How to Change Careers | Full Guide & Tips for 2024

10 April
15 min read
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So, you’re thinking of making a career change.

It sounds exciting. There are career opportunities on the horizon, and you can’t wait to try something new.

But you also feel a little intimidated. 

Chances are, you aren’t exactly sure how to make that career change happen.

If you’re planning on switching to a completely different field, for example, you may be at a loss about where to start.

But here’s the good news…

Whether you’re a software developer who wants to switch to graphic design, a cashier who dreams of landing a job in marketing, or someone without a clear idea of the new career path you want to take, we’ve got your back.

In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know to make a successful career change, including:

  • When Is a Career Change a Good Idea
  • 11 Steps to a Successful Career Change
  • Career Change Resources

…and more!

Let’s jump right in.

What Is a Career Change?

Career change involves leaving your current job or industry to pursue a completely different role or professional path.

A career change is different from simply switching jobs. Unlike job hopping, you’re likely to need new skills, qualifications, or experiences to make a successful career change.

For example, a business analyst might want to become a primary school teacher, which is completely different from what they’ve been doing until now.

Changing careers might require going back to school, taking up internships, or starting at a lower level in your new field to gain the necessary expertise. The goal is to move into a role that better fits your interests, values, and long-term professional aspirations.

When Is a Career Change a Good Idea?

Changing careers can be a big step in your professional journey. In turn, you might not be sure if it’s the right thing for you.

But if your current path isn’t matching up with your goals and passions, a career change could be the solution you need.

Here are 12 situations when you should consider making a career change:

  1. Your current job is a source of stress and anxiety and affects your self-esteem.
  2. You regularly experience burnout in the workplace.
  3. You need more flexibility than your current career path allows for.
  4. You want more opportunities for career advancement.
  5. You're looking for a higher salary than what your current industry offers.
  6. You want to work for a specific person or organization.
  7. You want the opportunity to travel more as part of your job, such as on business trips.
  8. You’d prefer a job with a shorter commute or the opportunity for remote work altogether.
  9. You want to pursue a passion that your current role or industry is keeping you from.
  10. You feel undervalued and want to be appreciated for your work.
  11. You want more job satisfaction than what your current industry is giving you.
  12. You’re looking for a better work-life balance.
  13. You frequently fantasize about leaving your job.

In other words, if you’re unhappy with your career, it’s time for a career change.

novoresume templates

11 Steps to a Successful Career Change

Without further ado, here are the steps that will help you make a successful career change: 

#1. Take Time to Reflect

Before you jump ahead and start your next job hunt, take the time to think about your current work situation.

It’s just as important to know why you want a new career as it is to envision what your dream job looks like.

Reflect on your job satisfaction and try to figure out what it is you really want. 

To get started, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • How satisfied am I with my job?
  • What exactly don’t I like about my job?
  • What do I like about my job?
  • Why did I choose this job in the first place?
  • How has my attitude towards this job changed over time?
  • What keeps me in this job?

These questions can help you figure out what direction your career change should take.

On top of that, they can also help you identify the exact problem area of your current job or field, whether it’s the job itself, the workload, your coworkers, the company culture, or something else entirely.

For example, if you’re unhappy with your customer service representative job because it’s too socially draining, you should look for a field that’s not customer-facing, such as software development or content writing.

On the other hand, if you hate your job but have a great boss and coworkers, you might want to explore career change opportunities within your company. Different departments might be expanding, and you could move into a junior marketing role with relative ease.

#2. Assess Your Skills and Knowledge

It’s time to give yourself a long, hard look.

Planning a career change means you have to know what your actual skills and abilities are. So, take a close look at what you're good at.

This isn't just about the hard skills you've picked up over the years, like SEO optimization or software debugging. Consider your soft skills, such as communication and problem-solving. Reflect on the experiences you’ve had, both in and outside of work and identify your strengths.

Next, think about how your skills and knowledge can transfer to a new field. Some might be directly applicable across different industries, like conflict resolution and management know-how, while others may need a bit of tweaking to fit into a new role.

Any volunteering, internship, or other relevant experience you may already have can also tip the scales in your favor. From there, see which careers you could easily leverage your transferable skills, experience, and passion for.

#3. Consider Different Industries

Now, it’s time to brainstorm potential career paths.

You can make a career change within the same industry or switch to a completely different field.

Typically, a career change within the same industry is easier. You’re more likely to have industry know-how and experience that can give you a head start.

