The Career-Change Journey: Part 3

By Jeff Altman, The BigGame Hunter

Originally Published on

career change

In Part 1 and Part 2 of our journey, we took the first and second look at what thoughts you had about changing careers. Now it’s time to test your hypothesis with people and situations where you can see whether your thoughts about that career are valid.

Most people, they have a notion of what it’s like to work in a new field that, usually, is not based upon reality. It’s based upon fantasy or observing people who are doing that kind of work and listening to a few things from them about what their job is like. If they are like most people, they dramatize the good points and the bad points of what their work is like.

Here’s what you can do.

1. Immerse yourself in training.

Classes will give you an idea of the fundamentals of the work that you will be doing. It will be the baseline from which you will build. It’s important to know the fundamentals before committing to the transition. You don’t have to take classes at a university. There are many online programs that you can attend for free or for very little money to learn the basics.

I know when I began my transition from executive search to coaching, I did formal training at a coaching school in order to close gaps in my knowledge and learn the fundamentals of what might be my new career.

One thing I realized pretty quickly is that I learned how to be a coach, but I needed to learn the business of coaching separately from the process of being a coach. You may have a similar epiphany in your chosen career and may need to find people to help you with that.

There are organizations that may welcome you despite your limited knowledge and experience. Volunteering gives you an opportunity to try out new fields, get experience and add something to your résumé that a potential employer can tap into about your commitment and experience. It also allows you an opportunity to build expertise on top of any training that you have taken by giving you a chance to put into practice what you’ve learned.

Marla volunteered with a not-for-profit organization and from her experience there learned that social work was not really something she wanted to do. To me, that’s just as much of a win as when Julio volunteered with a photographer to work as an assistant and learned that he really liked working on shoots.

2. Try doing your new career on the side or part-time.

There are sites that you can sell your services on where you can pick up side work so that you have a sense of what it’s like to serve someone else doing the kind of work that you want to be doing. For now, don’t worry about rates. This is about getting an idea of what it is like doing the kind of work that you hope to be doing.

Jack was someone who liked the idea of working in the back of the house of a restaurant. From his experience doing part-time work, he decided to go to culinary school to learn the fundamentals of his new profession.

3. Set up conversations with previously-spoken-with people that are deeper and more textured than what you have done up until this point.

Once you have started dabbling in the new field, you will develop a higher class of questions than you had at the beginning of your journey. Instead of a short conversation, ask for more time to go into more in-depth ones. What I found in my journey as I progressed from “baby steps” and “baby questions” to much more sophisticated questions is that it allowed me to know what I was stepping into.

4. Is there a way to put yourself in proximity with people who are doing this kind of work, even if you can’t fully make the transition now?

Some of you work in organizations where what you want to do is going on, but you’re not doing it. Can you transfer into a support role where you have proximity to people doing the work? Can you find a way to add value to people in the group so they get to know, like, trust and respect you? Can you learn something from proximity to the work that you want to do that will help you to transition fully, even if it’s in another organization? Access to day-to-day information and experiences may entice you to make the break with your past and step into your future.

As I pointed out in Part 1, take your time. Act as if you’re a scientific researcher exploring a new domain with which few in the world have any experience. Learn what you need to learn, and then put your toe in the water to find out whether it’s icy or warm.

This may take months or years. As long as you are taking small, incremental steps in the right direction, collecting data and experiences as you go along, you will find a moment where you move into your new career or recalibrate and look for something else.

If you decide to recalibrate, that is a victory, not a defeat. After all, you have learned something that you don’t want to do without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in education and years of your life.

Best of all, you now have a process to employ to investigate your next option.

Good luck! Keep moving forward!


Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2020, 2021 



Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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