How to Successfully Change Your Career

Transitioning your career requires careful consideration and planning; knowing where to start can be daunting. For most individuals, not knowing what the next “thing” is, can be the most challenging aspects of going through a career change. 

I work with Palmer Group’s outplacement and career transition individuals, and I’ve helped numerous people successfully change their careers over the past 15 years. When a participant works with me, they generally have three different paths they can choose from as they decide what’s next in their career journey. They can continue in their current career sector, switch careers to something new, or start their own business. Many of those individuals fall into one of several categories: 

  • They have been in a role/industry for an extended period and are ready for something completely different. 
  • They are looking to leave the education/teaching industry, sales, and IT. 
  • They are near the end of their career and want to take a step back.  

Whatever your reason is for wanting to change your career, be it the realization that your current career doesn’t offer any new challenges or that you desire a more flexible schedule, getting a job in a new industry isn’t always easy. For a successful switch, you'll need to identify what is unfulfilling about your current profession, and what will make you happy in the future. Another key factor is also being able to communicate your transferable skills, interests, and the value you can bring to a company. 

This means you need to take time to evaluate your passions, reflect on the things you enjoy as part of your current position that you would like to find in that next role, and most importantly, your transferable skills. Still not sure what you’re looking for? Another way to reflect is to identify what you DON’T want to do in your next role.  

Once you have those questions answered and you’ve outlined your new goals, one of the best places to start with the launch of your change is with your network. I find that 75% of the people we work with as part of our career transition services find their next role through their network. So, reach out to them and let them know you’re looking for a new opportunity!  

Alongside working with your network, here’s a checklist of action items that I go through with all of my candidates to help them be successful in their career change.  

Career Change Checklist 

Identify Your Current Skills 

List out all your skills and abilities. What skills and talents do you have, and how could they be applied to your new field of interest? Many of the skills employers seek out the most are transferable. Unlike an entry-level employee, you're not starting from scratch.  

Identify the Skills You Need to Have 

Next, look at job postings for the position you want. Use skills in your search on job posting boards, not just job titles. Also, consider searching job postings for a specific company if you have a strong interest in a specific organization. That way you can keep an eye open for newly posted opportunities with that organization. 

What requirements are listed? Remember, you don't need to have every requirement listed on a job posting to apply—but there can be some dealbreakers: 

  • You may need to have a specific degree which might mean you need to take a class or get a degree.
  • You may need to take a salary cut and start at a lower-level position than the one you're at currently to get your “foot in the door”.
  • You might need to think of creative ways to add experience to your resume, such as skills or responsibilities with a volunteer role or you can take on a volunteer position that allows you to learn new skills. 

Update Your Resume.  

Create a strong professional summary section that highlights your experience and how it would relate to each position you are applying for when updating your resume. Show how your experience would help that company continue in its success. Be sure, as well, to target your cover letters to the new jobs for which you're applying and include a similar message. 

Include Transferrable Skills.  

List your transferrable skills as part of your professional summary section. A bulleted list of those skills is easily edited to align with each different job description.  

Complete Online Applications. 

Be aware there could be AI (Artificial Intelligence) reading your resume against the position you are applying for. Review each job description and your resume to ensure you have shown all the key skills in your resume that match those of the job description.  

Regardless of AI, a recruiter or hiring manager will be reading your resume and they will be looking for those skills shown in the job description! (And side note – recruiters spend about 6 seconds with your resume so make sure the summary statement and skills are displayed at the top of your resume!) 

Use Your Existing Network.  

Inform close friends and trusted confidants that you're considering a move and share the details of what you're looking for. This is also where the “hidden job market” can come into play.  

Look Within Your Current Company.  

Even if you are making a big switch—from HR to sales, for instance—your current workplace may be willing to work with you to make this transition. Because management knows your skills and accomplishments, they may be more willing to take a risk and try you out in a new position. 

Expand Your Network.  

Start going to networking events in the field you want to work in. Prepare an elevator pitch and let everyone know the type of position you want, and how it logically fits with your work history, even if it seems like a bit of a leap. 

Do Informational Interviews. 

One easy way to expand your network and learn the lingo of the new field you want to enter is to do informational interviews. Take a networking colleague out for coffee and spend some time understanding how they transitioned into their roles.  

Prepare for Job Interviews. 

When you are changing careers, you’ll need to prepare your interviews because it’ll take extra work to convince the interviewer that you’ve got the right qualifications for the job. Be prepared to discuss your transferrable skills and how those relate to the role you are interviewing for. Be specific with your examples. Sharing real-life cases where you used your skills will help the prospective new employer envision you in the role.  

Be Patient and Realistic!  

Expect multiple rejections before you land a new role. If you stay positive and continue to have strong preparation, you will get someone to take that chance. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals in unrealistic timeframes. You can change your industry, your function, and your geographical location but all three are unlikely to change at once. Gradual change is often much more sustainable. 


At every step of your career transition, think of your years of experience as an advantage, and not an obstacle. Your experience is still meaningful and can form your future career, even if it's a departure from what you were working on previously. 

For more information on career transitions or how to prepare for a career change, fill out our contact us form or reach out to me directly at 

Lee Johnson | Senior Search Consultant