However, it’s essential to explore different industries that might align with your interests and strengths. Diverse sectors all offer unique opportunities, work cultures, and challenges that might match what you’re looking for.

Start by researching industries that catch your attention or where you feel your skills could make a significant impact. Whether it's tech, healthcare, education, or the arts, each field has its specifics.

Make sure you understand the demands and trends of these industries by researching the job market. Look into what the most and least in-demand jobs are and what the stability, growth patterns, and emerging roles look like in these sectors.

For example, if you’re looking to move to a career as a floral designer, you may want to consider different options, since florists’ employment rate is expected to decline by 20% between 2020 and 2030.

#4. Research Job Prospects

Once you’ve narrowed down the industry you’d like to work in, it’s time to see what the jobs available there look like.

Hop onto different job boards and company websites to see what positions are available. Pay close attention to the requirements listed for different roles. This includes years of experience, specific skills, and educational qualifications.

Looking at job requirements helps you see what employers want and how you fit into the picture. Analyzing job descriptions also helps identify any gaps in your current skill set or education that might be an obstacle in the way of your career change.

Research the most in-demand skills for the positions that interest you and write down any skills that apply to you. The insight you gain here can also show you what to work on next, like getting additional training, certifications, or experience in a specific area.

For example, if you want to be a children’s book illustrator, you might have to master Photoshop before you can apply for the job you were eyeing.

The job market is dynamic and changes all the time, and even what companies in the same industry are looking for can vary with every passing year. Make sure you stay updated on the trends in your chosen industry, so you’ll be more ready to step into a new role that matches your career goals.

#5. Try Out Your Potential Career

You can research a career through and through, but nothing will give you a better idea of a particular career than first-hand experience.

So, once you identify the positions that interest you, it’s time to try out the potential career paths before you.

This will help you determine whether a particular job is the right choice for you before you commit to a career change.

Here are some ways you can test-drive a new career:

  • Job shadowing. Job shadowing is observing people who work in your desired field. All you need to do is set up several job shadows to compare different career paths and/or companies. This allows you to gain a better understanding of the daily tasks, workload, responsibilities, and other job-related elements. The easiest way to arrange job shadowing is to discuss your career change aspirations with a supervisor and ask them to observe someone from your company or another department working. 
  • Volunteering. Apart from allowing you to test an intended career, volunteering also helps you develop field-related skills. Unlike job shadowing, you can list your volunteer experience on your resume, and it’s more likely to help you land the job down the road.
  • Internships. With 70% of companies extending full-time job offers to interns, landing an internship can help you make a seamless career change. Even if you don’t stay with the same company, the industry experience could be invaluable for your career ahead.
  • Part-time job. Depending on the field, you could also apply for a part-time job before making a full-blown career change. For example, you can start tutoring on weekends before deciding if you want to be a full-time teacher.

#6. Make an Action Plan

Career changes are complicated, and if you want to move forward with yours, you need a solid plan.

Just break down your career change into manageable steps that are easy to keep track of.

Start by setting clear, achievable goals. These could be things like learning new skills, meeting professionals in your desired field, or creating a resume tailored to the job.

Identify what specific actions you need to take. For example, if you need to learn new software, look into online courses or workshops.

Set a realistic deadline for each goal so you stay on track.

Be sure to keep a checklist or a spreadsheet to monitor your progress. The Novoresume Job Tracker is a great tool you can use to save time and create an outline for your career change!

Keep in mind that your action plan should always be adjusted based on what you learn throughout your career change.

A well-written action plan is meant to help you not lose sight of your goal and remind you to celebrate the small victories along the way as you track your progress.

#7. Develop New Skills

You might notice a gap between your current skill set and what’s required for your new career.

In this step, it’s time to gain the skills and training you’ll need to move forward.

Taking the time to learn instead of jumping head-first into a new job makes you a more attractive candidate, and it can even boost your confidence as you enter a new field.

Look into specific skills you might need to improve or learn from scratch, such as time management or specific computer skills.

Depending on how big your career change is, you might have to pursue a formal education to succeed. For example, if you’re a food and beverage manager but want to pursue your dream of running a gallery, you’ll probably need a degree in History of Art.

There are plenty of resources available at little to no cost, so enhancing your skill set shouldn’t be too difficult.

Here are a few ways you can try to develop new skills for your career change:

#8. Change Your Personal Brand

Your personal brand is how you present yourself professionally online and offline, showcasing your skills, experience, and what makes you unique.

