The Complete Guide to Changing Careers (Without Going Back to School)

I woke up at 4 am, just as I did every day, and I got dressed for work.

When I arrived and sat at my desk, I thought, “Is this really what my life is going to look like?” 

I loved college but was eager to graduate and start my life. I had worked full-time before, but only for a summer. It didn’t seem so bad. 

But college didn’t prepare me for the huge change in freedom. Showing up to work wasn’t optional. I had officially entered adulthood, and to be honest, I didn’t really like it. 

It felt great to have money, but the job itself left me feeling unfulfilled and bored. 

I went to college because I wanted to learn and create. To do something that mattered to me.

I settled on a job that would provide stability but didn’t consider whether it was really something I wanted to do.

I felt stuck.

I realized that if I was going to work 40 hours a week for the rest of my life, I needed to do something I enjoyed. 

Life is too short to be chained to a career that doesn’t bring you any joy. 

If you can relate, this blog post is for you. Let’s look at how to tell if a career change is right for you and how to prepare for it.


Signs you may be ready to change careers

You feel like you made a mistake in choosing a career

How can you tell if you’ve made a mistake in your career choice?

One key indicator is a sense of dissatisfaction or restlessness when you think about your job. If you constantly wish that you could be doing something else, don’t ignore those feelings.

Another tip-off is the level of stress and anxiety that you experience at work on a regular basis. Frequent worry and frustration could mean that the role simply isn’t a good fit for your skills or personality.


Your current work feels like a chore

Work is, well, work. There’s no way around it.

But if you find yourself procrastinating at all costs—playing around online, distracted by personal projects, or running errands when you should be working—there’s a good chance your career isn’t a priority. While no one is engaged at their job 100% of the time, extreme avoidance is a major red flag and might just mean a different career path is calling your name.


You want something more

Do your current duties and responsibilities bring you joy and satisfaction? Or do they leave you feeling drained and uninspired? 

How much control and autonomy do you have over your work? Are you being micromanaged?  Are deadlines always last-minute or even unrealistic?

Some of these answers could point to a toxic employer, but others may indicate a problem with the industry or role itself. (Of course, switching to a better company is also possible if you determine you’re in the right career with the wrong employer.)

The bottom line? If your career feels stagnant or unfulfilling, you don’t have to stick with it. Take control and work toward something new—here’s how:


8 ways to prepare for a career change

A career change is a big decision, and it can feel pretty overwhelming. Just remember, even if you switch careers and find out your new role isn’t the right fit, nothing is permanent. Right now, don’t let the “what ifs” take over. Start by focusing on one thing at a time.


1. Determine your vision for a new career

When it comes to finding a new career, determining your vision is one of the most critical steps. After all, your vision gives you a clear idea of what you want from work and helps guide your search for the right position.

Map out what aspects of a new career are most important to you.

  • What kind of work are you interested in/passionate about?
  • What kind of hours do you want to work?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • What lifestyle do you want to live?
  • What work would make you happy?
  • What transferable skills do you have?

Once you have a clear vision for your new career, it will be much easier to make the transition.


2. Explore new careers and industries

Assess your abilities and interests. If you’re unsure about what kind of job would be a good fit for you, aim for this magic equation: what you’re good at, what’s in demand, and what you like doing.

It can also help to talk to people who know you well and have seen your interests and/or talents in action: parents, friends, mentors, teachers, previous managers. What do they think you do best? Where have they seen you most inspired?

If you already have a general idea, talk to people in your network who are in similar fields or have made similar career changes. They can give you insights and advice that you might not find by Googling. Just by talking to others about their jobs, you can learn a LOT. About a role and about yourself. Take it from Austin Belcak:

Research different industries and roles. Attend trade shows and networking events, read industry-specific publications, and look into industry-specific professional associations. Associations often have membership benefits like access to job boards, educational resources, and networking opportunities.


3. Create a plan and timeline

When it comes to changing jobs, there can be massive anxiety involved. After all, this is a big decision that will impact the rest of your career and, by extension, your life. By taking the time to create a plan, you can reduce a lot of stress.

Your plan should include your goals, a timeline for making the change, and a list of steps to take. Research your new industry and develop your skills. 


4. Review your core values

Your core values are the principles that guide your life and inform your decisions. Reviewing your core values when making a career change ensures that your new path is aligned with your deepest beliefs.

You should sit down and ask yourself some pivotal questions: What are the things you value most? Are you looking for a position that offers more autonomy? Or maybe you place a high value on work/life balance and are looking for a company that offers maximum flexibility.

Once you’ve identified your core values, you can narrow down your career options. For example, if you value creativity and collaboration, a position in marketing may be a good fit. If you value independence and self-direction, venturing into freelance work might be the way to go. 

