How to Start a New Career and Keep Your Sanity At the Same Time

Transitioning into a new career requires more than the perfect resume.

Stuck in a job that isn’t you? Ready for a career change, but have no idea what else you could do or where to start? Well, what is your primary career goal?

  • Not totally sure...

  • Land a (new) job

  • Make a major career switch

  • Growth and mobility

A career change is exciting, but let’s be honest…it can be scressful, bruh. You’ve thought about it a hundred times. Should you do it or should you not? Should you stick with what you know or take the leap towards something new. And, then you decide: it’s finally time for a change and not just a new job at a better company, but a whole new career in an entirely different industry.

A vision and system for starting a new career can make it easier and efficient. If you take time at the beginning to discover what you really want to do in your work life, you can then explore the possibilities and move forward.

Whether you are tired of your current job and just want something different, or you have a specific career in mind, an organized approach will serve you well.

It can be daunting to realize that your feelings of restlessness and dissatisfaction stem from unhappiness with work, and that your lack of enthusiasm can no longer continue. When this is the case, it is time to summon your courage and plan for a career change. But, how do you change your career? It’s a balancing act between thoughtful preparation and bold action.

What should your next steps should be?

There are plenty of good reasons to leave a job that isn’t furthering your career: the situation is toxic, your growth is stagnant, or you’re ready to pave a new career path, just to name a few. But, not having a clear idea of what you’re doing next can make the process of leaving feel liberating, exciting, and, yes, also terrifying.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your next steps, just breathe, Queen. You are already braver and bolder than you realize.

First things first. Here are several steps you can take to help to begin your transition:

  1. Know what you do best. Make a list of what you enjoy doing and what you do best. They are usually the same things. Don’t think about jobs or businesses just yet, think about your talents and interests first. List all the things you like to do, including what you think doesn’t earn money. Think about what other people tell you about yourself. If friends say you are good at talking to people, for instance, put that on the list. Then, make a list of the talents and skills those activities require—talking to people requires excellent communication skills and attention to detail for example. Also, List your training and experience. Volunteering counts. Unusual classes count. If you know a little bit about a lot of things, list them all.

  2. Search the Internet. Try terms such as "job skills," "career skills," "skills assessments," and whatever else comes to mind. Narrow the list to a few possible careers—no more than three or four. Keep changing your list until you feel confident that you’d love a job in those fields and that you would do it well. Then, narrow your choices to one career and focus completely on that one. Learn all you can about your chosen new career. What do successful people like about it? What skills are most important? What is it really like?

  3. Look for people, not jobs." “Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They’re attached to people. If you’re looking for an opportunity, you’re really looking for a person.” – Ben Casnocha Job sites, recruitment consultants, resumes, and Google all have their uses in your career change, but they’re not the place to start. Focus instead on connecting with people. The power of being in front of people is that you can present the real you, not just what you put down on paper. Remember, Queen: people first, jobs second.

  4. Take some time and reflect. This is easy to forget while you’re hustling for your next job, but it’s an important step of the journey. Before you get too deep into your next move, take a moment and reflect. What have you accomplished so far, and what do you want to accomplish next? What goals did you have in your last job, and which are still left to hit? When you look at those goals you achieved and those you didn't, try to figure out what was missing, be it time, interest, a skill set, or just a change in priorities. Do the same quick audit for those you did accomplish—there will most likely be some patterns as to why you focused on certain areas and how much progress you were able to make. If your interests have changed, honor that in your next job. Think about which projects made you the happiest, in and outside of work. Remember, the goal is not to overwhelm yourself (careful not to go down the rabbit hole of “Who am I, and what am I doing with my life?” That’s a separate conversation…lol), but to stop and pat yourself on the back for everything you’ve accomplished and pause to think about everything you want to do later down the line.

  5. Take a timeout. It should come as no surprise that you will have a lot on your mind during this transition. You will be tempted to keep thinking about what’s next. ("I just quit my job! I have bills to pay! I don’t want to move back home!" Etc., etc., etc.), but do yourself a favor and take a breath. Try to stop thinking about the fact that you just did this enormous, career-changing thing and be comfortable in taking a mental vacation.

  6. Reconnect. It’s also worth spending some of your post-quitting free-time going back to your roots and seeing the people who matter most in your life. Reconnect with both the people who know you best (family, friends, significant others) and the people who you share similar values with or aspire to be like (mentors, role models, old colleagues, etc.). Share your struggles, dreams, frustrations, and ambitions with them, and these may or may not be work-related! This is about understanding more about who you are at the core and about what makes your heart beat faster in good times and bad. Ask trusted confidants for feedback on how you’ve handled transitions in the past, and when they’ve seen you the happiest, personally or professionally. See if they can pinpoint when and why you thrived. This is useful because outside perspectives can often provide valuable nuggets of information that are obvious to others but that you never would have seen.

  7. Try freelancing. Thinking about running a business? Curious as to whether anyone besides your family or friends will pay for your skills? Self-taught and not sure if you’re ready for a full-time gig? Freelancing can help answer all of these questions and concerns and more. Freelancing is a great way of expanding your portfolio. It's also a great chance to learn more about yourself. When you freelance, you learn how to manage the full project life cycle, from sourcing clients to producing final deliverables, and it becomes clear which part of that cycle you enjoy most, and which you would rather do without.

