Considering starting a second career? You aren’t alone.

The average Millennial will change jobs four times before they turn 32, nearly double that of the previous generation, and many of those changes are jumps to entirely new industries. By their side are millions of retirees coming back to the workforce for encore careers. With the growth of technology, freelancing and entirely new job descriptions, more people than ever are re-entering the workforce or reinventing themselves with switching careers.

However, just because more people are doing it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily any easier. Starting a second career can be daunting, especially if you’ve been out of the workforce or are trying something completely different than anything you’ve ever done before. Here are some things you should know to transition into your new career with ease and make the most of your new opportunity.

Find the right fit.

Starting a second career isn’t something that should be taken lightly, so before you take the plunge, make sure you’re doing something that is a good fit for your skills, interests and schedule. Consider what you do in your spare time—do you have a hobby that can be turned into a business or other interests that could translate to a new career? For example, someone who comes home from work and goes straight to reading might enjoy a career in publishing or literature, while someone who spends all their spare time at the gym could thrive as a personal trainer or coach. Making a career change will be best if it's for  something that fulfills you. Think about what inspires you and brings you purpose, and then look at potential careers in those areas. Take your time to consider your options and talk with a career counselor or friends and family.  

Keep your expectations in check.

When starting a second career, it can be easy to expect things to be exactly the same as you left them, especially if you’re coming back to a career after some time off. However, the rapid growth of technology means programs and best practices from even just a decade ago are now obsolete. You might have visions of being able to adapt and jump back in seamlessly, but that likely won’t happen. Instead of expecting to be able to go right back to your old habits, do your research about current trends and technology in your current industry. Realize that there will likely be an adjustment period and time for you to understand the new company. You might even have to start in a lower position and work your way up again. Lowering your expectations slightly will help you have a better understanding of what is happening and allow you to stay positive with potential hiccups in the road.

Brush up on new skills.

No matter if you’re starting something completely new or coming back after time off, when switching careers, there will almost definitely be things you need to re-learn and refresh. You don’t necessarily have to go back to college and get a new degree, but it can be incredibly beneficial to take applicable classes from a community college, library, or trade school to learn about the programs and required skills of your new career. Take advantage of online classes to give you the most updated skills. Anyone can say they are a quick learner—to succeed when starting a second career, you’ll need to show your adaptability and come to the table with an understanding of the new skills required. Being able to add proficiency in industry-leading programs to your resume will help put your job application on top of the pile and give you the knowledge you need to succeed in a new career.

Build a strong network.

Jumping into making a career change means you likely need to expand your professional network. You’ll likely be competing for jobs with people who have extensive networks in your industry. One of the best ways to make connections that can turn into a new job is to join professional networking groups, either in person or online. If you’re making the leap to real estate, find a real estate group in your area or build connections through groups on LinkedIn. New contacts can not only answer questions and guide you through a new industry, but can also help you make connections with potential employers. You’ll also gain different perspectives about the current state of the industry and be able to get an inside look at your new career before you jump in. You can also leverage network connections for volunteer or contracted positions in your new career before you officially make the switch. Try a small contract position with a technical writing company before you decide if a full-time career is right for you. If it is, then you already have work experience in the industry.

Use a break or change to your advantage.

It might feel like you are behind the curve if you’re coming back to work or starting a second career, but use that break to your advantage and as a way to set you apart. Expect that you’ll be asked about your work history during a job interview, especially if there are large gaps, and be prepared with a strategic answer. If you’re switching careers and changing industries, look for similarities between the two careers and market your background as giving you a unique perspective that many other employees won’t have. Moving from finance to law, for example, could give you unique financial insights into legal matters. If you’re coming back to work after a long-term illness, raising kids, or retirement, point out experiences you had in those years that can be helpful in your new career. You can also emphasize the fresh perspective you bring by not being jaded from years in the industry.

Have a financial plan.

While switching careers is possible, it often doesn’t happen with a smooth transition from one job to another. In the meantime, you may have to take a pay cut to gain experience or have unsteady income while you look for a job in your new career. If you know a career change is on the horizon, prepare by creating a budget and a financial plan of how to live with limited income. Building the habits before you jump to a new career can make it easier during the uncertain transition period.

Embarking on a new career can be incredibly beneficial to your work and personal life, but it doesn’t come without risks. Prepare yourself and be ready for the uncharted territory of a new career.

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