Changing Careers

Starting any career can be scary, but especially if you’re thinking about moving into a different industry. Career changes can happen at any point in your life, whether you’ve worked professionally, or you graduate from college knowing that you want to do something other than your major. The decision to change paths can be a scary one, because it requires not only changing your life plan, but also figuring out how to sell your best qualities when your experience is in a different field. This scares many people away from making switches, because they don’t understand how to apply their skills from another industry to the one they want. Don’t let fear keep you from making the right career decision for your life. Here are some tips to help make the process less scary:


Why You’re Making a Switch

When you are thinking about changing careers, it is important to understand why you are making the change, as this will inform your decisions, and it will be the first thing employers want to know. Why do you want to leave your current field? Are you unsatisfied with your current job, or do you not see a future for yourself? Is it about lifestyle or work requirements?

Understanding why you are making the move can not only help you find the courage to leave your current industry, but it can also help you make a better decision about the field you decide to work in. It’s difficult to know what you will like or dislike about a job until you try it, but your experience will tell you exactly what you don’t like, and you can find something more suitable.

How to Talk about It

Once you know why you’re leaving, you will have to think about how you will talk about your decision. No matter what your qualifications are, the first question in any employer’s mind will be why you are leaving your current industry. You need to be comfortable talking about it in a way that emphasizes your good points and demonstrates a genuine interest in this new field.

One worry employers might have is that if you’ve changed fields before, you might change fields or jobs again. Most employers want to invest in employees they can work with for a long time, so you will need to focus on why that industry didn’t suit your talents, and how this one will meet your needs instead of how unhappy you were at your old job.

Anytime you talk with an employer about your previous job, you want to be positive. That sounds difficult, since there are negative aspects that are influencing your decision, but no potential employer wants to hear you bash your previous employer. An easy way to navigate this tricky situation is to talk about what you gained from the job, and how it helped you learn that it wasn’t the right fit for you. For example:

“I am grateful for my time at this corporation, because it taught me valuable project management skills, but it also taught me that my passion is in nonprofit work. I think I am better suited to the nonprofit environment, and I am passionate about your organization’s work. The skills I learned at this corporation will easily translate into my role at this organization.”

Notice how this example explains the reason for leaving while staying positive about previous experience and explaining how it can help the transition to another field.

Sometimes employers will want to ask more questions about the specifics of your situation, and that’s okay as long as you don’t dwell on the bad parts of the job. It is respectable to say that you want to make a move because you are more passionate about another field, or that the lifestyle didn’t work for you, or that your expectations were different from the realities of the job. It is not reasonable to say that you disliked your boss, or you hated the job, since neither of those options answers the question of why you need to change fields.

How to Prove Your Experience

One problem career-changers run into is that it can be difficult to describe how your work experience translates to a new job, but being a little creative often solves this problem. Sure, your ability to write sales reports may not be the same as writing a grant, but it is professional writing experience for specific audiences, and employers will see the connection. You may not have lead a large team in a large corporation, but you experience as shift leader in a restaurant is similar.

It is important to remember to keep examples high in scope when trying to express how other job duties are related. This means that you want to talk about examples of times when your work involved multiple steps or had a large impact on many people, rather than day-to-day tasks. You should also look for examples of experience that show universal traits that companies want in employees, such as your ability to work on difficult projects, how you handle hard decisions, or how you gather information from multiple sources effectively.

When all else fails, try to earn extra qualifications in the field you want to work in, like additional certifications or degrees, or branch out in your personal activities.


An excellent resource when changing industries is someone who already works in the field, because they can tell you about the requirements of the job and what employers want. They can also answer questions about jobs to ensure you know what working in your new field is like. Career resource centers are also helpful, because they can help you tailor your resume and cover letter towards a new industry and practice speaking about your decision to switch fields.

Peggy Carouthers

Author: Peggy Carouthers

In a previous life Peggy worked as a human resources and hiring manager for a major national retail chain. Her expertise is in job hunting, hiring, and HR. These days Peggy works as a writer, crafting content for a range of publications.
Peggy Carouthers