5 Ways to Make a Career Switch

Making a leap can be both rewarding and anxiety inducing. How to prepare yourself.

Ever since the pandemic, employees have wanted more flexibility, more pay, and more opportunity. It’s why more than 4 million people, on average, quit their jobs monthly for the last two years.

While the quit rate has subsided somewhat, the itch for something new has not. A recent survey finds that 58% of employed workers are actively trying to make a career change with an additional 25% reporting they’ve already attempted or successfully changed careers.

A career switch might mean either changing the industry you work in, your role, or both. For instance, you may like the industry you’re working in but not your function, or you might feel the industry you’re working in is too restrictive and doesn’t have enough opportunities for growth. “It’s important to be clear on what is driving you to make a change otherwise you might find yourself seeking another career switch in six months to a year,” says Michaela Buttler, a consultant at Korn Ferry’s career transition services. Here are five ways to prepare for a career change.

Reflect on your current position.

Before embarking on any type of career switch, it’s important to get clarity on what you don’t like about your current job and why, Buttler says. Do you have difficulty working for a certain type of supervisor? Do you dislike traveling for work? Do you need more flexible hours? Get clear on your must-haves, rather-nots, and absolute-nots. “Having a compelling vision for what you want, in addition to knowing what you don’t want, can go a long way in making a sound decision for yourself,” says Korn Ferry Advance coach Valerie Olson.

Identify your transferable skills.

Soft skills such as communication, problem solving, and teamwork are all examples of skills that are applicable in most any industry, but you’ll need to determine what other skills you’ve mastered working in marketing, for instance, that can be applied to sales. Target a function or industry that is a close cousin to what you’re currently doing. “If you’re a mid-level professional, with a decent amount of experience under your belt, chances are a huge portion of your skills are transferable,” adds Korn Ferry Advance coach Frances Weir.

Do some fact finding.

Before targeting an industry or organization, use the Internet to research whether this is the right move, Weir says. For instance, look at review websites, such as Glassdoor, social media, and LinkedIn to get an idea of what it might be like to work in the field or at a specific company.

Go to professional meetings and conferences related to your field of interest and immerse yourself in the lingo, vibe, and activities. Get a feel for the industry and the people you would potentially be working with, Olson says. Afterward, assess whether you were energized by the experience. “Make sure you understand the gap between what you imagine something is like, and what it really is like,” Olson says.

Set up informational interviews.

Informational Interviews are the best way to understand what an organization or industry is really like, Weir said. Try to meet with people at your level or slightly below to get a sense of what the day-to-day work is like, she says.

In addition to determining if you would enjoy doing the job, it’s important to find out more about the future of the industry and the job function you’re targeting, says Korn Ferry Advance coach David Meintrup. Do some research and find out what is projected for that industry in the next five to 10 years.

Test the waters.

Before you leave your old role or industry, consider taking steps to test out your new career. You could ask to shadow someone in the role you’re targeting, take on a temporary or part-time job, or try out the role as a side hustle or consulting job, Meintrup suggests. You also could enroll in a six-month bootcamp or professional certificate program to learn more about the work you’d be doing and gain skills you might be lacking. A professional certification may help you get a foot in the door, Olson says.


Learn more about Korn Ferry’s career-guidance capabilities from Korn Ferry Advance