How to Prepare for a Career Change: Step-By-Step Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn more about how to prepare for a career change and reach your potential.

[Imagen destacada] Un padre sentado en un escritorio con su bebé en brazos mientras trabaja.

People change careers at all stages of their career journey for a range of reasons, from wanting a more flexible schedule and the ability to work from anywhere, to craving new challenges and more fulfillment. Preparing for change requires some effort, but the payoff can be life-changing.

No matter what career you’re considering transitioning into, it’s important to plan carefully. We’ve put together a detailed list of steps that take you from identifying the motives that drive you, to researching your options, to forming a concrete action plan. By following these steps, you can streamline your process, feel confident in your abilities, and consider multiple career paths with enthusiasm.

How to plan a career change: 5 steps

Consider five key steps as you approach your career change:

  1. Assess your current career.

  2. Clarify your career goals.

  3. Research potential careers.

  4. Research job listings.

  5. Define your course of action.

Let's take a closer look at each step:

1. Assess your current career.

Taking a good look at where you are currently can help you determine the type of changes you want to make. Here are a few questions that may help you gain clarity:

  • How satisfied do you feel in your current role? You may enjoy the daily tasks but see no room for advancement.

  • What are your values, and how does your current job align with them? You may value creativity and free expression and seek more opportunities to explore these in a new role.

  • What is leading you to make a career change? You might crave new challenges, opportunities to pursue your passions, or more flexibility.

  • What are your concerns? Consider if you’ll need special training or education to qualify for a new career. Will you lose some of the job perks you’re currently used to?

As you work through these questions, try to get specific about what you like about your current position and the aspects you feel ready to leave behind.

2. Clarify your career goals.

Getting clear on the details of what you’d like to experience in a new career can help you focus your efforts. Answering these questions can help you describe your ideal career scenario:

  • What kind of lifestyle, flexibility, and work-life balance would you like a career to enable?

  • What skills do you have that you’d like to transfer to another career?

  • What kind of tasks, projects, and initiatives would you like to be involved in?

  • What kind of company would you like to work for? What qualities are you looking for, including size, values, culture, products, and services?

  • What leadership or advancement opportunities would you like to be considered for?

  • What are your salary goals?

3. Research potential careers to shift into.

Based on your career goals, identify two or three potential careers that seem to match your passions and interests and may contribute to the lifestyle you want. 

Start by scouring resources such as Glassdoor and the Government of Canada’s Find a Job platform to gather general information about these careers, including the average salary and projected job growth. With this information, you can determine whether a career path meets your salary expectations and is in demand.

After getting this basic information, set up informational interviews with professionals in the career fields you’re interested in. Doing so can help you build your network and learn first-hand what it’s like to work in a particular industry.

Taking courses in fields you are interested in can be a great way to build your own skills and get hands-on experience in projects or tasks related to a career.

4. Research job listings.

Building upon the general career information you gathered in Step 3, research job listings to get a sense of jobs available in your field of interest and what employers are currently looking for. While you might not be ready to apply for the jobs that come up in your search, think of this step as a great way to focus your career change efforts going forward.

Here are some things you may want to think about when deciding whether a career path is right for you:

  • What kinds of companies have job openings in your desired career?

  • What are the required skills, education, experience, and other qualifications?

  • Which of your skills transfer to these jobs, and what skills gaps will you need to fill?

  • What tasks, projects, and initiatives would you be involved in?

  • What work-life balance will this career offer?

  • How will this career help you enjoy the lifestyle you want?

Before moving to Step 5, assess your feelings about the job skills and responsibilities. A positive sentiment suggests this path suits you, while a negative one might lead you to explore related roles in different fields or industries, as closely related job titles can entail very distinct daily tasks; for instance, data analysts, data scientists, and data engineers may share data but perform vastly different functions.


5. Define your course of action.

With these insights, your next step is determining a course of action. You may find it helpful to organize your insights in a career development plan.

These questions can help you identify tasks to complete as you explore your new career path:

  • What’s your target date for transitioning into a new career?

  • How can you optimize your current schedule to make time for your career change efforts?

  • Who in your network might you ask to offer advice?

  • What volunteer or job shadowing opportunities can you set up to gain experience in the career field you want to enter?

  • How can you update your resume to reflect the new skills and qualifications you’re building?

  • How can you start preparing now for interviews with potential employers and expressing your excitement about the career field you’re entering?

Next steps

Remember that shifting into a new career can take time. With consistent self-reflection and diligent research, you can discover many new opportunities. Start building the skills needed for in-demand careers with a Professional Certificate from industry leaders at companies like Meta, Google, and IBM.

Hear from Stevenson Benoit, a Coursera learner who went from working in a call centre to landing a job as an IT support specialist:

The Google IT Support Professional Certificate helped give me the confidence to apply for IT roles. I don't have the traditional instructional background in the field but my hands-on learning and what I've gained from the Google program propelled me forward. The program introduced me to active directory, cloud technology, and other topics that have proven to be beneficial in my role as an IT Support Specialist.

Read about other Coursera learners who’ve successfully changed their careers here: Asmita Meshram and Emma S.

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