5 Tips for a Career Change | How to Stay Realistic and PositiveRosie Chevalier Jan 25, 2022 10:00 AM Illustration by Marian Blair
Trying to transition to the social-impact sector, or maybe you're just looking for a career change in general? First of all, congratulations. The choice to do something meaningful to you is a brave one. If it’s worth doing, it likely won’t be easy, so you may need a few touchpoints to stay on track.
Hone in on what you want
Pinpoint your path so you can stay on it. If you’re unsure what exactly you want to do, ask yourself what you want to change from your current or previous job circumstances, or think about a broader theme (like a passion you can’t shake, a skill you want to emphasize, a similarity between jobs that interest you, or an intersection of your experience and interests) that can help you narrow down your next steps. Sometimes figuring out what you’re chasing can be the hardest part, so this step should help point you in the right direction.
Research, research, research
You’re not going to be an expert in your new field right away. But you can be a very well-versed newbie. Do the research to understand what you’re getting into. What are typical salaries in the field? How long do people tend to stay in similar jobs?
Salary range sites (hint: Idealist is a great asset to learn about salary and other social-impact industry norms), LinkedIn searches, and chats with people who work in your desired field can be helpful resources. Those with jobs in the sector, especially, can speak to their specific experiences and lend valuable insights to give you a realistic glimpse of what you’re in for.
Re-examine your mindset
Be honest with yourself. Are you setting impossibly high standards? Or are you running from jobs at the first sign that you don’t meet one of their qualifications? Remember that you bring your life and career experience with you along with whatever experience they may ask for. Focus on what you do have going for you instead of what you don’t .
You’ll burn out if you apply to every job that won’t pay the rent, or every listing that requires a PhD you don’t have. Determine reasonable expectations that still challenge you.
You may want to consider adopting a “student mindset.” When you shift your thinking from the daunting “what do I want to do?” to the friendlier “what do I want to learn?” new possibilities can present themselves. Since career changes take time, approaching them from a learning perspective can keep you connected to new developments and important connections. Pivoting careers can also mean pivoting away from your ego and toward your curiosity.
Speaking of curiosity, be open to letting it guide you down unexpected paths. It’s incredibly rare that a job search goes directly from your current Point A to your desired Point B. It’s more likely to veer off to other letters or numbers, even if it does ultimately lead to Point B. You may have to work in positions that are entry level or volunteer level (if you’re financially able), or aren’t specifically related to what you want in order to reach that dream goal.
Try not to rule something out just because it’s not what you expected.
Check in with yourself
Are you taking care of yourself? Have you eaten anything, or seen the sun today? Or have you only stared at job listings and written cover letters?
It’s vital that you stay physically and mentally healthy during your search. Otherwise, you’ll have a harder time keeping at it, and the version of you searching for these new opportunities will not be your best.
Be gentle with yourself if you don’t feel as passionate as you did when you decided to make your career pivot. Job searching and applying is exhausting. Try to find ways to remind yourself what excites you about your goal.
Keep in mind, throughout, that while making a career change is hard work, finding a job you love is worth it.
Rosie Chevalier is a writer in Chicago who has written for Chicago Education Advocacy Cooperative, Points In Case, RobotButt, Reliving History, and more. She has worked with multiple theatre companies. volunteered across Chicago, and taught writing, acting, and improv to all ages. Her interests include dogs, the news, boats, holidays, and her family, and she's currently attempting to enjoy cooking.