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Four Tips for Changing Careers

Get advice from leading career specialists

Are you thinking that it's time to take steps toward a new career? Here are four things to consider.

1. Be thoughtful.

No matter how frustrated you are in your current position, don't do anything rash, says Meg Montford, executive career coach with Abilities Enhanced in Kansas City, Missouri. Sometimes stress at home or a milestone birthday causes temporary dissatisfaction.

It's also important to discover not what you want to do but who you are, Montford advises. When she works with a client, "We have to figure out what the person's values are, how they've gotten to where they are, where they have regrets and where they have potential."

After this process, "you will know for sure whether this is something you really want to do or if it's a midlife crisis," she says.

2. Discover your unique talent.

Most people view themselves as ordinary and average. Not true, says Joseph Cavanaugh, president of life coaching company Equip 2 Equip. "Every single human being was intentionally created for a unique calling and purpose in their life," he says.

So ask yourself: What are your God-given talents? Once people realize what they are really good at, and also enjoy doing, discovering what you want to do next often becomes obvious, says Cavanaugh.

3. Do your research.

Once you pinpoint what you'd like to move into, research companies in that industry. If you're targeting a certain company, talk to people who already work there. Do the company's values match yours? "Every company has its own culture," says Montford. "How do you fit into that, and is that a place where you're comfortable?"

You should also figure out the particulars. What is the average salary? Are jobs available in the field? What training or expertise would you need? The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook provides median pay and job outlook data for hundreds of job titles.

4. Put yourself out there.

When Thrivent Financial member David Whetter (pictured above) made the transition from division president at a company in Kansas City, Missouri, to pastor at Salem Lutheran Church in Lenexa, Kansas, it came with uncertainties and setbacks. Still, Whetter persevered.

"Courage is something you obtain as you move forward," he says. "If you sit back, you get paralyzed. Find the guts to do one thing. And with each step, there is joy from a sense of accomplishment."

Changing careers requires putting your name – and ego – on the line. "Remember the good old days when you were dating?" Montford says. "[Dates] didn't come knocking on your door. You had to get out there."

Use LinkedIn to connect with people doing the work you want to do, says Montford. Join local professional groups to meet with people face-to-face. "You have to build relationships and you have to take risks," Montford says. "You have to collect your set of no's before you get to a yes."

And when you do get a job offer in that new career, how will you know it's right for you? "Everything lines up," says Montford. "It feels good."

Thinking about a career change? Learn about opportunities at Thrivent (Link opens in new window).

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