As the world turns, and AI starts taking over, many jobs will disappear. This means you might have to start looking for a new one. Or maybe you are sick of your current job and would like a change.
No matter the reason, there are many people out there that after years of working in one type of career want to change and switch career paths completely.
Recently, I was helping out a friend to totally reorient her life career paths. She was a flight attendant who was sick of her job. She started this job thinking it was going to be a jet-setting life style (after previously working customer-facing jobs in banks), but it turned out not to be what she expected.
Her goal is to get into project management, a completely different job role, and one unfortunately that she doesn’t have experience for.
Me to the rescue! I spent long hours trying to figure what she should do.
One of the reasons I was spending so much time helping her is because I really liked her. I spent long hours talking to her and I thought she was amazing.
To cut the story short, she left me heart-broken. I am always amazed at the type of men women choose, but I guess I can’t do much about it. It is beyond my control.
I did not get much appreciation for all my effort, however I am a generous person and thought that all this stuff should not go to waste and many other people looking for a career change could benefit from this.
If you want to change your career, these tips will hopefully help you to get a good start on the entire process.
1) The first thing that you need to do is to examine your situation and think of the worst case scenario. If you think about it, the worst case scenario usually isn’t that bad.
When trying to switch careers, you might be agitated about the entire process. You must have been fed up with your initial situation and decided that you need to try something else. The process will be hard and at times frustrating. It might even get depressing and you might feel really bad at times.
However the key here is to always look at the bright side. What is the worst case scenario here? You will just be unemployed for a little longer. You won’t die of hunger. You will also be supported by people who love you, so you won’t end up on the street. That’s actually not that bad.
2) Examine the situation and determine which factors are under your control and which aren’t. You can control the effort you put in, but you cannot control the result. That is why you need to focus on the effort and don’t let the result bother you too much.
The key to having a positive mindset in this entire process is to keep in mind what is under your control and what isn’t. What is under your control is the effort you put in. If you work hard on improving your skills, reading, learning, and also looking for jobs and applying for them, then you have done your job.
The effort you put in is under your control, the result often isn’t. So don’t let an initial lack of good results put you down. Just keep on working hard and things will figure themselves out eventually. You need to keep a positive mindset and keep working hard throughout.
3) What do you want to do? What can you realistically do now (as in jobs)?
You need to think long and hard about what you want to do. What are the things that you didn’t like about your previous experiences and what are the things that you like to do? Let’s say you want to do project management, however with your experience it will be hard to get into it straight away. You will need to get relevant work experience (and probably some certifications) before you get into any type of job like that.
So you also need to think about what types of jobs you can realistically do right now. They might not be your ideal jobs, but they can teach you skills and give you relevant experience. These jobs can then serve as stepping stones towards what you want to do.
For example you might want to be a PM in the future, but you might need to start as an administrative assistant for projects or an executive first in order to get relevant experience.
For my friend, I came up with a ladder of jobs that could potentially lead to her dream job and the level of difficulty of getting them right now at her current levels of experience and skills. When you create such a ladder, it doesn’t mean that you have to go through all the job types in order to land the job you want, but that the jobs on the lower level are easier to get, but are also further from your goal. However, sometimes luck strikes and you might land a higher-ranking job right away.
This is what a ladder looks like with someone of her career experience:
Level 1: Administrative Assistant
Level 1: Project Assistant Intern
Level 2: Project Administrative Assistant
Level 2: Executive Assistant
Level 3: Junior Project Manager
Level 4: Associate Project Manager
Level 4: Resource Manager
Level 5: Account Manager
Level 5: Business Analyst
Level 5: Management Consultant
Level Far Future: Project Manager
Level Far Future: Manager (Customer Experience)
The different levels are my subjective reading and only serve as an indication. The key is to keep in mind what type of experience and skills each of the different job types will bring you on your journey towards your dream job.
You can create such a ladder for yourself too. You might even simplify it and have just three categories: the jobs you can realistically get, ones you can get with a bit of effort, and ones you probably can’t get at the moment, but maybe can try for anyways (and might get in the future after some experience).
In my personal experience, I also started off with a set of relatively dead-end jobs and managed to spin them into what most people would consider a dream job. What I did was to try to leverage as many skills as I could from whatever I was doing. I even managed to change the things I was doing at the dead-end job itself (by thinking of improvements) and at the end that job was much more exciting than initially.
