Losing a job may just be the opportunity you need to make the career change you've always dreamed of. Plenty of people, myself included, have spent hours at a job that just isn't an ideal fit for their needs. They stay for financial reasons, or because the routine seems easier than looking for a new job, or because they know they want something different, but they just don't know what that something different could be.
When you lose your job, however, you're forced to face all of those career issues head on, which can make this phase an ideal career change opportunity. Having only one career throughout a lifetime is a thing of the past for a lot of people. Depending on who you speak with, experts will tell you that the average person will have anywhere from four to seven different careers in a lifetime. So changing careers is a pretty normal fact of working life.
Develop a realistic plan.
Do your research and understand exactly what skills and experience are required for success in your new career. Be realistic about whether you have the skills to land a job in your new career or whether you'll need to develop some new skills and experience. Know the typical day to day tasks in your new line of work, whether local employers are hiring in your chosen field and how much you can expect to make.
Often you see the public side of a job, but there are a lot of behind the scenes responsibilities that may not be obvious to someone outside of the industry. Find ways to get inside information into your new career: talk to people in your new industry, job shadow someone, or even volunteer in your new profession. Do your research so you're certain that your new career is a good fit for your needs.
Move toward something you want, don't run away from something you don't like.
Often people can say what they didn't like about their last job, or what they don't want in a new job. However, people typically struggle to say what they do want in a new job. Make a concerted effort to think through exactly what you want in your next job. Consider your personal priorities and values and ensure they are met in your next job.
It's far more powerful, positive and motivating to move toward something as opposed to moving away from something. For example, you may have hated your last job because you had a micromanaging boss who never allowed you to have any autonomy. You could think, "I never want to work for a micromanaging boss again." Or, you could turn it around. Instead, focus on that fact that you are a self motivated individual who works well independently and that you'd be a great fit in that type of organization. It's a simple shift in perspective, but it's amazing how far it can go in helping you to reach your career goals.
Try to shut out all of the outside noise.
You know the people I'm talking about here. There will always be people who will not support your goals. It could be you neighbor who says, "Are you having a mid-life crisis?" or your mother who tells you, "You have unrealistic expectations; work is not supposed to be enjoyable." Of course there's always the people who won't come right out and say anything, but you know from the look in their eyes and sound of their voices when they say "That's interesting." They are really thinking, "Has she lost her mind?"
These people are not helpful in any way. Stay away from them as much as you can, or at least avoid the topic of your career change with people who are not supportive. They will only serve to undermine your efforts.
Do, absolutely, find mentors and people who will tell you the truth in a supportive way.
Unlike the neighborhood naysayers, mentors, can tell you the truth about your efforts to make a career change. Supportive people who have experience in your new field, and professional career counselors can objectively help you to assess a career change and determine whether you are heading down a realistic and fruitful path.
Do you have people in your life who cheer you on when you're making great strides, who kindly but honestly tell you when they think you're heading in the wrong direction, and who have only your best interests at heart? Everyone needs a few friends like this. These are the people who need to hear about your career change plans; they'll support you in surprising ways through your transition.
Too many people get comfortable and settle for second best. If you're thinking about making a career change, take the first step today. Search out information about your new career online, talk to someone supportive who can help you find the information you need, or pick up a book to help you get started. Remember, "You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water." (Rabindranath Tagore)
Recommended reading for career changers:
Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type
Read a review of Do What You Are
What Color Is Your Parachute?: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career Changers
Read a review of What Color is Your Parachute?