Career Advice

Career Change: How to Orchestrate It Right

career change

Every one of us has thought about a career change at least once in their lives for one reason or another. But you may wonder just how many people have actually gone with orchestrating their transition, especially later in life?Well, we’ve got some interesting data about that, along with a guide, detailing just how you should go about changing careers. Let’s dig in!

How Often Do People Change Careers?

Taking a U-turn in your career may seem like a fun thing to do in your late 20s or early 30s. In fact, it’s what most people do on the way to meeting the ultimate career goals.  

Changing careers at 40 or later in life may seem more taxing. After all, you may feel intimidated by the fact that you’ll need to compete with 20-somethings for the same positions or incur a pay cut when you have a family to support, as well as a mortgage to pay.  

So is it weird to crave a midlife career change or plan for one even earlier? Not at all as a recent Indeed survey revealed!  

  • 49% of employers made a major career shift at least once.
  • 79% of respondents ditched old roles because they wanted a higher wage. 
  • 77% chose another field because they wanted more challenges and opportunities for advancements/career progression.
  • 81% wanted to start a new career because they felt unhappy in their last role.

What this data is telling us is this: people decide to change careers more often than you think. It’s a perfectly sane thing to do even if you have spent the past two decades polishing one skill set over another. 

For instance, one of the speakers of a Career Relaunch podcast spent 25 years working as a telephone repairman found the courage to sign up for a  shoe design class (with 20-year-olds) and later get accepted to a prestigious Polimoda Fashion Institute in Florence, Italy for further education. How’s that for a change?

How to Make a Career Change: Your Game Plan 

Career change decisions don’t come easy, that’s certain. The aforementioned Indeed survey says that career shifters spend 11 months on average, contemplating and orchestrating their career change decision. So don’t rush with writing a resignation letter and filing it to your boss, either. 

Instead, take your time to create a transition plan for yourself with checkpoints, deadlines, and deliverables. Here’s what it should include.

An Honest Personal and Professional Assessment 

Before you go all ballistic with your job search, have a quick sit down session with yourself and try to identify the new direction you’d like to take. Get to know yourself and prioritize your own needs. Knowing exactly what you want to do next and why you want to do it can save you heaps of time and nerves when it will come to job hunting.

take time to think

Here are several things you absolutely must resolve before moving forward with your career change:

  • Think about all things that currently make you unhappy in your role. What changes could bring you more day-to-day joy? What are your priorities for a new career — better pay, more fulfillment, new challenges, etc?  
  • Consider if your true ‘passion’ can be turned into a profitable and sustainable career. You may love ice skating, but perhaps doing the thing professionally will kill your affinity towards this, 
  • Conduct a skills inventory. List your core technical skills and competencies. See how they align with your target career. Also, try to figure out what are some of the transferable skills that you could bring to the new role. 
  • Jot down your new career objectives, along with your ultimate career goals in the new field. 

Remember: you should be brutally honest with yourself about your actual needs and wants. 

A Detailed Glance Sideways 

The purpose of the previous step is to help you figure out if a career change is really what you need. 

After all, it’s a major and challenging decision that goes with some risks i.e. you may need to take a pay cut or go back to school, or even end up in yet another job that you don’t like.

So before you commit with moving on to another field, ponder over the next career change alternatives:

  • See if your employer offers any options for horizontal career growth 
  • Consider changing teams, divisions, or departments within your company 
  • Give your dream job a try as a part-time side-hustle (if feasible)

A List of Small, Daily Tasks 

Our brain is wired to go into immediate panic mode whenever presented with a large, complex task. So you get anxious, nervous, and procrastinate on whatever it is that you are attempting.

make a list of small tasks

Thus, to avoid feeling paralyzed with your career change decision, focus on doing one small thing at a time, every single day. 

Open your daily planner and jot down several quick tasks that you’ll do every day as part of your gradual transition. For example: 

  • Researching relevant workshops, evening classes, or certification programs. 
  • Emailing a contact or a referral, working in the field you want to break in. 
  • Researching required job qualifications and skills 
  • Learning new software, tools, and apps. 
  • Volunteering activities or part-time gigs that can help you get the necessary experience. 

Break down your ‘career change’ project into a set of daily tasks that allow you to make consistent progress daily. 

Your Career Change Resume

Spend a weekend to work on your new resume. If you are planning to go after an entirely new job type, it’s best to forgo the classic chronological resume format in favor of a combination resume, suited best for career changes! Here’s why:

  • It lets you highlight your skills and experiences, rather than career progression.
  • It also somewhat conceals your lack of experience in the field. 

Again, you should not rush to pen the perfect career change resume from the first try. Work in iterations and update your doc as you learn more about the industry, key requirements, and employee expectations. 

A New Resume Summary for Career Change

A resume summary is a short statement sitting atop your resume that demonstrates your main skills, experiences, and abilities. Think of it as a preview teaser to your resume.  

Writing a strong resume summary is especially important for career changers as this quick paragraph can succinctly explain why you are going after a job that is different from what you did before. 

Coming up with a new resume summary may seem challenging, but in reality — it’s not. Every resume can be spun in different ways. Let’s use our Public Relationships resume example and create several different types of resume summaries for it. 

The Original:

An experienced, driven PR professional who takes a proactive approach to build digital PR campaigns for direct-to-consumer startups and food brands. Core competencies include: media outreach (secured coverage in Forbes, NYT, TechCrunch, etc.), reputation management, viral video production, and crisis communications

PR => Digital Marketing 

Online communications specialists with great competencies in media outreach, organic coverage acquisition (contacts in Forbes, NYT, TechCrunch), ORM, and online video marketing. Key skills include social media marketing, video marketing, and production, growth marketing, organic link acquisition. 

PR => Copywriting 

Former PR manager with strong journalism skills and knowledge in content marketing. Created scripts for viral videos, penned ghostwritten stories that were published in Forbes, NYT, TechCrunch, and wrote creating social media copy for food brands. Portfolio available at [Your portfolio URL].

PR => Sales 

Former PR specialist for DTC food brands with strong knowledge of omnichannel commerce and digital customer acquisition channels. Capable of translating online media coverage and social media buzz into actual sales. Certified in Grow Faster with CRM at Salesforce. 

Your Career Change Cover Letter

Last, but not least comes to a banging career change cover letter that further explains your motivation for going into a new field or industry and commenting on how your past skills can be applied to the new job. 

You can check out a detailed career change cover letter example (with some extra tips) on our sister website!

Final Tip:

Network Like There Is No Tomorrow Use your networking skills to put the word out about your career change. You never know – there may be someone already in your network that already knows of a perfect job opening for you, but unless they know you are looking to switch careers, they won’t think to mention it to you. So start asking around your network and then cast your net beyond it! 

This article has been originally published on July 16, 2018 and has been extensively revised and updated on November 18, 2020.


  • Elena Prokopets

    Elena runs content operations at Freesumes since 2017. She works closely with copywriters, designers, and invited career experts to ensure that all content meets our highest editorial standards. Up to date, she wrote over 200 career-related pieces around resume writing, career advice... more

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