The 7 Most Common Career Change Obstacles — and How to Overcome Every Single One

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April 14, 2024 at 4:45AM UTC
Change is exactly that — something new and different. But that doesn’t make it bad or even uncomfortable. Change can be exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling, especially when you’re making a career change.
Unlike changing jobs within the same career field, career changers jump onto a completely different path.
This change creates new experiences and new requirements. While these may seem like career change obstacles, there are ways to overcome them and find career change success!

7 common career change obstacles

1. Building a new network

Most established professionals have a strong professional network to rely on when they look for a new job. Career changers may think their current network is a career change obstacle because it likely has few—if any—connections to their new field.
Tip: Don’t discard your current network quite yet. Tap into it and see if your existing connections know any professionals in your new career field they can connect you with. Then, grow your new network by reaching out to other sources, like professional or alumni organizations, to help you meet people in your new field.
Finally, get active on social media. Join groups on LinkedIn and follow companies and professionals on Twitter to help you stay informed about your new field and possibly lead you to new openings.

2. Being too old

If you think age is a career change obstacle, think again! Age is just a number, as some famous career changers show, so don’t ever think it’s too late to change careers.
Tip: Check out the FlexJobs guides to changing careers in your 30s, 40s, 50s, and even during retirement for guidance and inspiration!

3. Starting over

If you’ve been a software developer for 20 years and you now want to be an English teacher, there will be a significant shift in the amount of experience you have.
For the most part, making a career change means you start over. And while that likely means taking an entry-level position, it could also mean going back to school or taking on unpaid work to gain experience.
Tip: Once you’ve settled on a career change, seek out mentors and informational interviews to help you learn more about your new career path and what skills you need to gain to help achieve career success.
Then, look at volunteer organizations or consider an internship to help you gain and hone those skills. You could even try freelancing for a while. At the end of the day, experience is experience, whether it’s paid or not.

4. Irrelevant skills

Just because you are moving your career path into a different area doesn’t mean you have to completely abandon all of your skills or that the skills you already possess have no value where you’re going.
Tip: Make a list of your current hard and soft skills. Then, determine what skills you need in your new career. Not sure how to figure that out? Start by looking at job descriptions to see what skills are mentioned most often.
Cross-reference these lists and determine which of the skills you currently have are transferable to your new field. Highlight these skills on your resume so a potential employer knows you’ve got skills like problem-solving, creativity, and other abilities you’ll need to get the job done.

5. Employer risk

When it comes to changing careers, you’re not the only person taking a risk—the employer is too. Not only do you often lack the necessary experience, employers sometimes wonder if career changers are truly dedicated to the new field.
Tip: In addition to highlighting your transferable skills, demonstrate to the employer that you are serious about your career change. Start by mentioning what you’ve already done to make this career change a reality (education, internships, volunteering, etc.). If you know someone who works at the company, use them as a referral (with their permission) to help vouch for your seriousness about the new field.

6. Money matters

As mentioned above, when you make a career change, you’re often starting over at the bottom of the career ladder, which usually means a pay cut. And unfortunately, pay cuts are often a major career change obstacle that gets in the way.
Tip: Create a career change budget to help you adjust to your new pay rate while transitioning to your new career field. This may mean making some financial adjustments (building an emergency fund, sticking to a budget, paying down debt) before you change careers. But making the changes now will benefit you in the long run when you shift career gears.

7. It’s been a long time

Maybe it’s been a few years (or more!) since you looked for a job in your current field. As a result, you’re nervous about how the job search has changed no matter what field you’re looking in!
Tip: While it’s true that searching for a job has undergone some dramatic changes in the last decade or so, some things remain the same. So while you may not include “references available upon request” on your resume anymore, writing a thank-you note after a job interview is still very much in style.

Change is…

A career change is exciting, thrilling, an adventure…anything you want it to be! So don’t let these career change obstacles get in the way of your new path. Creating a career change action plan will help you overcome these career change obstacles and connect with the new career of your dreams.
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