As someone who has had 29 jobs, I think it's safe to say that I like the challenge of switching careers. Sometimes my career switches have gone really well, and other times I've leapt without looking or researching that new field and it bit me in the ass with fast burnout or just unhappiness in the job.
So how do you actually "look" before you leap into a new career field?
If you've ever considered making the leap to a new field, you know that sheer amount of data available on any industry is massively overwhelming. And if you happen to sign up to learn more through a course, certification, or school related to that industry you can expect to be inundated by emails at the least and phone calls from schools at the worst. (Who cold calls anyone anymore, honestly? I mean, besides those extended warranty scammers.)
To get started in looking before you leap, let's start with how to sift through information.
1. Read articles on what it's like to do that job
What I recommend doing to wade through all that data is to keep your initial search on that new field as simple as possible. First, do a search for "A day in the life of a X ." and insert your career field as X. So, search for "a day in the life a UX Designer" or "a day in the life a freelance writer" or whatever your field of interest is.
Only read a handful of these articles and be wary of anything that paints the field as being all puppy dogs and rainbows all day. Every field has it's pros and cons, so give more weight to those articles that seem more realistic in describing the daily challenges in that field.
If, after reading this info, you decide it doesn't sound like a good fit, then move on and look up another field that piques your interest. However, if you read about what a job in that field might be like and you're still interested in it, then the next step is to look at free courses on that topic.
2. Look for free courses or training
For me, completing beginner level training in a career field really helps me make the decision on whether or not I actually want to pursue making the switch to that career. It's fine if you struggle with the training but are still interested in the topic; however, if you start the training and find it boring or can't seem to get through it, this might be sign it's not a great switch for you. You might look for a different course or training on that topic just in case it's the course itself that's turning you off, but if the second or third course you take yields the same results, then you might consider pursuing a different field.
3. Join a community for that field
If, while completing the free training, you're still not sure if that field is quite the right choice, see if you can find a group or online community of folks who are trying to do that same thing as you are. You can do this by looking at LinkedIn groups or Facebook groups which focus on that career field.
You might also leverage LinkedIn to network with people who already work in that field. That way you can ask them what it's like and thereby get a better idea of whether it would be a good fit for you.
One great thing about a lot of free courses these days is that they give you access to a free community of folks who are interested in getting into the same field or are already part of that field. For example, Trailhead, the free training for Salesforce, has an internal community where you can join groups of folks who can answer questions about working with Salesforce as a career. There are also groups of other beginners where you can commiserate or connect with folks who are trying to switch careers just like you.
Connecting with a community of people interested in the same field can be really helpful, not just because it can act as a support network, but it may give you insight into whether not this is something you really want to pursue.
4. Look at job leads to create a roadmap
I always recommend that folks who are interested in a new field should look at job leads for roles in that field. Not because you need to start applying, but so you can get an idea of what kind of experience, skills, education, and certifications are needed to land positions in that field.
While looking at job descriptions, start a list of the certifications, education, and specific experience that roles in the field are looking for in candidates. This will help you create a roadmap of what you need to accomplish in order to successfully land a position.
Lastly, the but part we all love:
5. Check out salary expectations for roles in that new field
The thing to beware of with when looking up salary expectations for a new field is not to focus on the high end. I know, I've been guilty of this as well. We all want to picture ourselves making that high salary, but the reality is that when leaping into a new field, you're going to start on the lower end of that salary range.
Make sure your expectations are in line with the projected salary amount based on the relevant experience and education you'd bring to the role. If you've got a lot of learn or need to gain a lot of experience in order to get into that new field, then chances are, you're going to start on the lower end of that salary range.
By following these five simple steps, you'll set yourself up for success, not only to job switch and land a new position, but also to stay in that field for a longer amount of time because it's a good fit.
Good luck out there!
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