  8. Wrap up that side project. You know which project I’m talking about. The half-finished website you started working on six-months ago. The speaker series you’ve been meaning to organize since forever. That novel you promised yourself you’d write before you turned 30. Time is a luxury that few of us have—and you now have enough time to turn that side project into a full-time project. Honor it. Finish it. Learn the skills you need to get it done and get after it. If you’re worried that your side project is taking up too much time from applying for jobs or networking, just remember that you never know where that side project might take you. In fact, it may very well become the most valuable part of your resume or could even surprise you by turning into a full-time job itself, enabling you to work for self.

So, now that the decision is final, and you’ve set your eyes on the perfect role, how do you make the pivot without all starting over?

  1. Change your story. So, what is your story, Queen? If you want to successfully change careers, you have to change your narrative. To get any position you want, you have to package your experience in a way that resonates with people. It’s not about flaunting all your experience. It’s about highlighting the most relevant elements about yourself, including your expertise and qualifications, that will make you an undeniable asset to your new company or role. This is even more imperative when changing careers because the accomplishments, lingo, clients, and skills you used to boast about in your current industry may not fly within your new industry. You have to create a new brag that emphasizes your values and showcases the unique perspective you bring from your previous roles and industry.

  2. Identify your transferable skills. But, to change your story, you have to first know what you bring to the table. This is what we like to call transferable skills. These are the skills that may not look exactly like the skills you need to have for the position you want to do next, but they've prepared you to do the role you desire to do next. Some consider transferable skills to be soft skills or general skills that everyone needs to be successful, such as communication, critical thinking, collaboration, leadership, multitasking, etc. But, to truly stand out, you should take it a step further. Identify the top 3-5 specific skills you need to be successful in the specific position you desire to be in. Then, think about the specific accomplishments in your previous roles that demonstrate your ability to take on the responsibilities in your ideal position.

  3. Stop feeling like an imposter. To successfully and confidently make the pivot, you have to overcome the mental block that tells you that you’re not qualified enough. If you’re not careful, feeling like an imposter can keep you stagnant and hopeless. But, part of re-writing your story is recognizing the qualities and experiences that make you qualified for the role you desire. Sure, you may not feel like you meet 100% of the qualifications you need for your new career right now, but do you have the grit and determination to figure it out? Are you a fast learner? Do you look at the job descriptions in your new industry and think, “I can do this!” Are comfortable with doing whatever it takes to be successful in your new industry? If the answer is “yes,” keep going, Queen. You got this! Recognize the feeling of being an imposter for what it is: the feeling you’ll always get when you stretch yourself past your comfort zone and try something new. Acknowledge it and move forward anyway.

  4. Look for a roadmap. There has to be someone else in this world who’s made the change you’re looking to make. Tap into your network and ask around for people who’ve made the pivot. If you don’t have a robust network, become best friends with LinkedIn and search for people in your new industry who have experience in your current industry. Luckily, you aren’t the only one who’s had the guts to make the move to leave their job, so sift through people’s job descriptions on LinkedIn until you find a match. Then, hunt down their email address and reach out to them to chat or meet for coffee. Connecting with someone who’s walked the same path you aspire to embark on will only fuel your passion even more and will empower you with insightful tips on how to make the transition.

  5. Make a plan. Set goals for how many jobs you will apply to each week and how many people you will meet with. Start saving money and setting it aside so you feel financially secure as you make this transition. If you’re making a drastic change, it could take a while for the transition to happen, so don’t get discouraged, just create a plan that has flexible time-frames.

  6. Take action. This is the most difficult part, but at some point, you simply have to go for it, Queen. Start doing the work you want to be doing: before your day job, after your day job, whenever you have time during your day job, etc. I know it’s scary, but the sooner you start doing the work you really want to do, the sooner you will improve, and be able to make it a full-time career.

  7. Trust the process. Happiness isn’t in trying to achieve goals; it’s in knowing that the process, not the outcome, is what’s most important, and that process shouldn’t be rushed. Finding happiness means taking the time to enjoy what’s around us today, appreciating that we’re alive, that today is all we have. Once you’ve finally reached your goal, take time to breathe the fresh air, celebrate, and treat yourself to a pat on the back (or something shiny). However, you decide to celebrate, know that you deserve to, Queen, because you are amazing!

Making a career change isn’t easy; otherwise, everyone would be doing it, but it is possible. And, remember, this isn’t just about your career; it’s about your life. It’s about how you feel every morning; it’s about how that rubs off on your health and your relationships, and, ultimately, it’s about the impact that you can make on the world through being alive in what you do.

Be patient if it doesn’t happen overnight—landing softly is a process. But with a little bit of luck, a lot of hard work, and a healthy dose of introspection, you’ll find your place. Trust in yourself and find what works for you. When the time is right, you will land exactly where you need to be, Queen. Happy creating, Queen!

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