12 Rules For A Successful Career Change

Making A Career Change Is a BIG DEAL, Get Ready for Change With Our 12 Powerful Tips & Strategies On How To Manage This Critical Transition

You may have started your career in the IT sector, but you have realized that your dream is to make delicious cupcakes a year later. Maybe you possess skills that are impossible to be used in your current job. Or you have started your career in the sales department or as a journalist, but you realize now your superpower is managing people.

No matter your motivations, you must know that you are not alone.

According to the latest HR research, every one of us makes up to 12 career changes in our lifetime. Those can include a change in position in the same company; nevertheless, the number is amazingly high.

It is quite rare that a person will spend their entire career in one company or one position. Nowadays, everything changes so fast that we must react accordingly. Also, we usually want more responsibility and challenge in our working lives as we grow older.

1. Plan Ahead – You Will Need Time

Making a career change is not easy. You may have gone to college or university and studied for years to land a job and progress your career. You have built up knowledge and experience in a specific field in a specific industry. Your salary reflects your knowledge and experience. Changing your career can mean a salary reduction or even a more junior role if you do not give yourself the time to plan the move.

You will need to plan to avoid mistakes during your transition. Use our Dapper Model for Career Change Planning.

Plan Ahead For A Career Change

2. Find Out What Your Values and Principles Are.

If your work is aligned with your values, principles, and strengths, you will stay with your role for a longer time and increase your overall satisfaction with life.

But how do you know what your values are?

You could start by answering the following simple questions:

What are your career priorities?

If you look carefully at your career path so far, you will easily notice things that are your priority.

Consider your choices and make a list of values that continue to be repeated in each of your roles.

Do you want to have more freedom or a higher salary?

If you have accepted a proposal for a lower salary that gives you more freedom, then your actions show that you value your independence more than your financial reward.

Do you prefer workplace flexibility, or do you revel in working in a busy office?

Some people are highly social and therefore need the hustle and bustle of an office environment. Some prefer to work alone on complex problems and enjoy the quiet time to focus.

Do you prefer to work directly with customers or in a back-office team on operations or internal projects?

Is wining and dining clients and sealing deals your thing, or do you prefer to drive internal change or projects to improve the business across organizations?

What made you happy when you were younger?

Children can enjoy life in an innocent beauty, which unfortunately fades with increasing responsibilities, expectations, and age. Take time to recall all the things you enjoyed as a child. What has made you happy? Then, think about what you like now. With some creativity from your side, it is quite possible to find a way to integrate these activities into your career choices as an adult.

How do you spend your free time?

The way you prefer to spend your free time is quite indicative of what you value. Choose an activity that brings you the most pleasure and determine which ingredient is most important to you. Is it communicating with people, helping others, or learning new skills?

Example of turning passions into career possibilities

  • Do you love helping others? Think about a career in social services.
  • Do you like to spend time with your children? Consider whether you should not be teaching or working with children.
  • Do you love negotiating or influencing others? Can you be a mediator or work in sales?
  • Do you enjoy wine, think sommelier, or work in the wine industry?
  • Do you enjoy being creative, perhaps a freelance writer or graphic designer
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3. Be Proactive in Your Quest for A Career Change

Inertia is one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome in a career change. Fear or simply a lack of understanding of where to start can stop you from discovering your dream job.

If you do what you’ve always been doing, you’ll only get what you’ve always had.

Do you want a career change? Seeking the same job in a different company will not solve your problems. Here’s what you can do.

Examine all possibilities

If you are only focused on your career path throughout your working life, you may not be aware of the many different career opportunities available.

Explore your skills, knowledge, and values, and then search for careers that include your interests and skills. The easiest way to do this is to look at job announcements that match your chosen criteria.

Share your plans

Trust your closest people, who will be honest with you. Ask them what they think about your strengths and weaknesses and your plans for a career change. These conversations can make you see career paths that you probably have not considered so far.

Explain your reasons (to yourself)

Not everyone will understand why you want to leave your secure job. The important thing is to understand why you are doing it. Answer the following question:

Why do you want a career change? You will experience many moments of fear, anxiety, and self-doubt, but if you know your motives and values, you will overcome them much more easily.

Accept the change

Human beings are complex, dynamic, and constantly changing animals, and change is necessary for healthy growth.

Big changes in your life can be scary and exciting simultaneously; accepting them ultimately leads to more satisfaction. So, allow the change to happen. Do not limit your options in advance, accept the mistakes you have made, and do not give up your dream of more satisfying career development.

