How to Master Plan Your Next Career Step
Table of Contents
If you’re considering your next career step, you likely have a few good reasons for doing so. You could be burned out from a toxic work environment or don’t feel fulfilled by the work you do. Maybe you feel unchallenged or need to make more money to keep up with inflation. A lot of emotions can come to the surface during a career change: frustration, excitement, fear, sadness, resentment. That’s okay. What you don’t want, though, is for those emotions to cloud how you approach the situation.
It’s hard to give specific advice on career changes since no two are exactly alike. What we’ve done instead is compile general tips that can help you determine the direction you want to go in—as well as make a plan on how to get there. If you’re wondering how to find your next career, keep reading!
Figure Out What You Really Want From Your Next Career Step
It can be easy to know what you don’t like about your current job. However, it’s also important to determine what you do like—which can sometimes be harder to pinpoint. Why is that? Often, we can let outside influences affect what we think we want from our careers. We can get so focused on securing an impressive job title that we lose sight of the type of work we actually enjoy. We can also idealize a job we think is glamorous (or avoid a job we don’t think is glamorous enough). Sometimes our sense of self-worth might be so tied to our career that it becomes hard to admit it’s time to switch. Simply asking yourself, “what should my next career be?” might not offer the specific answers you need. Here are some questions to ask instead:
Do you want a management position because it sounds impressive, or would you genuinely enjoy the duties and responsibilities that come with it?
What tasks do you look forward to?
Are there any tasks you don’t mind doing (even if you don’t love them)?
What attracted you to your current job?
Why did you decide to study the field you chose?
Do you wish you had studied something else?
Do you keep thinking about a career path you wish you had taken?
How comfortable are you with risk-taking?
How important is career stability to you?
What salary range do you need to maintain your lifestyle and responsibilities?
What does your ideal workday look like?
Be honest with yourself during this process. Sometimes it can be hard to admit that you have regrets about the path you took. Or that the type of work you enjoy has changed over time. The important thing is that you pick careers that match your priorities.
A note about finding your passion:
Many of us grew up hearing that we needed to follow our passion. However, many people don’t have one all-consuming passion. There’s nothing wrong with having many different interests, or for your interests to change over time (and there’s also nothing wrong with having a passion and finally deciding to pursue it!).
If you don’t have one passion, you might want to focus your next career step on being very particular about your future work environment. A company with a great work culture that prioritizes work-life balance can give you the space to focus on your hobbies. And by working in a supportive environment with wonderful colleagues, you’ll likely genuinely enjoy your job even if you don’t feel passionate about the work you do.
A note about making your hobby your full-time job:
People often say, “if you do what you love, then you’ll never work a day in your life.” This isn’t exactly true. When you need to generate an income, please clients, report to a higher up, or handle the challenges of running your own business, that can change your relationship with your passion. You might love making bath bombs at home, for example, but might not necessarily love making huge batches of them every day while negotiating rates with shipping companies. It’s okay for a hobby to remain a hobby. And it’s also okay to turn your hobby into your job or career. If you do decide to merge your career and your passion, try to do the following:
- delegate responsibilities you don’t enjoy
- set clear boundaries on your work hours
- check in with yourself to make sure that you still enjoy your work
Conduct Research to Figure out Your Next Career Move
Research will help you bridge the gap between what you want and what opportunities are available. There are a few different ways to go about this:
- Look at job postings to determine what qualifications you need.
- If you do need to go back to school, research which institutions offer the program you need. See if they offer part-time or online programs.
- Read through message boards and industry publications to get the inside scoop on challenges in that field.
- Read the LinkedIn profiles of people who work in the roles you want. What does their career trajectory look like?
- Examine employment statistics to see if there’s demand for the career you want to have.
- Look up the salary ranges of positions you’re interested in.
- Inquire about professional development opportunities within your current company.
- Scan the social media accounts of companies you want to work for and take a look at what they’re saying AND what people are saying about them.
- Conduct informational interviews with people in your network who have the type of career you want.
- Enlist the help of professionals like a career coach.
Throughout this process, take the time to revisit your priorities and remind yourself of what you really want. This will help focus your next career step on achieving results that matter to you.
Make a Plan for Your Next Career Move
Once you’ve defined what you want and what you’ll need to do to get there, take the time to write it all out. Write down each step, how long it will take, how much it might cost, and other important details. This kind of career planning can include everything from going back to school to revising your resume.
Break down each goal you have into smaller tasks. If you need to go back to school, for example, you could write out your program’s next start date and when you need to submit your application. As you write out your timeline, look for ways to make your career transition a smooth one. You could consider finding a job that is somewhere between your current role and the one you ultimately want. You could look at doing freelance work on a part-time basis before diving in at a full-time capacity. Or you could even look at mentorship opportunities within your own company.
Upgrade Your CV, Cover Letter, and LinkedIn Profile
It’s important to update your CV and LinkedIn profile to reflect your new career direction. This can involve reworking the About section of your LinkedIn profile and rewording the descriptions of your work history. One useful way to do this is to focus on transferable skills you have that would be assets in your new role. These can include communication skills, teamwork skills, problem-solving skills, and other soft skills.
These skills are more important than you might think. One survey asked hiring managers which skills they prioritized, and “Communication skills topped the list, followed in order by teamwork skills, technical skills, leadership skills, and managerial skills.” So even if you’re transitioning into a completely different field, the soft skills you’ve already developed will still help you stand out.
Also, make good use of your cover letter. Use it as an opportunity to highlight your transferable skills as well as your interest in the role. Your unique work history can set you apart, so frame it as an advantage rather than something you need to apologize for. A career transition also demonstrates a genuine interest in the role you’re applying to, which can work to your advantage. Don’t be afraid of sharing that enthusiasm! Once you’ve created a standard cover letter and CV, you can then quickly adapt them to each position you apply for.
Start Your Job Search!
While career transitions can be intimidating, they can also be incredibly empowering experiences when done right. Once you’re ready to start applying, maximize your job search by:
- reaching out to people in your network
- creating automatic updates from job boards
- looking through the websites of companies you want to work for to see if they have openings
Remember to be patient with yourself during this time. The average job search takes approximately 22 weeks (about 5 months) to complete. Even with a stellar resume, great cover letter, and plenty of opportunities, it can still take some time to land the position you want. Be mindful of this, and don’t let a few rejections discourage you. You’re someone’s dream candidate, and eventually you’ll start booking interviews!
What do you do once you’ve secured the job you want?
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