Have you ever thought about your boss’s job and realized you don’t want it? You’re not alone—53% of employed adults who quit a job in 2021 changed their field of work because their roles no longer suited them.
For some people, career pivots stem from feelings of unfulfillment or a longing for new challenges. For others, it’s about better work-life balance or higher compensation. And sometimes, the only way to move up in an organization is by taking on managerial responsibilities—and management isn’t for everyone.
But even with valid reasons for a career change, self-doubt can hold you back from applying for jobs. However, the resources it takes to pivot your career are more accessible than ever. Technology makes it easier to connect with mentors, and less traditional methods of learning (like badges and micro-credentials) have made it easier to fill skills gaps.
You’re ready for a career change, and the resources needed to make it happen are at your fingertips. But, if you don’t take control over your career now, you might end up in a role you vowed you’d never be in: your boss’s.
5 steps to take agency over your career without being the boss
Believe it or not, you’ll spend somewhere in the neighborhood of 90,000 hours of your life on the job. That’s a third of your life you could spend in a career that bores you. Or you could spend that time working in a field that motivates you and sparks your curiosity.
So, if a career pivot is on your horizon, here’s how to get there.
- Establish goals. Goal setting looks different for everyone. Maybe your top priority is to learn coding skills, or perhaps it’s to take the first steps toward a career in accounting in 2023. Either way, it’s important to pinpoint specific goals so you can hold yourself accountable. Start by reflecting on your current role: What do you like or dislike about it? Are there projects you wish you had worked on?
- Inventory your transferable skills. After you set goals, take stock of the skills you’ve developed over the years. Even if your skill set feels niche to your role, there’s a good chance you can leverage those transferrable skills in different settings. Suppose you’re a hotel manager who wants to transition to a career in healthcare. Although the environments differ, skills like organization, empathy, and flexibility are essential in both fields.
- Work with leaders at your organization. When it comes to networking, the best place to start is with your company’s leaders. For example, suppose you’re an editor who wants to pursue project management. In that case, your boss or hiring manager can provide insights on open positions in the organization and the required skills for the role. Conversations with your boss about changing careers may feel uncomfortable. But a good boss will encourage you to develop new skills, embrace opportunities, and do what’s best for you. And if they tell you your goals aren’t achievable at the company, it’s time to explore other options.
- Lean on your network. Take advantage of your LinkedIn and alum network by connecting with people in jobs and industries that interest you. Most people are willing to help, whether offering advice or connecting you with someone else. When you find the right people to speak with, ask thoughtful questions about their careers. If they changed fields, what led them to make the switch? What skills did they have to learn to get there?
- Personalize your learning experience. You have options if you need to learn new skills to fill knowledge gaps. Graduate programs provide opportunities for peer mentoring in an environment filled with like-minded professionals. But given the time and resources required, grad school isn’t an option for everyone. Fortunately, education has grown more accessible through badges and micro-credentials, mentoring programs, LinkedIn groups, and boot camps. Identify which avenue works best for you regarding cost, learning environment, and time commitment.
If you taught second grade 60 years ago, there’s a good chance you retired as a second-grade teacher. But today, we’re seeing teachers turned software engineers, writers turned product managers, and in my case, a ministry strategist turned EVP in the higher education tech space.
If you stay curious and embrace what you enjoy and excel at, you can maintain agency over your career and find meaning in your work.
Jeremy Walsh is the executive vice president of corporate partnerships at AllCampus he applies his knowledge to develop and manage relationships with Fortune 1000 businesses and oversee employer solutions. His focus is on helping employers meet the needs of a modern workforce by aligning and amplifying their education and learning strategy to attract, retain and develop top talent.