Career Change Steps

Do-It-Yourself Career Change Steps

Start on your path to a more satisfying career.

Do a Google search on “Career Change” and you’ll get over a million hits.  You are not alone in your quest to change your career.  We’ve broken down the process into four steps:

Develop a timeline – be realistic and flexible. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Revisit the timeline periodically and adjust as necessary.

Crunch the numbers – look at your finances and figure out the minimum salary you need, how you might pay for training if necessary, and where you can cut back in your current lifestyle if necessary.


  • Career change is a process, and it will not happen overnight – it can take 2-3 years.
  • Don’t overlook transitional jobs as a stopgap to get you through.
  • Make career “dates” with yourself – schedule time to work on your career development but be specific and intentional about how and what you schedule.  For example, “Tue, 10am – contact Susie to see if she knows an accountant.; Fri, 9am – contact food pantry about volunteering.”
  • Fear and anxiety are normal.  Even when we are very unhappy, it is sometimes less frightening to stay with what we know than to leap into the unknown.  Think about best and worst case scenarios.  Ask yourself, what would happen if you never tried at all.

Likes and dislikes – write down what you like and dislike about your current and previous jobs.

Interests: Interests are the highest predictor of job satisfaction. Taking time to assess your interests can help you make career choices that are more satisfying. Use the O*Net Interest Profiler to assess your interests.

Identify transferable skills – include skills gained through work but also through hobbies, volunteer work, sports, and other life experiences.

  • Make a list of accomplishments and experiences you enjoyed or felt particularly proud of. What skills did you use in those experiences? Which of those skills did you enjoy?
  • Need help identifying your skills? Try the CareerOneStop Skills Assessment

Personal inventory – list your strengths, skills, experience, leadership roles, industries, interests, preferred work environments, and values.

  • Highlight or circle which of these you would like to be present in your new career.

Reflect – based on what you have learned about yourself:

  • Describe your ideal job (it’s okay to dream).
  • What are “must haves” for a new career?
  • Take a look at our Questions for Career Changers PDF for more reflection


Research the local labor market – what employers exist? You can find this information via the following local resources:

  • Chambers of commerce
  • Business magazines
  • Community newspapers
  • Local business directories
  • Public libraries

Who needs your skills? – Once you have a handle on what employers exist in your area, think about which employers might need your skills and experiences. Jot down all the possibilities.

Investigate careers – Use O*Net and the Occupational Outlook Handbook to start exploring careers.  O*Net has tools for searching based on skills, interests, abilities, etc.  Use these tools to help determine what careers might be a good fit for you.

Informational interviews – talk with people doing work you find interesting to get an idea of what a typical day looks like, what they like and don’t like, and how you might get started in the field. Check out Informational Interviewing for more information and suggested questions.

Job shadow – follow/shadow someone doing a job of interest to you.

Identify gaps – what do you need to make the transition to a new career? What are the learning opportunities to get any necessary training?

Volunteer or intern – volunteering and interning are useful for testing out a new field and for gaining experience.

Find a mentor – someone to guide you as you begin preparing for a new career

Seek support – support may come from family, friends, or professionals (such as a career counselor, advisor, or coach).  Find someone who will hold you accountable and keep you on track with your career planning process.  Sometimes those who love us have the most to lose by our potential career change so find someone who can remain somewhat neutral.