Career Change Stages For Transitioning to a New Career: 5 Critical Steps

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Career change


There is a right way and a wrong way to transition from one career to another. This article will outline five career transition stages that everyone needs to be familiar with before they make the big jump.

Stage 1: Introspection

The first major career transition is introspective--you should ask yourself the right questions to become more self-aware. That includes reflecting on your personality, skill set, and values. Here are some guiding questions:

  • What is your personality? What makes you satisfied?
  • What are your current skills? What skills can you develop?
  • What are your interests? What motivates you?
  • What are your values? Is it saving Mother Earth? Is it maximizing revenue? Is it connecting with people?

These are essential questions to understand your authentic self before considering a major life change. Check out the video ‘reasons for a career change’ that dives into this topic in much more depth to help you decide whether it’s time to make the jump or not.


Stage 2: Develop a plan

The second major career transition stage is to develop a plan. This will involve several mini-steps.

Step 1: The first step is to conduct career research. What is the state of the industry that you want to switch to? What function in that industry do you aspire to? What is the typical career progression? What is a management role like? And then finally, how does the pay grade change as you progress? How long does it take to get to each pay grade? These are all important things to consider when you take the leap.

Step 2: The second step is to make a career statement. Start by writing a list of your non-negotiables. What job conditions are really important versus what you can go without? What conditions would be bonuses, but not necessarily deal-breakers? You can put these list items on post-it notes to easily sort into three categories. You can then write your career statement, which is a summary of what you’re looking for in your career;

“In my job, I must have _______, it’d be great to have _______, and it’d be nice to have _________ but they are not necessities.”

This career statement gives you a measurable goal and an anchor when there are many options for you to consider. Psychological research has shown that people who write out their goals are more likely to achieve them, as it becomes clear and tangible.

Step 3: The last step to do in developing a career action plan is to actually write the plan. Include the target companies where you ideally would like to land. For example, if you want to join Facebook, Google, or Amazon, list these companies out and then conduct a SWOT analysis on each company. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This will give you an insight into the company’s position, your employer’s needs, and the sector in which they are operating. In addition to that, it helps you to build your value proposition specific to that job function, which is explained in the next stage, branding yourself.


Stage 3: Brand yourself

The step of branding yourself is extremely important. And whether you like it or not, we are constantly branding and selling ourselves. What clothes you wear, how you speak, whether you cut your hair or not, what type of makeup you put on, are all examples of branding.

You can read more about personal branding in the book, To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink.  He describes how we are constantly selling ourselves, whether we are conscious of it or not. If you don’t think about how you are selling or branding yourself, other people are going to brand you. It’s that simple.

Consequently, you need to figure out your key titles, accomplishments, skills, expertise, character, and values. After going through that process as described in the first stage of introspection, you will be in a much better position to convince an interviewer why you are the ideal candidate.

When people hire, they base their decision on several factors. The number one is ‘fit’. What is your personality? Can you get along with the team? Can you take orders? The second thing people look for is the skills that you bring to the table. Whether that’s writing, coding, or sales, by knowing your brand, you can sell yourself on that proposition.

The final factor is your motivation, especially if you come from a non-traditional background (i.e., you’re switching careers). You need to have a solid story as to why you are making the switch. For example, if you want to go from marketing to HR, you will need to justify it with more than “because I feel like it”. It is better to tell your story with something like the following;

“I was doing x, y, and z, and then got involved with an HR project through a different department. I found it interesting, and when I studied it on my own time, I realized that this was what I wanted to do. I’m much more passionate about HR than marketing.”

A good story gives you the confidence you need to convince a potential employer that you deserve the opportunity, especially if you are changing careers. Tell them your story, but also acknowledge the value you’re going to bring to the role. Thinking back to your SWOT analysis, what are the problems they’re facing that you can help solve?


Stage 4: Create ambassadors

The fourth stage is to create ambassadors. It is important that you leverage your network to let others know about what you intend to do. It is always easier for a manager to hire someone that is already a known entity. In fact, some companies even incentivize internal referrals, so employees are rewarded for finding candidates that will be a good fit.

Prioritize making as many ambassadors as possible. It is very easy to do a direct outreach through social media platforms such as LinkedIn or Twitter. A good example of this is how DRock started making videos for Gary Vee by pursuing him on social media.

I’m not suggesting that cold calls always result in getting the job. Cold outreach will help you learn about the job and conduct a better SWOT analysis. The aim is to go directly to the recruiter’s desk.


Stage 5: Take ownership

The fifth and final step of your career transition is to take control. Take ownership of the whole process; from the resume writing to the cover letter, to the interview prep, and so on. Many people make the mistake of outsourcing their resumes which is actually counterproductive to the whole process. As I mentioned in stage two, you should brand yourself, since you are THE expert on your own accomplishments, and you need to know how to frame your story to convince the hiring manager that you are a good fit in the interview. If you have a third party write your resume for you, they won’t know the intricacies of your job or your accomplishments. If you only want your resume reviewed for spelling and grammar, I don’t see a problem with that.

Bottom line- if you’re trying to convince a company that you are the best candidate, I wouldn’t recommend hiring a resume writer. The same premise applies to a cover letter. It is actually the resume and cover letter writing process that prepares you for a good interview.

You should also polish up your LinkedIn profile. This is something that is now a necessity since every company and recruiter is on LinkedIn looking at job candidates. Remember to also clean up your other social media, like Instagram or Facebook, or any other internet trail you have that is not going to make you a good candidate. Employers are known to scour social media in the later stages of the hiring process to evaluate your public profile.



In the end, it’s all about self-awareness and professional branding. By taking control of your career direction, resume, cover letter, interview process, and online presence, you can create a personal brand that consistently fits future employers’ needs. Be prepared to endure a long grind when switching careers, because nothing good is ever easy. Check out the career change mindset video and blog post here to help you channel the right mindset.

If you’re ready to make a career change, make sure you go and download the resource I have called “how to find your ideal career in four easy steps”. There is also a free career personality test here. if you haven’t done so already, make sure you join the Facebook group Career Change Advice so that you can receive regular updates and connect with other like-minded millennials.


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