How To Orchestrate a Career Change

Why does everyone seem to think someone else's job is cooler than theirs? Common sense tells us the grass isn't actually greener on the other side, and yet, it's normal to think your friends have it better.

During my former gig as a concert promoter, I was constantly being asked to grab coffee, lunch, or drinks from people who wanted to pick my brain about how to get their foot in the door.

I think these people imagined my job consisted solely of shmoozing with artists, aftershow parties, and road tripping around North America on the company dime.

Sure, my job had its perks, but most people failed to see the less glamorous parts of the job. Most of the time, I spent mundane late nights in backstage production offices daydreaming about my eventual career change.

Where To Begin

The first step is honesty. If you're unhappy in your career, are you willing to put in the work to make a change? Because no one is going to do it for you.

When you're ready to make a change you need to take a magnifying glass to your finances. Are you comfortable with your personal savings rate? How about the amount of debt you're carrying?

Taking control of your money can offer a sense of security and help you determine how much you actually need to live off of. This is especially important if you're considering a career change that may result in a pay cut.

Research

It's not easy to decide what you'd rather be doing. That's why thorough research is so important. Even if you're considering a completely different field, chances are you have some skills that are transferable.

Tools like LinkedIn, PayScale, and Glassdoor can help you learn more about specific companies, open positions, compensation, and who works there. By browsing job descriptions, you can get a better feel for what skills are desirable.

Build Your Network

How healthy is your professional network? Hopefully, you've been consistently working at it throughout your career, but it's never too late to make it a priority.

What fields are you interested in exploring? Are there local professional organizations you can get involved with? Volunteering for leadership roles can be a fantastic way to demonstrate your talent to a new community of people.

Are there nonprofit organizations that could benefit from your expertise? An unpaid role can be a helpful way to gain real-world experience while giving back to a worthy cause.

Always look for ways to help others and your network will continue to build naturally over time. Ask for help, but be intelligent and respectful about it. Chelsea Fagan from The Financial Diet really nails it with this advice:

“Asking a vague question that demands an essay-length answer, or simply provides you with a career plan without offering anything in return, is a great way to turn someone off.”

A More Gradual Approach

Many people are looking for instant gratification, but a more gradual approach can sometimes be more practical.

Are there opportunities to gain additional experience within your current company? Many managers will encourage workers to take on additional responsibilities. And these extra duties may further qualify the employee for their future career.

If opportunities at your company are limited, have you explored the option of online or night classes to improve your skill set?

Coursera and Edx offer free courses from some of the world’s top schools. Affordable sites like Udemy, Lynda, or Code Academy teach more specific technology, creative, and business skills.

My Career Change

I was able to successfully pull off a career change through several steps.

First, I acknowledged my desire to make a change and accepted it wouldn't happen overnight. I analyzed my budget, looked for ways to save more, and established a 40-50% savings rate for at least a year.

Then, I took on additional duties at my company to gain more experience. I also took a few courses to improve my digital marketing skills and used this blog to demonstrate what I had learned.

I looked for ways to connect with the local digital marketing community and was lucky to find support from two organizations that promote women in technology.

When I had sufficiently saved and finished a couple of major projects, I left my job to recharge and plan my next move.

I picked up a part-time position with a larger tech company to gain some additional experience and supplement my savings. Then, I was hired full-time into my current role a few months later. I was referred into both jobs through friends.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received? Never blindly apply to jobs. You're always better off working through a friend or contact. You'll save yourself a lot of time and heartache.

Readers: Have You Successfully Orchestrated a Career Change?

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Discussions — 12 Responses

  • Karen June 17, 2015 on 12:59 pm

    For me it’s still a work in progress. I’ve taken a part-time web development course and just started a digital marketing course. I find these courses and my blog are just a couple of things that keep me going. I have also joined a couple of meetup groups to immerse myself in the tech community.

    Reply
  • NZ Muse June 17, 2015 on 3:55 pm

    Yep, moved from journalism to digital content/marketing (not a huge leap as already worked in web).

    This job and my new one I applied to blindly but I’m quite a strong candidate in this area, and there was a faint connection in both cases (had worked at same company as manager previously / manager knows my org/team/current manager) Warm leads are always better.

    Reply
  • Kirsten June 18, 2015 on 4:23 am

    Timely post for me. I am in the process of making some sort of career change. Hubs got a great new job in a new area, and he’ll be making enough that I can stay home… IF our house here sells, which is a big IF. I don’t want to get into some long-term, full-time, stressful job, but I will need to make a fairly large amount of money in order to pay for the house here. I’m hoping, like you, that my blog will showcase some talents and interests of mine, and I have applied to a couple of freelance writing positions that use expertise I have gained in my “real life”.

    Reply
  • Dane Hinson June 18, 2015 on 3:57 pm

    I’ve been considering a career change for some time. Well, it’s not too far out of my wheelhouse, but I’ve worked in internal audit and regulation for some time. I’ve realized how much I enjoy teaching and started teaching accounting at a local community college. I’ve been thinking about going back to school in order to teach full-time at the university level. Now if I can just manage to take the leap of faith…

    Reply
  • Dividend Diplomats June 21, 2015 on 10:37 am

    Cashville,

    Great post! Interesting read and I think everyone at some point or another is in this boat, hands down. Like you said, don’t just jump really into anything else, really evaluate your life situation and what is currently going on to help make that decision. Interest read for sure.

    -Lanny

    Reply
  • Isaiah June 25, 2015 on 3:51 pm

    Thanks Kate for making this wonderful guide. I’m actually thinking of leaving my job right now to pursue something I would be happier in. And your guide will definitely help me with this.

    Reply
  • - Happy Mango June 30, 2015 on 9:09 am

    […] How to Orchestrate a Career Change […]

    Reply
  • Tre July 1, 2015 on 8:03 am

    No. I’m still in the career field I started in. Lots of job changes though 🙂

    Reply
  • Tim July 13, 2015 on 11:39 pm

    Is it standard to give two weeks upon leaving or did you give more notice?

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Tim July 14, 2015 on 7:50 pm

      Thanks for commenting, Tim! Two weeks is pretty standard, however, I had told my boss I wanted to leave a few weeks before that.

      Reply
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