If 2015 finds you dreaming of a career change, you’re not alone. Eighty-six percent of job seekers who are already employed are looking for work outside their current occupations, according to research reported by Fortune, and a 2013 Harris poll found that more than half of U.S. workers want to change careers. While the timing can never be perfect for a major life transition, the job market is improving and unemployment is at its lowest level since mid-2008. Why not consider a change?
Many successful people have changed careers. Condoleezza Rice planned to become a concert pianist and then entered academia before becoming Secretary of State. Best-selling novelist John Grisham practiced law for about a decade. Designer Josie Natori spent nine years as a banker on Wall Street.
I believe in reinvention and have some experience at it. I spent 17 years in the fashion industry before starting a career in executive search and then launching my own executive talent solutions firm. Here are a few principles of reinvention that have helped me:
Welcome change. It can be hard to take a nontraditional path, and you may need to put more effort into generating opportunities. But it only takes one opportunity to start a new career, so keep going through rejections and make the most of every chance that comes your way. I once landed a job offer while flying home from an overseas business trip. A corporate CEO was sitting on the aisle right across from me, and we basically talked about business for 13 hours. At the end of the flight, he gave me his card and said, “I want you to come work for me.” Don’t let fear of change keep you in the wrong place.
Seek input. People who know you well may see possibilities that you don’t yet recognize. Before I changed careers, I knew I wanted something different but didn’t know what. I asked people I respected for guidance, and they kept saying the same things: “you’d be great in search”; “you know so many people”; “you are so well connected”. One day, a light bulb went on, and I saw my next career. I have loved this work from my first day on my first job in this industry, and I thank the colleagues, friends and family members who pointed me in the right direction.
Give yourself time. If you’re a golfer, you know that patience pays off, and this principle applies to career change as well. For me, the process of identifying a new career took seven months. Keep at it, understanding that some days will be better than others. You may not currently have every skill you’ll need, but if you have a drive for success, tenacity and a willingness to work hard, you’ll be hard to stop.