How to start a new career: 9 career change tips

A person seated at a desk in front of a desktop computer researching their options for how to start a new careerImage: A person seated at a desk in front of a desktop computer researching their options for how to start a new career
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If you’re wondering how to start a new career, you’re not alone.

In 2021, an increasing number of people started to rethink their careers and long-term goals, leading to the Great Resignation — that included a 20% increase in mid-career resignations from 2020 to 2021.

In this guide, we’ll review tips to start a new career, and give you some motivation with celebrity success stories.

  1. Discover what your interests are
  2. Make a list of your experience
  3. Learn new skills
  4. Research job options
  5. Narrow down your options
  6. Try out a new career field
  7. Be flexible
  8. Network
  9. Apply for jobs

1. Discover what your interests are

If you’re wondering what your ideal career might be, start off with some introspection. Consider what you’re interested in and what your natural abilities are.

Ask yourself what are some things you would like to change or that you don’t enjoy doing in your current job. Writing down your goals and interests can also help you visualize your perfect career.

2. Make a list of your experience

Starting a new career will most likely require you to go through the process of getting a new job. That means you’ll have to polish your resume to target a new career field.

Start by writing down your experience and skills and compare them to the current job market. Map out which of your skills may translate to your new career.

3. Learn new skills

There’s a chance you might not have all the skills and experience needed to shift careers, especially if it’s a drastically different field than your current job. With this in mind, it can be a good idea to allocate some of your time to focus on learning the needed skills. You may even need to sign up for some courses to make the transition.

4. Research job options

Research is key to figuring out how to start a new career and pursue new ventures. Learn more about not only your career field of interest but also similar areas where you can see yourself succeed.

Get down to the nitty-gritty and look at job descriptions, company websites and even current employees’ job experience.

Keep in mind that self-employment taxes are different than what you’ll pay at a regular job, so consider that if you’re considering striking out on your own.

5. Narrow down your options

If you have a long list of possible career fields and job positions, try to narrow it down to a few that seem most aligned with your skills and goals in life. It may be helpful to use a career assessment test or write down a list of pros and cons for the different careers.

6. Try out a new career field

If you’re discovering how to start a new career but aren’t sure it will be a fit, you can try it out without as much commitment. Volunteering in the field or shadowing someone in a job position that interests you can be a good way to learn more about different careers and build connections.

7. Be flexible

Starting a new career path can challenge you in different ways, one of which may be your flexibility. Start this process with an open mind and understand that you will likely have to be flexible with your routine, tasks and even your salary.

8. Network

No matter what field you choose, networking can help you with your career change. Connecting and building relationships with people in a new field can show you what to expect from the job and even lead you to potential employers.

9. Apply for jobs

Once you’re satisfied with your new career path and potential opportunities, it’s time to start applying for jobs. Don’t be discouraged because you’re going through a career shift — instead, use your unique experience to communicate your skills and expertise with potential employers.

What does starting a new career mean?

Starting a new career means changing jobs, whether it is a new role or in a new industry. This is a chance to explore new paths and challenges, make more money or maybe even follow a dream you’ve been keeping in your back pocket for years.

Although pursuing a career change might be nerve-wracking, there are many benefits as well.

Being challenged

Working in the same job for years and feeling unchallenged might mean you need a new career. The challenges that come with a career shift can help you expand your knowledge and learn new skills, try new work environments and tasks and surround yourself with people from different backgrounds.

Finding a new purpose

Most of us want to have a purpose in life, especially when it comes to our careers. Changing careers can be a way to find a new purpose in your work, and make you excited to do something new.

Having a renewed sense of purpose can also help you feel happy at work and boost your productivity. In fact, a 2019 study showed that happy workers are 13% more productive.

Increasing your pay

Higher incomes are associated with greater well-being and overall life satisfaction. Shifting careers can also be an opportunity to get a better salary. You can use your experience and previous compensation to leverage a pay increase when starting a new career.

