with the new space you’re going into.  

Identify the key skills and experiences needed for the role
Check through the job specification and underline the skills, responsibilities and person specifications listed. These are what the hiring manager is looking for. While you might not have all the specific technical skills, you likely have skills that are transferable and experiences that can showcase how you’d be great at learning and adding value once in the role! 

Quantify your achievements so they translate well
Instead of listing your responsibilities, illustrate your accomplishments with data and results. Particularly in a new career field, it’s important not to assume knowledge of the role or process, and provide context.  For example, if you led a project, mention the size of the team or the budget, or any results like increasing efficiency or revenue. Show the tangible impact you made. 

Align your story with the new industry
Your CV is a chance to tell your story in a way that aligns with the new industry. You can put a different spin on past experiences and emphasise past success in a way that showcases the value you’d bring to a new career or role. It’s also a chance to highlight more relevant personal projects, volunteer work, or courses that demonstrate your genuine interest and commitment to this new career path.

Read our detailed guide to craft  a great CV, filled with insights and practical tips to help you stand out from the crowd for the right reasons.

4. Expand your network to find career change help and support

Expanding your network is more than just meeting new people; it’s about immersing yourself in a new ecosystem: gaining insights and uncovering opportunities. 

Attend events
When you’re researching your target industries, note any key events, online or off, and try to attend as many as you can. These could be conferences, seminars, webinars, or workshops.  Here you can learn about the industry, meet and interact with others already established in the field.

Join online groups
Online forums and professional social media groups are also invaluable resources for networking. Platforms like LinkedIn offer many industry-specific groups where you can ask questions and share your perspectives. Participating actively in these groups raises your profile, and gives potential employers or mentors a way of finding you.

Connect through networking
When networking , be genuine and curious. This is your chance to ask about their experiences, seek advice, and share your journey towards a career change. These interactions give you a deeper understanding of the industry and can often lead to valuable guidance, mentorship, and even job leads.

Share your own knowledge
Remember, networking is a two-way street. Be ready to offer help or share your knowledge and experiences where relevant. Building a network is about creating meaningful relationships, not just collecting contacts. The more you invest in these relationships, the more likely they’ll yield positive results in your career transition journey.

5. Prepare for the challenges that come with a career change

Embarking on a career change is an adventure that often comes with its own set of challenges. It’s important to go into this process with your eyes open, as being mentally prepared for these challenges can make all the difference.

A steep learning curve can be hard
Stepping into a new industry or role means a lot to learn, from industry-specific knowledge to new skills and tools. You might find yourself starting from scratch or at a level that’s junior compared to your previous position. Try to embrace this as an opportunity to grow and learn rather than a setback.

Adaptability is your greatest ally
The career change journey might require you to rethink your approach, learn new ways of working, or even adjust your expectations. Be open to feedback and willing to make changes as you go. Remember, each challenge is a learning opportunity that brings you one step closer to your goal.

Build a support network
Whether it’s family, friends, or professional mentors, having people to turn to for advice and encouragement can be incredibly valuable. They can offer a different perspective, help you navigate challenges, and provide moral support during a big transition.

Practice patience with yourself
Career changes don’t happen overnight. Building new skills, gaining experience, and making your mark in a new field takes time. Stay focused on your long-term goals, celebrate small victories along the way, and remember that perseverance is key to success in this journey.

At Salt, we believe in Creating Futures. That means we’re committed to helping you find a job that aligns with your career goals and personal growth. We’re here to provide personalised support, from refining your CV to match your new career path to offering insights into industry trends and the skills most in demand. With Salt’s assistance, you can confidently navigate the job market, knowing you have a partner invested in your success as you step into a new chapter of your professional life

Embarking on a career change is a journey of self-discovery and growth. The right approach can lead to a more satisfying and balanced professional life. Take the leap, and let Salt guide you towards your dream career.

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