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Seven tips for career changers

Katherine Martinelli is an internationally published food and travel writer and photographer who contributes regularly to publications on three continents. She recently released her first cookbook, Puff Pastry at Brunch: 10 Sweet and Sa...

How to take the plunge

Changing careers can be a risky but satisfying move. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom returning to work or a corporate attorney looking for a new vocation, these simple tips will help you find the right path.
Woman decorating cake

In this economy it may seem crazy to change careers, but it is totally doable. Perhaps you lost your job and are looking for a new direction, or maybe you have a job but dread going to work each morning.

Whatever the case, moving into a new professional field is challenging, but also exciting and invigorating. Take your time, plan out your steps and follow these seven tips to success.

Soul search

The first step is to figure out why you want to leave your current field and, more importantly, determine what it is you want to do. Are you just frustrated with your current job or the entire field? Do you want to go in a slightly different direction or make a total 180?

Read about these risky career moves that work >>

Do research

Once you have determined what field you would like to enter, start doing research. Decide exactly what you would like to do within that field. Maybe you know you love food and want to do something in the culinary arts, but look at the different careers out there and decide if you want to be a baker, personal chef, caterer, blogger, journalist, producer, recipe developer, etc. Then do even more research into that specific field: Who are the major players? What kinds of jobs are available? What skills do they look for?

Network

Reach out to anyone and everyone you know. Use social networks like Facebook and Twitter, as well as traditional family and community networks to find people in the field who might be willing to talk to you. Learn what you can about the field from anyone who is in it. Get a mentor if you can. Talk to other career changers. You never know what piece of information, or which person, may be your ticket to your new dream job.

Check out these stay-at-home mom resume tips >>

Update your resume

Once you know what kinds of jobs you are going to be applying for, it’s time to update your resume. Although you are changing careers, all of your past experience is important, so think about what skills are transferable. Maybe an aspect of your old career will even give you a unique edge with your new one. Keep your interview in mind and try to sell yourself. Your resume should be clean and concise, and should spell out what you bring to the table, why you want to switch careers and why people should hire you.

Get experience

One of the most challenging things about changing careers is updating your skill set. If you don’t have the necessary experience or skills, get them. Volunteer, intern and/or take classes. Showing that you are committed to improving yourself will reflect well. In addition, doing these things may help you get your foot in the door.

Be flexible

Changing careers is not easy at first, so even if you were at the top of your field and making six figures, that may not translate immediately to your new career. Be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up and to take a salary cut. You may not land your dream job right away, but can always be working toward it.

Be practical and patient

Take one thing at a time and be organized. Make a list. If possible, don’t quit your job immediately so that you can save up and continue paying your bills. Or maybe you’ll need to wait tables at night so you can afford volunteering at your dream organization during the day. Remember that it will take time, and a lot of work, but if you are working toward doing something that you love, it will all be worth it. You can do it!

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