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4 Tips for Managing a Successful Career Change
4 Tips for Managing a Successful Career Change

After experiencing the Great Resignation this past year, many professionals made the decision to leave their current place of employment in search of more lucrative and flexible opportunities. With jobs available across multiple sectors and companies hiring at record rates, some folks have even shifted to roles in entirely new industries. In many ways, the Great Resignation is turning into the Great Career or Job Switch.

Yet, changing careers is not always easy. Preparing to start and succeed in a new position can be scary and bring on anxiety or imposter syndrome. As a career coach with more than 10 years of experience who has provided advice on navigating career challenges, here are my 4 tips for managing a successful career change.

1. Examine Your Transferable Skills

Your career transition may involve moving to a new industry that you’ve never worked in before, so it’s important to assess your current transferable skills and leverage them in the workplace. Remember that transferable skills are not associated with a particular job; these skills are much broader and apply to different work tasks or scenarios.

Before applying for a new job, review the job description and highlight all your transferable skills. For example, if you’re making a career shift from higher education to working in a learning and development role at a technology company, think about how education skills like teaching, relationship building, program management and critical thinking would be an asset in your new role. Then, during the interview, find ways to showcase or detail these transferable skills with specific examples.

If you’re switching to a different industry or taking on a leadership role, you may feel unfit for the opportunity. Conducting frequent assessments of your transferable skills is an excellent way to build your confidence in doing the job.

2. Document Your Accomplishments

Employers want to hire self-starters, so showcasing and detailing your accomplishments as you navigate a career change can help separate you from other candidates vying for the same job. Plan to document specific situations, rather than job tasks, where you went above and beyond and achieved a significant result for every role. These accomplishments could include improving or streamlining communication or an office process, bringing in additional revenue or exceeding a company metric or goal.

It can be difficult to recall all your accomplishments after a period, so try keeping a journal or updating your resume regularly with your accomplishments. Once you begin your new career or job, continue to periodically document your achievements, as this information will be critical in your next performance review or evaluation.

3. Find a Mentor or Sponsor

Changing careers involves adjusting and acclimating to a new work culture filled with many different personalities. Culture changes can be challenging, and it can be hard to make friends, build allies and find someone you can confide in and trust. To help increase your engagement, satisfaction and career success, try looking for a mentor or sponsor.

A mentor can be a supervisor or someone in a different department who supports your professional and personal growth. They may help provide advice about navigating workplace challenges, having difficult conversations and managing a career change or transition. Mentors can also share both technical information and institutional knowledge of a given organization, so they can be essential for moving into a new work culture or industry.

A sponsor is usually more senior and helps a less senior employee get promoted. A sponsor may help alleviate roadblocks and obstacles to promotion or recommend someone for a promotional opportunity. Sponsors can also aid in a career transition by talking with a hiring manager and advocating for a particular employee.

Additionally, having a sponsor is critical in a new career as they can speak directly with your supervisor about potential advancement opportunities or the importance of investing in your success. Finding a sponsor in a new industry is a fantastic way to ensure longevity within a given company.

4. Pursue Ongoing Professional Development Opportunities

Making a big career transition comes with a learning curve, which means there are new skills that you need to learn or acquire. There are plenty of free professional development training opportunities through organizations like Coursera and LinkedIn. Enrolling in continuing education courses and certificate programs or attending webinars is a great way to stay up to date with current trends.

Pursuing ongoing professional development opportunities also helps during annual performance reviews. When you intentionally seek professional development opportunities, it shows continuous investment in your career and company and plays a significant role in your career trajectory.

Before you accept a job offer, ask questions about the value an organization places on professional development and what opportunities are available for new employees. Finding a job that values professional development is a terrific way to ensure you don’t become stagnant in your career.

Navigating a new career transition can be nerve-racking, but it can also bring about immense change and reflection. If you’re thinking about changing jobs and careers, keep these tips in mind to make a successful career transition.


For more career tips and industry trends, visit the News & Features section of our website, and subscribe to our email list. To learn more about UW Professional & Continuing Education certificates, degrees and courses, explore your options or contact us.


Dr. Ciera Graham

Guest writer Dr. Ciera Graham has 12 years of experience as a higher education administrator. She enjoys writing on issues pertaining to the challenges impacting women and ethnic minorities in the workplace. She is a past career columnist for the Seattle Times and the Everett Herald, and a current editorial contributor to Career Contessa and Best Colleges. 

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