No matter why someone decides to look for a career in a new field—a layoff, burnout, or simply the desire to try something new—making the change is often challenging.
I often advise people to take small steps toward their goals. One of the best ways to begin a career transition is by making changes at your current job.
Whether you know the new career path you’re looking to develop or you’re still in the exploration phase, your current position offers a whole host of opportunities to expand your skills, try things out, and develop a list of accomplishments related to the new career path. Here’s a 7-step plan to get going.
1. Identify What You Really Want
What skills do you want to develop? What tasks do you want to try? Make a detailed list of what you feel you want to learn. And then review online listings to find your desired job and note the specific qualifications. The gaps are where you need to focus your efforts.
2. Identify Specific Project or Responsibilities At Your Current Company
Look around you. Where can you serve your current employer, in your current role, while gaining the skills and experience you desire? Ideally, find projects that will directly impact the organization’s high-level initiatives and goals. Those that serve little purpose other than giving you what you want are less desirable.
Also reflect on this: How much time and capacity can you reasonably dedicate without letting performance in your current role suffer? Remember that your primary goal (for the time being) is successfully doing the job you’re being paid to do. You can’t allow your new tasks to take over.
A lot of people skip this step. However, you’ll improve the likelihood of getting what you want by presenting specific ideas to your managers, not just suggestions of skills you’d like to hone or things you’d like to try.
3. Ask for What You Want
Determine who needs to authorize your request and schedule a time to discuss it. Present your idea in a way that emphasizes the impact on the organization. Yes, you want to expand your career options for the future, but that’s not the story you want to tell. The reasons you present to your manager have to make business sense to the decision-maker.
4. Perform Exceptionally
This goes without saying but, of course, your job now is to give these new tasks and responsibilities your all while balancing your existing workload.
5. Take Note of Accomplishments
Once you’re working on the project or task, write down what you’ve accomplished and the measurable results you attained. You can cite these things on future iterations of your resume, in interviews and in performance reviews—any of which could result in that new desired career.
6. Evaluate What You’ve Learned
Did you enjoy what you worked on? Are these skills and tasks you can see working on as your primary career focus in the future? Does this experience change the way you envision your future professional path? If there are still things you can learn to close the gap between your current job and your future one, repeat the process and find ways to develop them.
7. Start Your Transition
When you’re ready, you can begin your career transition—now with an expanded skill set and relevant experience behind you.