When I was last job searching, work/life balance was non-negotiable for me. I had a couple interviews with one company, and they made me an offer. I asked about their time off policy, and it was nowhere near what I was looking for.

They said they encouraged work/life balance, but their benefits told a different story. I politely declined their offer.

Don’t be afraid to research the company or ask blunt questions in your interviews. If honesty is important to you, pay close attention to how they answer questions. Ask about their business practices and how they handle difficult situations.

Stay true to yourself and have a clear understanding of your priorities. If something is important to you, hold tight to it and know that you will eventually find a company that’s a good match. 



5. Update your resume

When making a career change, updating your resume can be a daunting task. Relating your past job experience to your new goals can feel challenging, if not impossible.

But with a bit of strategic planning and some effective techniques to highlight your skills, you’ll be landing interviews and, eventually, a new job.

To get started, think about what skills and experience are needed for your target field, and then tailor each section of your resume to highlight these assets.

Perhaps you have previous work experience in a related field, or you’ve taken courses that relate directly to the abilities required for this position.

For example, if you’re looking for a job in project management, focus on your experience managing deadlines and budgets. If you’re switching careers into marketing, try to emphasize any past freelance or consulting work that involved writing copy or running social media campaigns.

Study job descriptions and tailor keywords. Use strong action verbs (but avoid buzzwords) and show real results you’ve achieved—so long as they’re relevant to the specific job and your new career goals.

Where there are gaps in your skills or experience, think through how you can fill them (more on that in #7 below).



6. Build your network 

In today’s world, it’s all about who you know. The more connections you have, the easier it will be to find job opportunities in your new field. But how do you go about networking? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Get out there and mingle. Attend events and meet new people. Strike up conversations and exchange business cards. The more people you meet, the better your chances of making valuable connections.
  • Use social media. Social media is a great way to connect with potential contacts. Join relevant groups and participate in online discussions. And don’t forget to follow up with people you meet offline. LinkedIn is also a great platform for building professional relationships.
  • Get involved in your community. Volunteer for a local organization or join a professional association. Not only will you make valuable connections, but you’ll also be giving back to your community.
  • Be a resource for others. Offer your expertise and advice freely. When you help others, they’ll be more likely to reciprocate when you need help down the road.

Building your network doesn’t have to be complicated or intimidating. If you put yourself out there and start talking to people, you never know where your next connection will come from.


7. Gain more skills and real-world experience

Sometimes, you need more experience in your current field. If you’re pursuing a higher-level position, consider taking on additional responsibilities at work or looking for other opportunities to gain relevant skills. Most employers want to know what you’ve done—bonus points for measurable results—and how it relates to your desired position before they’ll consider you for a job.  Here are a few ways to gain experience fast:

  • Volunteer. Many organizations are always looking for volunteers, and this is a great way to boost your credentials while also giving back. 
  • Intern or take an entry-level position. Learn about the industry and gain valuable skills.
  • Learn. Remember, knowledge isn’t confined to a classroom. In the digital world, your options for learning are endless: online courses, podcasts, books and audiobooks, to name a few. There’s so much flexibility and varying levels of investment (in both time and money).



8. Be patient and remember your vision

Making a career change can be a daunting task. And figuring out what you want to do is only the beginning.

Updating your resume, applying for jobs, and going through the interview process—it’s enough to make even the most determined job seeker feel deflated. But you’re playing the long game, so be patient and don’t get discouraged if things don’t happen overnight. 

With my previous sales job, I caved to my usual bad habit of accepting the first offer I got. It ended up being a mentally draining job with poor management.

If I had researched the company, I would have seen that their turnover rates were extremely high, and they didn’t pay their employees well.

In my desperation to leave this position, I rushed into my next one. 🤦‍♀️

And then I (finally!) wised up. I interviewed at many places and had the guts to say no to opportunities because I stayed laser-focused on what was important to me. Now I’m doing what I love.

Just remember: staying patient during a career change is essential for making it through to the other side.


Career change is scary but worth it

You can’t put a price tag on your happiness and overall well-being. If a job is holding you back, it’s time to find a meaningful career

Sometimes you have to try different things—even the wrong things—to find what you actually want to do with your life

When I decided to change my career, I thought about what I most enjoyed doing. I always came back to writing. I wanted to use my words and ideas to inspire and help others. I knew that any other job would leave me wanting more, so I decided to pursue writing professionally—and I’m so glad I did.

If you’re serious about making a career change, don’t let fear hold you back. Take the time to assess your skills and passions, invest in yourself, and commit to the process.

It won’t be easy, but the best things never are.