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How to Make a Successful Career Change by Leveraging your Existing Skills and Experiences

If you are thinking about a career change, but are unsure of what to do, This article will take you through four areas of your life to successfully change your career by leveraging your existing skills and experiences.

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Close-up view of young female freelancer typing on laptop computer while sitting next to the windows with a cup of hot cocoa
Close-up view of young female freelancer typing on laptop computer while sitting next to the windows with a cup of hot cocoa

Everyone goes through life accumulating a variety of skills and experiences beyond their day-to-day job. These skills and experiences can be of huge value to the world and are often connected to each person’s natural talent and what brings them satisfaction. Having made career transitions successfully many times myself, I would love to share my experience and insights as to how achievable it is to make career changes once you connect the dots between your past and your desired future.

Try looking these four areas of your life if you want to successfully change your Career leveraging your existing skills:

  1. Your professional experiences

This one is a given. You probably have a well-written CV already with all your titles and job descriptions. What I want to emphasise here, however, is the importance of your transferable skills. This requires you to look at your academic and employment history more creatively.

Every job involves multiple responsibilities and tasks. Regardless of your job title, what have you done in your role that is relevant to the career you wish to have? For example, when I changed my job from a care home assistant to a customer service agent in Financial Services, I focused on the communication skill that was clearly transferrable between the two seemingly very different jobs. On top of that, my academic records in English and Engineering served as evidence that I had good comprehension and language skills. Both were important for customer service, even though they don’t look directly relevant. The key is to break down the restriction your job title may suggest, and emphasize the actual skills you have developed.

According to Lauren Gast, Chief Marketing Office at Truck Driver Institute: “Executing a successful career change is much simpler when you can leverage your existing skills. At our truck driving schools, we have seen a number of former rideshare drivers come in to get their commercial driver’s licenses. They realized that they can make more money hauling freight than carrying passengers, so the transition works out perfectly. You have to recognize what you’re good at and what you enjoy doing so you can make the most of your skills.” 

  1. Your personal life experiences

We are often at our most natural and free outside work. What you do in your personal life says a lot about your true ambitions and talents. Aside from doing your job, what personal qualities and experiences do you feel most proud of? Allow yourself to think as freely as possible, like you are brainstorming. Don’t dismiss anything you think of as too trivial. Everything counts. Do you make very good judgment of character when you meet new people? Do all your friends like to talk to you when they feel upset? Are you the master organiser of all family holidays and outings? Write them all down on a list first. You can always cross it later if needs be.

For example, when I first set up my life coaching business, I was working as an auditor in Financial Services. However, throughout my life I have been coaching people around me. Asking insightful questions in a way that encourages people to think for themselves and inspires new ideas. Approaching conversations with a beginner’s mind. Receiving people as they are without judgment or imposing my own opinion. These are the things that I do so naturally that I almost didn’t realise they were unique and valuable, until I explored it all with my coach. 

This is exactly what Willie Greer from The Product Analyst did.

  1. Your fantasies

If you are not sure exactly which career path to choose, immerse yourself in your fantasies. Forget about practical restrictions for a moment. What are you naturally drawn to all your life? It tells you a lot about where your true passion is. And when there is passion, there is fulfilment to be found.

For me, it has always been psychology. I was not always conscious of it, even though I’ve been drawn to psychology for as long as I can remember. But time and time again, I brushed it off as something I had given up by doing an Engineering degree and studying Law. I thought I had missed all my chances of a career in psychology. It was not until my life coach pointed out the unusual enthusiasm I show when talking about the power of psychological shifts and analysing the relationship dynamics between people, when I realised what an important part of my life it has always been. Despite my tiptoeing around it as a career option, I had taken every possible opportunity to learn about and practise it. The realisation was so powerful that I found the courage to finally turn my biggest passion into a dream career and founded my coaching practice.

You may find that you have more than one fantasies. In that case, a portfolio career may be best for you, where you get to combine many of your passions. Also, a well-designed personality test could provide interesting insight into your natural tendencies and suitable career choices, especially if the test results resonate with you. 

  1. Your connections

It is true that nobody succeeds alone. To leverage your existing ‘human resources’ is one of the most efficient and powerful ways to make things happen. Write down your dream career options in the format of a table or a list. Then next to each option, write down any present or past connections who are associated with it, even if only vaguely. Be very bold with your list of contacts. Tutors, friends, relatives, colleagues, mentors, ex-boyfriend or girlfriends, or even people who do not yet know you but you know you can reach. They are all potentially a precious part of your network. The book Never Eat Alone (by Keith Ferrazzi) gives some very good tips as to how you can make use of connections.

If the word ‘networking’ puts you off, how about a different perspective? I find that I get very demotivated by networking when I see it as begging others for help. However, things look completely different when I take it as an opportunity to increase my knowledge of the field where I may want to develop a career. The purpose of each conversation is not to get you a job, but to help you assess whether the particular career path suits you. As you speak to more people in that field, you will either become surer of your pursuit or realise that it is not where your true self will shine and start exploring elsewhere. Either way, you get to know yourself better whilst offering an opportunity for others to feel useful.

Conclusion

It is absolutely possible to make your dream career a reality using the experiences you already have. Be relentless with your pursuit. And by that, I don’t mean the pursuit of a job, but the pursuit of your true passion. Make lists. Contact people. Go to workshops. Fantasize! When you tap into the most passionate part of yourself, you will find all the resources and courage you need to make it happen. 

Changing your career is a bold move. Too many people are held back by the fear of failure and rejection, and choose to stay within their comfort zone. By wanting a career change, you are always demonstrating the power and strength within you. So, I want to congratulate you on your courage and wish you all the very best on this thrilling journey. Happy pursing!

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