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Career Advice

How To Switch To A New Career Field Successfully

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

January 18, 2011

Stephanie Dressler worked in wealth management for years, but after the market crashed, she began to rethink her career choice. “There were so many lies in corporate life, and especially in the financial institutions,” she says. “I found it hard to talk to my millionaire clients day after day about losing $100,000, when some of the world’s lower and middle class had lost their children’s college accounts, retirement accounts, and entire life savings.”

Rather than sticking it out in a field she no longer loved, Dressler went back to school, earned a master’s degree in corporate communications, and now works at a financial and crisis public relations firm, where she “loves every day of it,” she says. “Now instead of being part of the problem, I feel like I am part of the solution.”

Dressler isn’t alone. According to a new study from Rutgers University, of the laid-off workers who have found new jobs during the past 15 months, 41 percent switched into a new career or field. The study authors say that in most cases, these people switched to new careers or fields because they couldn’t find work in their current fields, but there are also plenty of people like Dressler who switch fields to follow their passions and interests.

Whatever the reason, here are five tips for being successful when switching to a new field or industry.


Know what you want. “Know your strengths and values. Know your talents, know your own personality, and know what matters to you in terms of having a meaningful work life,” says corporate psychologist Daniel Crosby. “Many times, people enter their first careers for reasons of necessity; perhaps they were railroaded into a career because of familial pressures, the perception that it was practical, or some uncertainty about their own tastes and preferences. Time and experience have a way of illuminating and refining our preferences, and these should be considered deeply when changing careers.”

Choose carefully. “While lack of career fulfillment or job satisfaction is a frequent reason for a decision to pursue a switch in careers, I recommend examining employer needs first,” says E. Chandlee Bryan, a certified career coach and resume writer. “It’s always easier to catch a fish if you know where the fish are. The same holds true for landing a job.”

Do your homework. “Make sure you have thoroughly researched your target arena and know what that industry needs,” says Cheryl Heisler, president of Lawternatives, a consulting firm for lawyers who want to change careers. “Do your networking to learn, understand and garner an in-depth read on the field you are exploring. Be able to walk the walk and talk the talk of your target industry. Your resume, your language and your style all need to fit the industry norms.”

Get an introduction. “Mine your network for friends, colleagues, and connections who can help you get a foot in the door,” Bryan says. “It’s always helpful to be introduced, especially if you are making a change into a new area.  An introduction can help you get a brief moment of time to distinguish yourself; it’s always helpful when you have the task of distinguishing yourself from others who already have the exact credentials, prior experience, and qualifications employers have specified.”

Raise your expectations. “Believe in yourself and know that there are innumerable opportunities to find work that fits you,” Heisler says. “Once you decide to strike out for a career change, don't settle for anything less than a field of which you are happy to be a part.”

Stay tuned for next Tuesday’s post, which will include the top reasons people decide to switch careers.