A good place to start is assessing your current compensation and seeing what it could be and whether a pay raise would suffice.

Finding a healthier workplace

Sometimes your work environment might be what will influence you to find a different career. An unhealthy work environment can lead to stress, decreased productivity and feeling burned out.

Even if you work in a healthy workplace, you might not feel like a fit. A career change can help you find a workplace that’s healthier and a better match for you.

Changing your schedule

Whether you work a 9-to-5 job or have a flexible schedule, starting a new career can also help you find a better fit for your routine. Depending on the career you choose, it’s an opportunity to have more flexible work hours or switch up your usual work schedule.

What to consider when starting a new career

Although following these tips should help set you up for success when learning how to start a new career, there are some things to consider before doing a full career shift.

Career change motives

When looking for a new career, it’s important to identify the reason why you want a career change. Whether it’s because you’re not satisfied with your current work environment or because you want to find career fulfillment, knowing your reasons can help you figure out if it’s the right move for you.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before exploring new career ideas.

  • Why do you want to change your career?
  • Are you feeling tired of your current career?
  • What do you want in the future?
  • Do you think you’re more qualified for another field?
  • Do you feel you are being compensated appropriately?

Check out our cost-of-living calculator if you’re curious about how where you live affects your finances.

Financial plans

Staying financially prepared is especially important when switching jobs. Coming up with a financial plan ahead of time can help you prepare in case you don’t have a job for a period of time while changing careers.

Take a look at your emergency fund savings and incoming expenses and evaluate whether you can go several months without a job or if it’s better to keep your current one during the process.

Necessary experience

Just like getting your first job, each career field has its own experience requirements. Evaluate whether you have enough experience to switch careers by researching the field.

If not, ask yourself whether you will have enough time to take a specialty course and if you are willing to put in extra hours to learn new skills.

Change of routine

It’s common to fall into a routine and become adjusted to it. However, one other thing to consider when picking a new career is whether you are willing to change your current routine.

A career change might mean different hours, a different commute and a different sleep schedule, especially if you’re starting a new career that requires working night shifts.

5 celebrities who made successful career changes

You’re not alone when it comes to starting a new career — even if it’s later in life. Many well-known figures have been in that position, too. Just consider these noteworthy celebrities who shifted careers.

1. Julia Child

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Cooking legend Julia Child didn’t start her French cuisine ventures until later in life. Before publishing her first cookbook at the age of 49, she used to work as a typist and research assistant in the Office of Strategic Services, which later became the CIA.

Her love for cooking started when she moved to Paris years later.

2. Giorgio Armani

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Giorgio Armani proves to anyone considering starting a new career that you don’t have to stick to your first career choice. Before founding his brand, Armani, Giorgio studied pharmacy in Milan and joined the army afterward.

He was serving at a military hospital when he decided to switch professions and work as a clothing salesperson, which led him to start designing clothes.

3. Retta

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If you’re a fan of Retta’s humor, you probably wouldn’t have guessed that she set herself up for a white-collar career by going to medical school. Although she probably didn’t get her acting and stand-up comedy skills from studying for her pre-med classes, Retta took a leap of faith and left her post-college chemistry job to pursue a career in acting.

4. Colonel Sanders

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Colonel Sanders is a great example that taking many different paths in life can still lead you to career success — and some Finger Lickin’ Good fried chicken.

Before creating his restaurant empire, KFC, at the age of 65, he switched professions many times. From farmer to insurance salesman and even enlisting in the U.S. Army, Colonel Sanders finally found success when he started sharing his delicious chicken recipe.

5. Vera Wang

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If you’re worried about a big career shift, take Vera Wang as an example. Before becoming an iconic wedding dress designer, she had her sights set on the Olympics for ice skating.

Vera Wang began ice skating as a child and competed in national championships. Although she was devastated when she didn’t qualify for the Olympics, her frustration led her to her first fashion job at Vogue magazine, where she found a love for fashion.

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