You want to align yourself with your targeted new industry or role, not with the career you’re leaving behind.

Start by updating your LinkedIn profile, your CV, and any other professional platforms or social media to highlight your relevant skills and experiences that fit your new career goals.

Your personal brand narrative should tie your past experiences to your future aspirations and show potential employers your value and commitment to this new career.

Changing your personal brand isn't just about what you've done; it's about where you're headed and how your unique blend of skills can contribute to your new field.

Your personal brand shines through best in a cover letter during your job application. Learn how to write a cover letter here.

#9. Expand Your Network

The relationships you build can open doors to hidden opportunities, so networking is a vital part of a career change.

But you shouldn’t rely solely on people that you already know. Instead, expand your professional network to include as many people from your desired field as you can.

Reach out to people in the industry. This could be through social media platforms like LinkedIn or by attending industry conferences, seminars, webinars, or networking events.

Networking is a two-way street, so when you connect with new people, focus on building genuine relationships that can benefit you both. Don’t immediately go looking for job opportunities through them.

Share your career aspirations, and ask for advice or insights into the industry. Professionals in your targeted industry can give you valuable input, such as what to expect and how to position yourself as a valuable candidate during your job hunt.

As your network grows, so do your chances of finding a mentor, learning about job openings, and collecting endorsements that can push your career in the new direction you’re aiming for.

#10. Prepare a Career Change Resume

One of the final and most important steps in making a successful career change is writing a powerful resume.

Here’s an example of an effective career change resume:

career change resume

If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry!

Here are the five most important tips that will help you create your own job-winning resume:

  1. Choose the right resume format. Instead of the popular reverse-chronological format, you want to choose the combination resume format. It highlights both your skills and work experience, so it’s the best option for a career change resume.
  2. Write a resume summary or objective. Always add a short paragraph at the top of your resume to catch the hiring manager’s attention. Both the resume summary and resume objective are meant to show how your skills and experience apply to the position. As a general rule, choose a resume summary if you work in a related field, and opt for a resume objective if you’re changing industries.
  3. Include a skills summary section. Instead of focusing on your work experience, show off your relevant skills by adding a skills summary section to your career change resume. This way, instead of focusing on unrelated work experience, you’re highlighting what you do have.
  4. Highlight transferable skills and achievements. Find out what your previous positions have in common with the position you’re applying for. For example, if you’re an electrical engineer who’s applying for a web developer position, you may want to highlight your problem-solving skills and list any related impressive achievements in your work experience section.
  5. Attach a career change cover letter. To land the job, you want to write a convincing cover letter to back up your career change resume. Use your cover letter to explain what drives you to make a career change and how your skills and experience are relevant to the position.

#11. Stay Motivated

Making a career change can take a lot of time and effort. Naturally, you might lose some of your enthusiasm and motivation along the way.

After all, if you’re just starting in a new field, you might find it difficult to compete with other candidates. For example, it may take you longer to land a job if you’re competing against seasoned professionals when you’re just starting.

It’s also very likely that, initially, you’ll be earning less than you did in your previous position.

So, here are a few tips to help keep you motivated:

  • Set realistic expectations. To avoid disappointment and demotivation, it’s important to set realistic expectations and reassess your priorities. For example, if you’re offered a lower salary than you expected, you may want to prioritize work-life balance, self-improvement, or job satisfaction for the time being.
  • Keep track of your progress. If your career change is taking longer than you’d like, remember to track your progress and celebrate your career change milestones, no matter how small they may seem. They can include things like finishing your cover letter or completing an online course.
  • Surround yourself with a supportive network. Friends, family, and mentors can all be invaluable during a career change. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and can encourage you whenever you're faced with a challenge or setback.
  • Stay positive and flexible. Be ready to adapt as you learn and grow. It's also helpful to seek out motivational content, whether that's books, podcasts, or articles related to your new field. Keep yourself inspired and informed so you don’t lose sight of your goal.
  • Recognize that setbacks are part of the process. Treat any obstacles along your way as opportunities to learn and refine your strategy.

Career Change Statistics

If you’re thinking of making a career change, looking at the statistics can be incredibly helpful.

These numbers reveal trends, success rates, and challenges faced by employees amid a career change and can offer you a clearer view of the job market.

