According to Louis Pasteur, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” This is especially true for those wanting to make a career transition. Opportunity, in addition to chance, also favors those who are prepared and persevere. Preparing for a career transition may seem obvious—my résumé and cover letter look great, I’m ready, right? Not quite. Your quest will likely also require preparation and perseverance.
To prepare for your next career move, self-awareness is crucial. Conduct an honest self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. Where will you be able to hit the ground running? Where will there be a longer learning curve? Whether it is a promotion with your current employer, or a new role in a different industry that you aspire to, take stock of where you are and where you want to be, by asking yourself the following: What transferable skills, interests and experience do you have that will be valued and sought after in the new job?
The second step that is crucial to your career preparedness is in understanding the skills, education, experiences and personality traits that are sought after for this type of position. What is your employer, boss or new company looking for when seeking highly qualified candidates? Researching companies, connecting with others in that position or similar roles will help to answer those questions. Also reflect upon the following: Is it a wide or narrow space between where you are and where you want to be? Brushing up on skills through a training class may be all that is required to make the move you hope to make. If additional experience is required, is it experience that can be gained through your current role or perhaps through volunteering? For example, if you wish to move into a financial position, are there tasks at your present company that you can take on to gain additional experience in that area? Perhaps a community organization needs volunteers for its finance committee that would give you resume-building experience. Or at your current place of work, perhaps there are in-between roles that will lead to that senior director or vice president role you seek.
As part of your preparation, building relationships with others who are doing the work you want to be doing is another important part of career preparedness. Professional relationships can support you in your next career move through providing information, support or connecting you with others in the field. This includes those who are familiar with your work and who can provide you with candid feedback. Whether connecting in person or virtually or through LinkedIn, are you prepared for those opportunities when they present themselves?
Finally, perseverance is just as important as preparedness in a successful career transition. Recognize that some career transitions take longer than others. Moving upward or laterally within the same company or industry to a position where you possess most of the requisite skills, education and experiences generally takes less time than moving to a completely new position in a different industry. Individuals who successfully navigate a career reinvention often persevere in the face of challenges.
Devoting the time and energy to the transition you want to make day after day, even when it seems as if no progress is being made is critical. A willingness to add new skills to your tool kit, build new professional alliances and the ability to step back, re-assess and adapt the plan when needed and not give up—that’s the kind of perseverance needed to make that successful career transition.
Rachel Loock is a career and executive coach with the Executive MBA program at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. She is a frequent presenter on career-related topics with MBA and working professional audiences.