Many of us reach a point in our careers where we uproot and change what we are doing. Sometimes this is a planned change, where the career we once had was just not working for us and we need change for the sake of our own sanity.

At other times necessary career transitions come out of the blue, leaving limited time to prepare and ready yourself for the changes to come. How do you best prepare yourself for a career transition, whether it be planned or unexpected?

A well planned career transition can allow for us to smoothly move on to something different, and often allow for the time to learn new skills and prepare for the tasks that will come next.

Career Transitions - Crossroads

Photo Credit: Chris Potter, Attributed to: StockMonkeys

Start early to prepare for change:

With the proper plan in place you can be well prepared to make a smooth transition especially with the aid of career moves you should be making regardless of your current employment situation. Career moves like goal setting and continual growth, which are essential to the direction that your career can take (and can help an unexpected change go a bit more smoothly).

  • Goal Setting – Set up goals for yourself, these goals should be attainable short term goals with an outlying long term goal. That way you can put yourself on track for future movement and if you stray from the path you can easily get back on track.
  • Continual Growth – Take some of your free time to learn new skills and continue to educate yourself in and outside of your field of work. Try to apply those things in your daily life. Look for new skills that you can learn which are transferable to different careers.

Assess your existing and transferable skills:

Having already acquired a certain skill set as a result of a career, you need to identify which skills can transfer to a new career as opposed to those that are specific to your current career. Once you have assessed your transferable skills you can make moves towards attaining additional skills you would need for the career of your choice. This assumes that you have a plan in mind, if you do not have a plan here are few steps to ease you into the process.

  • Pick a few career choices that you are interested to see which skills you already have will apply to those careers. This will help you to better judge the necessity of additional training.
  • Find out if you would need to seek external training (additional schooling) or if would you be able to be trained internally based on the skills you already possess.
  • Once you know what sorts of transferable skills you possess you can figure out other transferable skills to learn, how to attain them, and create a timeline to learn them in.

Time allotment:

Many professionals will say that you should plan for about 6 – 9 months for a career transition period. This will include research (and a lot of it), a new career is not a light decision to make, you need to know what you are getting into, if you can handle it, if it is a viable change to make. To best understand the change you are about to make and prepare yourself in any way possible, make time for:

  • Industry/job market research – To find what jobs are available and/or in demand, what is the pay like, is there room for advancement?
  • Education – Additional education and/or skills needed to work in the industry.
  • Networking process – Social and networking events. Build your personal brand and make connections.
  • Application Process – Cover letter/Resume writing, research and applying to businesses.
  • Interviewing – This includes trial and informative interviews, as well as the real deal.

Both the networking and the application (resume) prep you can do while working will help you along the way, keep your resume and social media profiles (especially LinkedIn) up to date. Use your social media to build a personal brand and network within and outside of your industry. Besides, you never know when opportunity may find you!

Utilize your resources:

To help in the process of a career transition use the networks that you have created, people will be willing to help, support, and give advice, but you need to reach out. Networking will also allow you to connect with people and possible opportunities that were never advertised, which is why it is so important throughout the transition and in your career in general.

  • Look to a mentor that you have, they have probably experienced career change in their lives and could have valuable insight for you.
  • There is also the option to see a career coach to assist you with the process and help to guide you in the right direction for your change.

Understand that you may have to take a pay cut or a lower position to start in a new career, and ask yourself if that is something that you would be willing to do. Although you have already gained significant skills from your previous/current career and have put the work into learning new skills, to gain entry you might have to take a few losses and work your way back up the ladder.

Avoid the stress caused by necessity through preparation. It will be harder to do than say but, relax, if you have prepared you should be on your way already. Most often a career change is an attempt to better a working situation and get closer to your goals, your preparation should reflect that. Planning ahead to learn new skills for a career transition should assist a search for your passion, use your “free time” to learn skills and network in areas that you are passionate about, if you have the ability to incorporate the use of these skills/networks into your daily work life, do so. If you have taken the time to think about your goals for the future and how you can attain them, the transition process has already started, well before it becomes a “necessity”.


By: Renee Walrath