Let’s look at the top five career change statistics:

  1. 22% of workers over the age of 50 don’t believe they have the experience and skills required to work in a different field. (Source: NowTeach)
  2. A combination of mid-career stagnation and financial stability leads most people to make a major career change at the average age of 39 years old. (Source: CNBC)
  3. Nearly 6 out of 10 (59%) middle-income American workers consider changing their careers, and 44% already have a specific plan to make the change. (Source: Fast Company)
  4. Over 20% of people preparing for a career change plan to open a personal business. (Source: CNBC)
  5. 76% of workers want to have the opportunity to work remotely and have a flexible schedule. (Source: CNBC)

4 Career Change Resources

To make your career change as smooth as possible, take advantage of our career change resources:

  1. How to Write a Resignation Letter [5+ Templates]. Before you make a career change, you first need to quit your current job. This comprehensive guide will teach you exactly how to write a resignation letter the right way.
  2. How To Find A Job In 2024 - 5 Easy Ways. Struggling to get hired? This useful guide includes 5 strategies for landing your dream job.
  3. How to Write an Internship Resume [w/ Examples]. Looking to land an internship to try out a different job? Use our internship resume guide to secure an internship.
  4. The Ultimate Guide to Job Hunt - Land Your Next Job in 2024. From identifying your career goals to acing the interview, this guide covers each step of the job-hunting process to help you land the job.

FAQ on How to Change Careers

Are you still wondering something about career changes? Check out the answers to the most frequently asked questions here:

Q — 

#1. Am I Too Old to Switch Careers?

No, you're not too old to switch careers.

Age can bring a wealth of experience, perspective, and skills that are valuable in many fields. Changing careers might seem daunting, but plenty of people have successfully navigated a career change later in life and found renewed purpose and job satisfaction.

A successful career change is all about leveraging your life experiences, continuous learning, and adapting to new opportunities. Employers value diverse experiences, and your unique background can set you apart.

Just focus on what you can bring to a new role and remain open to gaining new skills. Your age can be an asset in the journey to a fulfilling new career.

Q — 

#2. Should I Include a Cover Letter When Changing Careers?

Yes, you should always include a cover letter when changing careers.

A cover letter offers you a chance to explain your career change, highlight your transferable skills, and demonstrate your passion for the new field. Use it to tell a compelling story about why you're making the change and how your previous experiences have prepared you for this new role.

A well-crafted cover letter can make a real difference, especially when your resume might not directly reflect the typical background employers expect for the position. It's your opportunity to make a strong case for why you're a great fit, despite coming from a different industry.

Q — 

#3. How Do I Discover a New Career?

Discovering a new career starts with self-reflection.

Assess your interests, core values, and skills to understand what motivates you.

What are the most important things you want out of your career? You might want to contribute to a cause you’re passionate about. Alternatively, maybe you’re aiming for a comfortable salary and a flexible schedule that lets you pursue your hobbies.

Once you figure out what your non-negotiable requirements are, it’s time to explore industries and roles that align with your needs.

We recommend starting with online research and then networking with people in the field you’re considering. They’ll be able to give you insight into the industry and help you set realistic expectations for your career change.

Q — 

#4. What Is The Easiest Career Change?

If you’re in a rush, the easiest career change usually involves moving to a field where your skills overlap and there’s high demand.

For 2024, tech-related roles like cybersecurity analyst, data analyst, and software engineer are all popular. Any analytical or problem-solving skills could help you here.

Other sought-after careers are digital marketing and project management, which have a focus on organizational and communication skills.

If you’re ready to commit, healthcare positions, such as nurse practitioners and mental health professionals, are also in high demand but they require specialized training that goes beyond strong interpersonal skills.

Key Takeaways


By now, you know all there is to make a successful career change, including the tell-tale signs you need one and the steps you should follow to start a different career.

But before you start working on your career change action plan, here are some of the key points from our article:

  • There are a lot of good reasons out there for wanting a career change, so don’t be intimidated if you think following a passion or wanting more flexibility aren’t good enough reasons to make a change.
  • Think about whether a career change is right for you, or if you’re better off sticking to the same industry but trying a different role.
  • Reflecting on your current job situation can give you a hint as to which direction your career change should take.
  • To help you make a successful career change, create an action plan that allows you to track your progress.
  • Consider taking advantage of an internship or volunteering opportunity to try out a new career before fully committing to a career change.
  • Prepare a flawless career change resume to help with your upcoming job hunt. Try our free resume builder and a matching cover letter template to create a seamless application.