Imagine it's a year in the future and you’re at your dream job. You simply can’t wait to get to work every day.

Is it the job you have right now?

If the answer is no, that’s ok. Now, more than ever, it’s difficult to find truly fulfilling and engaging work. And in today’s pandemic-stricken world, much is uncertain.

A few years ago I was sitting in my car, stuck in morning traffic. I was exhausted from yet another sleepless night, kept up thinking of my career which, as hard as I tried, just wasn’t working out. I just wanted to get on the freeway, drive away, and never come back.

These days, you’re more likely to be walking ten seconds from your kitchen to your home-office or dining room table, but you may be feeling the same way, dragging your feet those ten seconds. You’re miserable. Something needs to change, but you don’t quite know what. You’ve already tried to mitigate the problem through positive communication and reframing, and still aren’t getting any traction. It might be time to consider a career switch.

That was me then. Now, after nearly a year and a half of hard work my new career as a designer is finally off to a start after landing my first position at Savviest, where our mission is helping people land a job they’ll love with custom tailored resumes and cover letters.

A few decades ago, the idea of leaving your career to start an entirely new one would have been unthinkable. Luckily, the concept of career switching is becoming more mainstream as millennials become more accepting of the idea that a career journey is fluid, and more interested in occupying positions they’re passionate about. Career success now isn’t about how long you stay in a position. It’s about how you navigate the professional world from position to position.

Making the switch from small business management to design was the best decision I could have possibly made. Here’s what I learned along the way, and how you can jump start your own career switch to land your dream job.

Photo by Matteo Paganelli / Unsplash

1. It doesn’t happen overnight, but you can start today.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: career switching is a lot of work. In some cases it means paying for more education and many extracurricular hours refining new skills. It means being vulnerable and accepting that uncomfortable feeling of newness all over again.

But, just because it is a lot of work, doesn’t mean it needs to be difficult work. It also doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable work.

One of the best things about career switching is that once you decide to make the leap, you can start right away.

Initial steps, like taking a mental inventory of your skills and interests, and scoping out the job market may feel small, but will be monumental as you propel yourself forward in your switch.

Be warned though: once you start, you may find that you aren’t able to stop until you’ve landed your first job in your new field and are on your way to actually loving your work.

2. You get out of it exactly what you put into it.

Remember what I said about career switching being a lot of work? Well, the more you put into it, the sooner you’ll be able to actualize your new reality.

At the beginning of my career switch, I struggled. It was to be expected. Some weeks I was able to make my switch my only goal, and in those weeks I made the most gains. Others I stalled, barely able to put in the minimum amount of time. Other things got in the way, or I succumbed to my imposter syndrome. Who was I trying to kid?

Those weeks are setbacks for sure, but they happen.

You have to accept that some weeks will be more productive than others. Forgive yourself for the bad ones and keep going.

3. You have to fake it for a while.

The power of positive belief has been studied by psychologists for years, and the general consensus is that in many cases, your belief in something can have a measurable effect on outcomes (check out this article from Psychology Today for a deeper dive on that). It manifests in the old adage “Fake it ‘til you make it.”

It seems cliche, but rings so true. The first few times I introduced myself as a designer, the words were weird to say. I felt like I was faking it (and for a while, I was). But by introducing myself that way I gained confidence. I was changing my behavior in a way that would allow me to embody the qualities of a designer.

When you present yourself with confidence, not only will you feel better, but your new connections will feel better too. This is because they believe you aren’t just trying this career on. You’re committing to your new role. Keep in mind though, that there is a fine line between projecting the confidence you need to succeed and telling lies about your competency. Be honest about your skills, but always double down on your commitment.

The more you believe it, the more everyone else will too. Just this one change in your mindset can instantly boost your credibility and get you closer to the yes you’re after.

4.  You need to fail a few times to do it right.

Failure is hard. Objectively, it makes us feel bad to know we’ve failed, and that's ok. Failure is the only way to know if you are actually learning. It can come in many forms. Maybe it's negative feedback on some of your new work, or e-mails gone unanswered.

“Maybe call us back in a few months.”
“Unfortunately, we’ve decided to go in a different direction.”

Experiencing failure during a career switch is natural. It is in fact, necessary.

It doesn’t mean you don’t deserve the career you are seeking. It means you need to learn from your mistake, pick yourself back up, and try again. The sheer fact that someone is giving you enough of their time to tell you “no” means that you are making headway.  

The faster you learn this lesson, the faster you can rebound from your mistakes, and the more you can learn from them.

5. Relationships are everything.

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned was that of building and maintaining relationships. In order to become successful in your switch, you need to network early, and often.

Some people don’t feel comfortable interacting with career professionals because they aren’t confident in their abilities and knowledge. They choose to keep learning solo, instead of getting out there and talking to the professionals that will become valuable social assets and colleagues.

Do you know the difference between you, the savvy networking champ and your competition? You’re going to get the job first. End of story. For too long I was a Solo-Learning Sally, and you know what? I went nowhere.

So even if you’re an introvert, and networking makes you nervous, go make some new connections. You have to put yourself out there to get noticed.

3 Bonus steps to get you started

If you’ve already done what you can to make your current situation more palatable, and made the decision to switch careers, don’t wait. Start now.

Step 1. Get introspective.

You might feel a little uncomfortable at first, because if you’ve gotten to this point you have to admit that something has failed (see lesson 4). If you are going to have a successful career switch, you need to look upon your current career with fresh eyes and the ability to objectively pinpoint where you went wrong and what you can do to fix it.

Take some time to do a mental inventory. Start by finding a quiet space where you can be alone to think, and jot down your interests, passions and skills. If you’re going through all the trouble to switch your career, you should probably find one that aligns with your core passions and values. Otherwise, you may find yourself back at a dead-end and only more miserable and frustrated for it.

For example, I am undeniably a creative type. I could not possibly be happy in a position where I am not allowed to create. I have the privilege of being able to apply that creative energy to my design job at Savviest. And I get to help people find their dream job. How cool is that?

So ask yourself: what do you love doing? Write it down. Do you know what you hate doing? Write that stuff down too. Get a comprehensive brainstorm going before you move on.

There is no substitute for hard work.
― Thomas A. Edison
Photo by Andrew Neel / Unsplash

Step 2. Find a career that aligns with your values.

Start doing the research. You can consult friends and family, the Internet, or even a career coach. Look up potential careers and job opportunities and see if the descriptions match what you want to be doing.

Get deep with your research! Do you need to buy courses to learn new skills? Can you find somewhere to volunteer to see if it would be a good fit? Can you learn on the job? Do you maybe already know professionals in that field that you can talk to?

Take the time while the stakes are low to cover your bases, and try this new career on for size.

Step 3. Build a resume to land a job you’ll love.

Perhaps one of the most important tasks you’ll have as a career switcher is to build a new resume as soon as possible. This time though, you're not building a resume for the career you have. You’re building a resume for the career you want. If I could have changed one thing about my own career switch, I would have built a new resume much earlier.

Even if you don’t have a ton of experience in your desired field, you can use related accomplishments from the field you’re currently in. If you’re not sure where to begin, check out this article about how to make your resume stand out with strong achievements.

Using Savviest, you can make this process even easier. Savviest is the fastest way to build a resume that is custom, ATS ready, and highlights your skills and achievements in just one click. So what are you waiting for? Do something that delights you.

Need more helpful tips and tricks? Check out this article for advice from a recruiter on how to get hired.