3 Key Focus Areas When Changing Careers

One of the scariest times in your career can be realizing you are so discontent in your position that you lose focus on your career goals. Or, you don’t even know what they are anymore. It could be that your work no longer lines up with your values and leaves you constantly frustrated.

Whatever the case, if you are at this point in your career, you know you need a change. But you can feel overwhelmed while wondering how to do it.

My Story

In 2015, I created a career vision that had me rocketing to the top ranks within my company. I had completed several leadership programs and been promoted to high-visibility positions. I worked on high-impact company projects, and I worked with my management team to document a career path that took me all the way to corporate headquarters. Less than a year later, I was planning my exit from that same company.

My personal disruption came in the form of constant low energy and poor mental and physical health. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed in the world of “do more with less,” and it had definitely taken its toll on me.

But that disruption allowed me to gain clarity on what I wanted to do in my career and what type of impact I wanted to have. My first instinct was not transitioning to government from the private sector. Working for local government had never crossed my mind. However, once I understood my values and my needs versus my wants, I was shocked I had never considered a government career before.

The thought of changing industries or sectors can be scary. And, honestly, that’s okay. I was very intentional about making my career change and was still apprehensive about moving forward.

Here are the key areas of focus that were important in my transition.

What’s your disruptor?

My disruptor was very personal – I couldn’t continue to function with low energy or poor health. Your disruptor is going to be your own. It could be that your “must-have” – insurance, for example – is removed. Or, it could be that your work and values are misaligned. Whatever it is, your disruptor is your own, and you should consider it as you’re building your plan to switch careers. Will the disruptor still be an issue if you switch? Is there any way to mitigate your disruptor from occurring again? This was a key focus for me when choosing what to do next.

Adding “why” to your to-do list

While making my plan to leave my former company, I knew I had to network in the nonprofit and government sectors based on my research. But making a to-do list or a calendar of events was not enough to provide full clarity. I wanted to make sure I made the right contacts at each event and that I learned something valuable about the sector. I found that adding the “why” to my list helped me connect the action back to the values I had identified. This made my networking more intentional and helped me gain focus on my career plan. If you are a values-based leader, add your guiding value to each task. Any helpful information you can add to your to-do list will add intention and focus towards your goal.

Focus on the transferrable skills

For me, the key to changing sectors was focusing on the skills I had that would apply to government. Of course, I had to take the specifics of the job description into account. However, the biggest skill I focused on was my ability to learn new concepts quickly. Also, giving examples of my projects that highlighted universal skills helped me be successful. Every organization does some form of project management, budget review or data use, so I focused on telling my work history using those universal skills and common language.

Changing careers can be intimidating. Getting centered on your personal goals, values and the impact you want to have is important in leading you to a more fulfilling career.

Carmen Moreno-Rivera is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She brings more than 15 years of engineering, operations and process improvement experience to her role as Chief of Performance Improvement for Louisville Metro Government. She leads the organization’s strategic and resiliency planning efforts, performance management program, system design, and complex projects that focus on community impact and an efficient and effective government.

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