By Erin Gahagan, Business Development Representative, Blackbaud

2018 was a year of change! After four years as a teacher, I decided it was time to leave the profession for which I was trained and begin pursuing a career in sales. Despite my success as an educator, I discovered there was no easy path to this transition.

While there was no “easy button,” with effort and persistence I successfully made this transition and am now enjoying a new career with a company I love. Below are the top six steps that helped set me up for success.

1) Become self-aware.

Choosing a different career path or leaving behind a job you were once so passionate about creates emotional upheaval, so it is important to process why you want to change careers. Consider what motivates you and how you like to work (environment, task vs people oriented, etc).

2) Network, network, network.

The book What Color is Your Parachute? explains clearly that if you’re the hiring manager, the best-case scenario is to hire someone you know closely. The least-preferred route is to sort through hundreds of candidates via an online job search tool such as Indeed or Glassdoor.

For this reason, networking is a huge asset as you look to transition. Not only will you get to know more people in the industry of interest, but it shows your willingness to take initiative.

3) Every connection matters.

Even if the person who wants to go to coffee isn’t involved in the industry of your desire, you never know who they know. Every new connection can move you a step closer to what you’re pursuing.

Even if that coffee or lunch date is a dead end, you’ve most likely gained a new nugget of knowledge. Also, consider that the next job you accept may not be thejob, but it’s the job that lands you in a position for future roles within a company you’re excited about joining.[

4) Find community.

It can be extremely discouraging to go back to the drawing board of career choices. At times, it may feel like you’re simply a mouse on a wheel. However, if you can find a community of other individuals going through something similar, not only can they provide advice, but they can also be avenues for networking.

For me, this community came in the form of ReStart, and I’ll be forever grateful for the tools provided me in my time of transition.

5) Rehearse your elevator speech.

Have your “elevator speech” prepared, because you can rest assured someone will ask you why you’re leaving your current job and what your career goals are for the future.

6) Document your accomplishments.

Make a list of your accomplishments to date and look for overall trends and themes within that list. This will help you see an overall picture of the value and skills you bring to an organization that are transferable to a variety of roles. This is also useful content when building your “elevator speech.”

Originally published on Ellevate.

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