How to make a career change

Man in New York
By Andrea Murad, CA Today

3 August 2016

As our lives are extended, we have to live expanded lives by trying new things and challenging ourselves at every age. Andrea Murad speaks to industry experts in the US about how to make a career move.   

Since funding a 30-year retirement with a 40-year career can be near impossible, many Americans don’t ever expect to retire. 

Changing careers at least once is almost a rite of passage, as most Americans will have had about 12 jobs by age 48, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s likely not all of them will be in the same industry. While you’ll know pretty easily when to make a career change, the actual move requires preparation and planning.

“You do want to do something that makes you happy and follow your passion, but in today’s labour market, that’s not always enough,” says Scott Dobroski, community expert at Glassdoor. “Marry that with real time insight in the labour market and your job and industry.”

Since no one wants to make a career change every five or ten years, taking the time to figure out what you want to do is crucial. “There’s a fair amount of work that anyone has to do before they make a job change and jump into the deep end of the pool,” says Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of Human Resources at Indeed.

Here are some vital tips to consider if you are thing of making a career move.  

Post it notes


Making a career change takes time, and depending on the extent of the change you’d like to make, plan ahead. If you want to quit your job, first have a game plan in place and know how you plan to transition into this new role. 

The more time and thought you put into your career change, the easier the process will be.

Review your current role

“If you’re happy being an accountant, you need to measure what you’re unhappy with in your current position,” says Scott. “There are [accounting] roles that will be less process since the processes are being built whereas if you go to an established industry, it could be a little more processed.”

Most companies in every industry need someone to keep track of their numbers and do financial work. This is good news for accountants since there’s plenty of opportunity in tech, retail, consulting, professional services, media, and the list goes on — these roles can serve as a stepping-stone to something new.

“With accounting, there are a lot of adjacencies in finance that you can go into,” says Paul. “Every industry has a financial part of an organisation, and every organisation has accountants. If you want to be an accountant, find an industry that you have a strong belief in and do that.” 

Glass office

Look within your company

“If you’re a good commodity and a good cultural fit at a company, it’s easier to make that transition within that company than to go to another company and make that big functional change,” says Paul.

Depending on what you’re looking to change into, another department may need skills that you have that are easily transferable to other functions. To achieve this goal though, you may have to take a step or two back from a title perspective.

Assess and retool your skillset

Figure out which of your skills and expertise can be used in your desired job by researching the requirements of that role.

This may require more education, such as a graduate degree, certification or accreditation, to make you an attractive candidate for another company. If you decide to pursue formal education, consider attending classes at night while at your current job. There are also inexpensive ways to develop your skillset, such as Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs). ICAS has recently announced a partnership with FutureLearn in order to provide its members with free access to MOOC content.  

You don’t have to start from the beginning either. You may be able to make a lateral move depending on which industry you decide to pursue. “If you don’t want to be an accountant, think about other functional areas outside of finance where skills that you have are easily transferable,” says Paul.


Self-reflect and revise your resume

“You have to be honest with yourself and figure out what will make you excited and what you want to do in the long term,” says Paul. As your considering different careers, meet with people in your network who work in those industries and positions.

When you meet with people, be a sponge and absorb all that you can about the new position. Ask about an average day and the challenges of that role. Also ask which of your skills would be transferable to help you revise your resume.

Resumes are marketing tools for a candidate, and you need to rewrite yours as you narrow down what it is you want to do. Be truthful and highlight your expertise and skills that can be used in your desired new role. When you network, ask how your skills can translate into a different role.

“Be mindful about what you want to do, take your time to do your due diligence and highlight your skills that are transferable to the new role you’re looking for,” says Paul.


Joining professional organisations and attending conferences and speaker series are great ways to make inroads to a new industry. 

Work to expand your network and develop these relationships so that you’re comfortable asking for referrals. 


Figure out your financial needs

If you do decide to make a 180-degree change to another industry, consider the salary you need to maintain your desired lifestyle and whether you can do that in a new industry or job. Know how much you’re willing to sacrifice, like moving in with roommates or family, to make a career change.

“You have to be realistic about what you can afford and if that pay cut will be realistic,” says Paul, “because if you can’t live, then you have to realign your dream so that it’s reasonable. We have to be honest with ourselves about how much money we need to live.”

Research companies

Working at a company with the right cultural fit for your personality and work style will only propel your career — you’ll be engaged and interested in what it is you’re doing. 

Think about where you’ve worked in the past and what made you happy as you search for new opportunities.

What are your tips for making a career change? Let us know in the comments below.


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