Read about my experience here:
How to quadruple your salary and get the job you want.
4) What are your skills and strengths? What type of experience do you have up to know?
What types of skills and strengths do you have now? Think about that. Write them down and then think of examples that can illustrate that (for any potential interview). What types of experiences have you had until now? From the CV of my friend, her jobs were all customer facing roles. However she did not want a job like that any more. How can you spin this?
For example, you can use this type of work experience as a way to work on projects that improve customer experience. You have worked with customers directly and you know how they function. You would not be working with customers directly, but instead on teams that set up processes in order to improve customer experience (or other stuff to do with customers).
To realistically be able to get such a job though, you will still need to improve your skills.
This will not require just your standard PM skills, but also a deep knowledge of psychology and other things to do with human behavior. For my friend, I even suggested some reading material to get familiar with. A big trend now is behavioral psychology and nudging. All these things can serve as building blocks for a skill-set.
5) What are your weaknesses?
You also need to be aware of your weaknesses and work on them. What do you need to improve? There are usually many things that you need to work on, however try to prioritize and start off improving the weaknesses that are most pressing.
6) What you need to do now is to be able to leverage your strengths and work on your weaknesses. You should examine your skills, strengths and experiences and see how you can spin them (for the interview, but also for your future job).
Have a look at your CV and think about how you can format it in order to seem more interesting to the people who will be picking you for a job. Let’s say that your ideal role would be working on internal process improvement teams (in various types of companies) or on consultancies doing work for external clients. To be able to get such a role, you will need to show on your CV how you improved processes as part of your previous jobs (and always be able to back up your claims with particular examples).
Also can you come up with concrete examples of your leadership experience? As a PM, you will have to lead groups of people. To use the example of my friend, this is what she needs to think about: Did you lead teams of stewardesses at your airline? Or can you at least spin things to show that you have leadership experience?
7) Have a look at the O*Net description of the skills needed for the job you want to do. Which things are you good at and which are you missing?
For whatever type of job you want to do, there are sites which list the skills that you need. One of these is O*Net, which lists the skills for particular profiles. Employers will be looking for these skills when they interview you. Since you want to be a project manager in the future, here are the skills for an IT Project Manager (most projects will be about IT):
IT Project Manager Skills.
8) Situate all this in the future trends that are coming up. How can you align your skills and background with the future trends?
You also need to be aware of the fact that the world of work is changing. A lot of things are being automated. This will not only be important for proposing solutions for processes in any future job you do (automating things is always a good process improvement), but it will also have an impact on the skills that you need to cultivate. Read the below report in order to find out what types of skills are important: NESTA study on future skills
Planning and Doing
9) Now you need to come up with a plan on how to enhance your strengths and improve your weaknesses.
You can make a project of this and practice your PM skills. You can run this in an agile way. The framework on agile self-improvement that I came up with is quite useful for this.
10) This will go in parallel with your job search. For the job search part, define three categories of jobs: ones you can realistically get, ones you can get with a bit of effort, and ones you probably can’t get at the moment, but maybe can try for anyways (and might get in the future after some experience). Also define some jobs that might not be totally what you are looking for, but which might be useful to do now in order to learn the skills (and get the experience) that you need in order to get the jobs you want.
Let’s use the example of my friend again:
I have come up with different levels of jobs based on my reading of her CV. Levels 1 and 2 are ones that she could easily get based on the experience that she had until that point. Unfortunately, her experience is mostly in customer service and client-facing roles, so it will be harder to get away from that.
However, this doesn’t mean that she can’t get jobs up to what I define as Level 5, however with each level, her chances get slimmer. It doesn’t hurt to try though. She can try to leverage her experience in customer service as having deep knowledge on how to work with customers, which means that she can improve processes there and work on customer experience improvement projects.
This is how I would approach a career change. Although, keep in mind that you probably won’t be able to get the more sophisticated jobs right away and might have to use the less exciting jobs as stepping stones.
11) Execute on your plan (in an agile way). Set some KPIs on what you need to do during the week (both in learning, but also in sending out CVs).
You seriously need to make this a priority and not get distracted by other things. The key to success is to be doing things systematically.