Is Changing Careers Worth the Risk?


Changing career paths can be both amazing and awful. At first glance, it can seem to mean taking years of accumulated experience, skills and networking and throwing them out the window along with all the money and time invested in gaining experience. So whats the attraction? The thrill of a new start. Embarking on something more closely aligned with who you are and the impact you want to have on the world. Sometimes we have to go down the wrong path, or the not-quite-right path, to figure out what it is we really want.


Here are a few lessons to keep in mind when considering a new career:

Be a pragmatic optimist Dream big. Encourage yourself to visualize your ideal day in detail. What do you want to be doing every day? What types of people do you want to work with? What challenges do you want to solve? Be clear on what you want. Also, recognize what you already have in terms of skills and connections. Will they help you in your new career? If not, then figure out what you need to learn.

Ask for advice Conduct informational interviews with professionals in the industry you wish to join. Find out their thoughts on the core skills you need be successful in that specific role or industry. These conversations can lead to much-needed insight.

Be persistent Perhaps there are opportunities to volunteer as an intern or work part-time take advantage of them. Can you do these things on the weekend to start testing your new career path while maintaining your old? Figure out what it will take to make the transition successful.

As Thoreau said, If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

Career transitions can start months (and sometimes years) before the actual leap is made. You get an itch to solve a problem, expand your abilities, or seize a market opportunity that you see others overlooking–fellow entrepreneurs, you know what I’m talking about.

I was working my way up the ladder at Merrill Lynch, when I came across an opportunity in the media industry that I felt I could tackle with my engineering background. Although I knew nothing about the media industry, I was passionate about solving a problem for an industry I admired and felt was important to society. It was a true leap of faith to leave a comfortable job and jump into the unknown. Sometimes these leaps work—and sometimes they don’t. So before making the transition be honest about what it will take to reach your goals and how you’re going to get there (or how you plan to figure it out). Often, these types of transitions are not short-term plays, but require deep levels of long-term commitment.

When you’re making a career change–whether it’s to move into a new industry or start your own business–it’s important to emphasize the skills and knowledge you do have. In my case, I loved technology and I knew I could lead a team. And always be flexible–the best plans are malleable. We can all get bogged down in an endless calendar of meetings and yet most of us are still evaluated on tangible results. A key way to excel in any new career is to learn by actually doing the work required, and often that is the work that no one else wants to do. I can guarantee others will appreciate your passion, as well as your lack of ego.

To be successful in any career transition you will need curiosity and elbow grease. When changing industries, no one’s going to hand you the key to the kingdom–you will have to earn it. source

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