Many people experience a stage in their careers in which they want to move in a new direction or on to the next level of leadership. But after years of performing the same tasks, it can feel overwhelming and sometimes downright impossible to make the leap into the unknown of changing careers or positions.
Changing careers means changing yourself
If you are ready to make a substantial change, there are some steps you can take to reinvent your professional persona and start the forward momentum into a new stage of your career.
“Try all” and error. Perhaps you are not entirely sure where to begin. While you can research various roles ad nauseum, a more effective way is to put yourself out there in your current job with a variety of tasks and let your interests guide you.
Volunteer to work on new projects that are outside of your usual duties or are part of a cross-functional initiative where you can gain exposure to different aspects of the organization as well as peers and leaders you would not normally interact with on a regular basis. By participating in new projects and teams, you are not only learning more about what interests you professionally, but you are also showing leadership that you are versatile and eager to develop your career.
Just say it. A common belief among many professionals is that simply by doing, everyone around you will automatically know that you have an interest in career advancement. While the old “work hard and you’ll get promoted” theory still holds some truth, leaving your career development to the hope that someone notices is a risky proposition. A more proactive approach is to make your goals known.
Usually there are two reasons people avoid sharing their professional intentions:
- Fear of failure if those intentions do not come to pass
- A hesitancy to appear too ambitious
Understandably, no one likes to have the world know when they are not able to achieve a goal. However, not sharing your plans could result in missing out on opportunities simply because those who may be able to help you have no idea that you are interested. Similarly, the desire to appear modest and humble prevents many from clearly stating their ambitions—they fear they’ll be considered overly eager or manipulative.
When those thoughts arise, it is important to do some honest self-reflection to understand the cause of the feelings and assumptions that may be holding you back from advancing your career.
Prepare, but don’t demand perfection. Making a vertical or lateral career change requires a certain level of planning. Find out the requirements of the new role you want to attain and whether you’ll need additional training, certifications, or even a formal education path.
With that in mind, it is also critical not to tell yourself that every single box on the list must be checked before you can venture into new career territories. There are aspects of most jobs that cannot be prepared for in advance, so taking the opportunity to gain experience is often just as important and sometimes more valuable long-term than education. If an opportunity comes your way to move in the direction of your dream job, don’t let a lack of specific credentials hold you back from proving that you are capable of learning and growing into a new role.
As the saying goes, “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten.” If you want to move your career along a different path, be ready to present yourself to the world in a new way and be willing to learn as you go forward.
One of the benefits of membership in AMA’s Women’s Leadership Center is the free events and courses, several of which are happening this summer. Check out all the membership benefits here.