4. Turn the Negatives into Positives

We human beings are complex and constantly changing; therefore, almost whenever we want to consider another opportunity, we are likely to explain why we want it, highlighting how bad our current situation is.

Negative Thought Pattern Examples:

  1. I do not want to work for this hypocritical manager.
  2. No one appreciates my efforts.
  3. How will I be promoted when they do not see my full potential and skills?

Stop! Turn those negative grammatical structures into positive statements. Your consciousness and your brain are hearing only the negative forms. Turn them into possibilities, even criteria for your next job.

Positive Thought Pattern Cycles:

  1. I want my future manager to be a role model and a good people person.
  2. I will be surrounded by an amazing team that will appreciate my efforts.
  3. I want a job where I can demonstrate my true potential.

5. Make your Current Workplace a More Meaningful Place to Work.

If the steps to the new professional life are still elusive and yet to come, you may have to stay in your current position for a while. Look around you for any jobs or roles that can help you develop skills in the direction you want to go. If you are an administrative assistant but want to work in IT, a lateral move to an administrative assistant role in the IT department might be a good stepping stone.

6. Do Not Let Excuses Hold you Back

There could be many reasons why you cannot move immediately; perhaps you feel you cannot change your career until:

  • you know what you want to do
  • until you pay off some of your debts
  • until you finish a certain training or certification
  • until your children leave home or finish college

Your reasons will be good, and some will be excuses; only you can tell which.

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7. Do Not Burn Your Bridges

If you’ve already decided to change your current career path, make the transition in the right way. One of my best mentors in my previous position told me, “Never leave a team or specific task in a bad relationship with your colleagues.” Networking is everything; the world is too small, and burning your professional bridges can hurt you in the future, especially regarding a written or verbal job reference.

8. Do Not Share Your Plans with Your Colleagues

Choose carefully with whom you are discussing your dissatisfaction with your current career development. Sharing with trusted friends can be a great help. However, Sharing with all colleagues leads to another outcome: the rapid spread of rumors and gossip.

Telling everyone in the office what you think, what you feel, and what you will do in the future brings the risk of creating problems before you are ready to take action.

9. Do Not Take Your Frustrations Out on Others

Even if you are disappointed with your career development, do not allow your feelings and thoughts to harm your working relationships.

Keep your annoyances to yourself and be patient with your colleagues if you want to leave with an intact reputation. Maintain good relationships at your workplace until the end.

10. Do Not Leave Without Reasonable Notice

Giving a long enough notice to leave when you choose to make a career change relieves the transition for you and your employer. Consider all your unfinished business tasks and even suggest a replacement for you.

11. Do Not Take Your Decisions Driven by Fear; Change is Inevitable

The same goes for fear of change. Perhaps you have good reasons to worry about making a career change. But the biggest obstacle that stands before you is your own fear. Here are two of the most common worries about a career change:

Lower Income This fear can be overcome by constantly recalling your values. Remember your long-term goal. A high salary is just one motivating factor that satisfies us. Normally, it is not even the most important motivator behind our choices. Assessing your current financial situation, preparing and strictly following a budget, and exploring all your options will give you security when you fight your fear of decreasing your income.

Loss of stability If you are considering a serious career change, such as starting your own business, your stability can be seriously shaken. It is normal not to feel comfortable with this change. Just do not forget where it leads. After all, you will be happier than you were before.

12. Do Not Expect to Continue From Where You Are Now

If you have decided to make a serious career change, be prepared that you may have to start from the beginning. You have probably been working for a long time in your current position, and you are taking the respect and privileges you enjoy for granted. But starting again, you will have to prove yourself in a new environment, which could be quite a shocking experience.

Expect a long initial period of learning and adaptation, and you may feel lost and confused for a while. Do not be discouraged! Take a deep breath and stick to your plan. You’ll be glad you did it.

Finally, achieving a career change is entirely within your control. Define your values, master your fear, be attentive to the people you leave behind, and do it. Good luck!

DAPPER Process: The 6 Stages of Career Change Made Easy

Barry D. Moore
Barry's 25 years of experience with Silicon Valley Corporations such as IBM, Compaq, Hewlett Packard, Hewlett Packard Enterprise & DXC Technology enables him to share his knowledge of succeeding in today's professional corporate environments and develop a great work life for yourself.


  1. There are so many things to consider when looking for a career change and this is a great article outlining the dos and don’ts in the process. I would say that the best piece of advice given in the article is to be proactive. The perfect job won’t come to you. Once you know what you want to do, get out there and try to network with people who can help you get there – and call in favours from your own network if you can.

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