new careerSwitching up your career can be a challenge. You may be thinking about possible pay changes, needing new training, and worse – the search for a new job in a completely new field.

NEW-CAREERI know, I have changed careers several times in my life. I went from retail sales to the US Army. When I got out of the service I used my personnel skills I learned as an Office Manager then went into data entry while at University.

From there I took a 75% pay cut to follow my dream of working in the Graphic Design field. I was in school for Advertising and the corporate data entry job was not in line with my dream.

I found this part time $8 an hour part time job as a production assistant at a real estate magazine across town. I took the leap. And it was a big one. My husbands income was enough for us to live on, and within 18 months I worked my way up to assistant publisher. It was my dream and I had the hustle.

You don’t have to make that kind of leap just yet. You can start by testing out your new career field, and get your feet a little wet first.

Here are some easy-to-apply tips to help you sample out your new career before taking the steps to change for good.

Test out a New Career

1. Intern.
Internships are not just for grads! There are people in all stages of their career that use an internship to gain new job skills in a new career field. There are programs like AmeriCorps and Encore Fellowships that offer special slots for people age 55 or older, so you can’t use the excuse “I’m too old.”

2. Volunteer.
Volunteer your time to get your foot in the door to a new career. Research different organizations that will give you skills relevant to the career  you are wanting to test out.

3. Use your time off.
Plan your time off from your current work to get a short term position in a new field. You could even check out temp agencies where you can get short term assignments – the perfect way to test the waters.

4. Freelance.
Freelance work is great way to try out a new field, and it is often easier to get contract work for a project than to be hired on full time.

5. Go part time job.
You could even keep your day job and find part time weekend or evening work trying out a new field.

6. Leverage a hobby.
Use your skills you have gained as a hobby toward your new career. For instance, give your friends a good deal on using you as their wedding photographer. It could be the start of a new career.

7. Use your current job
Use your current job to learn new skills by taking on more responsibilities or new projects.

Additional Suggestions

1. Keep your money in check.
Switching careers can change your income, at least at first. Plan ahead and look for ways to cut expenses, get your bills down and pay off some debt before you take the leap. Saving a chunk a money can help too! Not having to worry about finances will make the switch easier.

2. Inventory of your skills.
You maybe underestimating what you know. Take an inventory of all the skills you have, even ones you haven’t used in a while. Many skills are transferable. If you’re good with numbers, you may be able to move from financial planning to tutoring kids in math.

3. Continue your training and education.
Stay competitive and enhance your job prospects with lifelong learning. There are community programs and online resources that can help you gain new skills and help your career goals.

4. Expand your network.
Start talking to more people, and not just online. Go to local chamber meetings, or business mixers and meet new people from different backgrounds. The more people you can talk to that are outside of your normal sphere of influence the better chance you have of meeting people that can help make your career change a go. If you don’t let people know about wanting to change careers no one can help you.

5. Gather references.
Think of people you have worked with on projects outside of your main job. You can get recommendations and references from anyone that you have done work with, even volunteer work, projects for your children’s activities or other community evolvement.

6. Your accomplishments.
Keep a list of all of your projects and the results you achieved. Keep samples of your work and create your own portfolio, proving what you can do can make you stand out. Experience can come from outside your current 9-5.

7. Keep an open mind.
And most importantly, think about what you love to do, what you are good at, what you can see yourself doing and what they suggest for your work. Think of a career change as realigning your life’s work.

Never feel that you are stuck in a job or even in a career field. If you are not happy with where you are, or you are just ready to make a change you can. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how long you have been doing the same thing. All that matters is that you are ready for a change and ready to take the first steps to make it happen.

You deserve the life of your dreams, and that includes doing work you love right now!

Changing careers is possible and completely doable for YOU.