What to Do When You Want to Change Careers
Austin Coding Academy
February 21, 2019
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The thought of changing careers is exciting to many people at one time or another. With your goals and ambitions no longer constrained by your old career path, a career change may open up your potential and let you surprise yourself. Pursuing a career you’re excited about can also provide a stronger sense of purpose and passion for life.
But that excitement can vanish if you’re afraid changing careers is too risky or complicated. The truth is, you don’t have to take irresponsible risks when exploring new career options. You can even prepare for a career change while keeping your current job.
Here are some strategies that can help you make a transition without the risk of going broke:
Be clear about what you want
You don’t want to go to all the effort of changing careers, only to fall into another career you dislike. That’s why it’s critical you consider what career factors do you value most. With a clear idea of what you want, you can better choose a profession that’s in line with your goals and aspirations.
First, use the experience from your current job to pinpoint what to avoid in a future career. Open a document or grab a piece of paper and write down a list of the exact tasks you dislike in your current role. Think critically about WHY you don’t enjoy these tasks.
Here are some examples of why you may not like a task:
- Skill mismatch
- Too much/too little human interaction
- Feels unrewarding
- Tasks are too repetitive
- Lack autonomy
Now repeat the process, but list the tasks at your job you actually enjoy (come on… there must be something you like). Again, ask why you enjoy these tasks. You can now use these two lists to help determine what you are looking for from a new line of work.
Another thing to consider is the impact your new career will have on the rest of your life. Here are some examples questions to ask:
- Do you want to work from home?
- Is the option of starting a business important?
- What income level do you want to achieve?
- Do you want absolute choice over where you live?
- What job outlook are you comfortable with?
Now that you understand what’s important to you, brainstorm some careers that will give you what you want. The key to effective brainstorming is to think openly about your potential new direction. Remember to think about why you liked the tasks you listed above. Don’t limit yourself because of preconceived notions of what you think a career is like.
Many of our students love coding because it’s a career that offers the flexibility to work wherever you want. It is also highly in demand, making it a high-paying career field. ACA students earn an average starting salary of $64,000. For entrepreneurial types, there are also a lot of ways to branch off and start your own projects/businesses with coding skills.
Reach out to people in your desired field
An underrated strategy for exploring new work is connecting with mentors. Talking to friends and family is great if they’re in your exact field of interest. For most of us, that won’t be the case.
Instead, you’ll want to reach out to people who’ve already accomplished what you want to do. If you’re looking to become a developer, you can always connect with ACA’s alumni network. Another way to network with professionals in your desired field is to reach out to them:
- Use Google or Indeed/LinkedIn to find companies that hire your desired position.
- Find the people currently in the position you want by searching directory pages or the employee section of Linkedin.
- Send them an email or ask to “connect” if on LinkedIn.
- Ask them questions about their career choice to see if it’s the right choice for you too.
While this can be useful information, take their feedback with a grain of salt, because many people tend to speak highly of their own careers. When you reach out like this, it often makes people feel like their work is important (and by extension, that they’re important). They probably wouldn’t want to lose face by confessing to a stranger that their job sucks.
Here are some questions to ask questions to get honest answers without forcing them to either sugarcoat the truth about their jobs or hurt their ego:
- What daily task do you like most at your job?
- What task do you like the least?
- What personality traits would someone need to be good at this job?
- What is one thing you wish you knew before starting your career?
- What’s one big misconception you had about the field before you started?
Try it out first
You’ve done a lot of prep work at this point. Now it’s time to get your hands dirty and actually do some work in the position you’re interested in. It’s easy to fantasize about why a career might be amazing, but actually doing the work will give you a more accurate idea of what it takes. A test run is important to understand if you’re getting into the right field before investing too much time or money.
Get started with the following resources:
- Take an introduction class (here’s some great local events)
- Take freelance work on job sites like upwork
- Ask the people you emailed for internship opportunities
- If you’re ready, get an entry-level job
Commit to change
After you’ve decided on your career and given it a test run, it’s time to commit. Look up the career paths by using a tool like the “Common Career Paths” section on the PayScale. This is helpful to get a better idea of what you want your long-term career to look like.
Now take time to invest in your education. Start learning everything you can to be competent in your field. Make sure to learn practical skills that will be attractive to employers.
A great option for educating yourself is to take a class. At ACA, you’ll be able to learn the skills to get a coding job you love. You also get the added benefit of support from your peers and teachers to help you succeed and access to a network of experienced professionals required to help land an amazing job.
If you’re ready to jump into an exciting coding career apply today.