How to Change Careers Safely

Finding the Best Path for a New Career

changes signThere are dozens of books to help you realize your new career. There are also hundreds of articles on the internet and software that you can buy to help you figure out your dream job. The first step toward taking a divergent career path is to figure out what you want to do in the future. It’s also the biggest step. The decision can feel like it’s fraught with peril. What if you leap and there’s no net to catch you and you end up making a huge career mistake? If you’ve racked up the time and expertise in one particular field, it may seem like career suicide to try and switch to something completely different. But if you’re unhappy or bored or not compensated for your efforts, you shouldn’t let the fear of making a mistake stop you.

Career experts agree that the further afield the job is from your current industry, the more research and preparation you’ll need. Doing a lot of due diligence will also keep you from feeling pressured to take the career leap right away. If you can take a step back and view it as an experiment, you won’t get sucked into gambling your financial or job security on a completely untried concept. So if you’re working in IT but feel the call to be a zookeeper, don’t scrap your briefcase and quit your job right away. Head down to the zoo and start asking questions. Volunteer. Help with zoo programs and Google articles relevant to your potential job interest. The key to conquering your fear and making a sound career decision is to feel prepared emotionally and mentally with your choice.

Melani Ward writes in the Huffington Post that the best way to defend against a bad career choice is to experiment. In fact, she describes herself as the “consummate career reinventor.” And she writes that our aversion to uncertainty and surprises is what keeps us stuck at a job. Her advice for avoiding a career change mishap is to try things related to your career interest without jeopardizing your current job.

“When I was going through a career change, I knocked out four possibilities by doing experiments. As my husband would attest, experimenting is my preferred method of inquiry, because I’m not a fan of sitting back and wasting time. When I get a nudge or something sparks my interest, I usually take the next step right away. Thus, my experiments have included volunteering, working on the side, returning and taking classes. I did all of these experiments without compromising the paying job I had at the time, which was a critical piece of my transition process.”

This kind of preparation helps ease the panic that may accompany the idea of quitting your present career path. You’re probably going to feel some anxiety regardless, but lots of preparation will help you sleep at night. Expand your knowledge base with informational interviews and network, network, network. All this preparation will provide you with plenty of indicators that you’re making the right decision, so conquer that fear and get to work with the job you love. No regrets.


Adams, Susan. “When You Need a Completely New Career.” Forbes. 15 Sept 2009. Web. 23 March 2014.
Ward, Melani. “How to Defend Against a Bad Career Choice.” Huffington Post. 06 November 2012. Web. 23 March 2014.