Career Transitions: Why and How People Do It (So You Can Too)

Career-changer. Job-hopper. Resetter. These are just a few terms which get tossed around today to describe those who move from one line of work to another. While the statistics vary based on the source and location polled, it’s clear more people than ever are making major career changes.

Many People Feel Stuck in their Careers

Data published by the Huffington Post concludes that younger workers want to change careers more than anyone else, with 80% of those in their 20s saying they have eyes on other options. Those in their 30s aren’t far behind, with 64% wanting to change careers, and 54% of those in their 40s agreeing. Nearly half of all career changers has a degree, according to Investec, and although people in every age bracket are moving, the average age for recent resetters is 35. “Seasoned resetters,” or those who made a career and lifestyle change, tend to switch careers at age 52.

People Seek Change for Several Reasons

They got bad career advice from the start. Young adults exploring their career options get information from many sources, but they tend to trust the details they get more when it comes from friends and family. Unfortunately, the job landscape has changed so much in recent years that even well-meaning individuals pass on bad info. In a survey carried out by Accountemps, 35% said friends had given them bad advice. Parents, teachers, and career counselors didn’t fare much better, offering bad information to 14%, 10%, and 9% of respondents, respectively.

Advancement opportunities are lacking. Although the issue is a global one, Canadians, in particular, have a had time moving up without making major changes. It takes an average of 12 years to get to the top, per Thinkopolis data, and nearly 90% have to leave their employer to get there.

They don’t feel passionate about the work they do. While people may elect a career for the pay or prestige, is can be difficult to know if the job will actually be enjoyable or be something one feels good about doing every day. Of those polled by Investec, 68% say they changed carriers to work in an area they felt passionate about.

They want to be the boss. Freelancing and entrepreneurship are big draws for career changers. Investec notes that 23% of resetters became freelancers, while 26% started their own businesses.

There is too much or too little work to do. Not surprisingly, many individuals feel overwhelmed by the expectations of their careers or employers. Around 6% of people who change jobs do so in order to have a more balanced workload, per Recruiting Daily research.

They want more financial stability or a higher salary. Recruiting Daily also discovered that, while some leave for monetary reasons, it’s one of the least-common causes, with just 6% seeking better pay. An additional 4% mention improved benefits as well.

Transitioning to a New Career Can Be Simple

The idea of making a career shift can seem daunting, particularly for the 50% of professionals who have invested in advanced degrees and have years of experience. However, lots of skills and degrees readily transfer, plus it’s easier than ever to fill in gaps on one’s resume to be able to slide into a new field.

Upskill in a New Area

While some transitions, such as becoming a physician or lawyer, require a whole new degree, most career paths are not quite so rigid. Depending on the area you’re most interested in, you may be able to find online classes, certification programs, and boot camps to enhance your resume in a new field. Employers also look for a variety of soft skills, such as leadership, communication, and time management, which you can also learn through online coursework and certification programs.

“After having the quarter life crisis of “what am I doing with my life?” - I decided to return to education to upskill,” says John O'Keeffe, a Senior Customer Experience Specialist for a leading recruitment consultancy. O'Keeffe was working as a Customer Service Manager in retail when he decided to rededicate himself to filling in the gaps on his resume. “I decided that I had reached my peak. It was time to return to education and change the direction of my career,” he says. That decision led him to his entry position as a Recruitment Co-Ordinator with the consultancy and offered a whole new career ladder to climb.


Most professionals are well aware of the benefits of networking in-person, via social media, and at industry events. Connecting with others helps ensure the right people learn about you and can give you the opportunity to learn about a position before it officially becomes available. Moreover, the contacts you build up serve as recommendations. However, few realize the benefits of networking with hiring managers who may not be looking to fill a position at the moment or who may not be considering them. If you’re hoping to make a switch, talk to many hiring managers to find out what they’re looking for in a candidate, including hard and soft skills. During these candid conversations, you can receive invaluable career advice and build up rapport with someone who may eventually hire you or open a door for you.

“If you had told me eight months ago that I'd land my dream job through a networking event, I wouldn't have believed you” says Alex Schulte, Product Marketing Manager for Muse. “I’ve generally found them to be a combination of awkward conversations, nerves, and sticking close to the friend I came with (and I'm an extrovert!). When I decided to change careers, formal networking became a necessary evil. I know some great people, but I needed contacts in my new field (which I didn’t have). Change requires work, so I decided to give structured networking a chance.” Schulte had the right idea and eventually made the career transition from a sales-related Account Executive position to Channel Partnerships Manager at a new firm with the help of a connection made through a networking event. Her conscious decision to network and mindful approach to creating connections changed the trajectory of her career.

Read Job Descriptions for Insights

It may seem counterintuitive to look at jobs before trying to transition, but examining what employers are looking for in advance will give you the opportunity to assess which skills you need to move into a new career a well as what skills increase marketability and pay.

“To become the mid level full stack developer I wanted to be, and to find out where I needed to improve, I looked for jobs that I would actually want,” says developer Sam Williams. “I saw what they were requiring in a candidate and what they said was desirable.” Williams had the luxury of using a several-month vacation to enhance his skills in order to make himself more marketable in a new field and crafted a strategic approach to ensure he made the most of his available time. “With this knowledge, I set about creating a target for where I wanted to be by the time I finished traveling, and what I needed to learn to get to that point.” Within five months, Williams switched from being a junior JavaScript developer to a mid-level full stack developer, literally doubling his salary while landing the job of his dreams.

Speak to Recruiters

Recruiters can be of great benefit because they’re not only the gatekeepers to tremendous employment opportunities, but also understand what employers are looking for and how to make a resume shine so it gets noticed. With that said, it’s important to find recruiters who work within your specific niche and who you have some sort of connection with too.

“I currently have 245 LinkedIn connection requests waiting for my response and about 185 messages,” says Ambra Benjamin, an Engineering Recruiter who uses various social media platforms to connect with ideal candidates. “Although I have really high numbers for requests and messages, those are only the ones I haven’t responded to yet because I couldn’t figure out the relevancy,” she adds. “Messages and connection requests that are immediately relevant to me receive my fullest and most prompt attention.” Benjamin will forward messages to people who can help when a connection is clear and it’s easy to do so, but notes “I fail, and I fail often. So why take a risk on someone like me? Instead, if you are a student or a soon-to-be graduate, find/research the university recruiters — also sometimes known as “Campus/College Recruiters”— at any given company and reach out to THOSE people. Those are the people who can help you.”

Read Success Stories to Motivate Yourself

Reading success stories from people who have made transitions similar to the one you hope to make will help keep you motivated and provide insights on how to make the move much smoother. Whenever possible, seek out people with whom you already have a connection, and ask about mentorship opportunities as well. Many professionals will make the time for a cup of coffee, even if they can’t dedicate the time to being a full mentor.

On this page, we’ve already covered John O'Keeffe's move from retail to recruitment, Alex Schulte's transition from sales to partnerships and marketing, and Sam Williams' switch from  junior JavaScript developer to a mid-level full stack developer.

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Keep Working Toward Your Goal with jobgps

There are literally millions of stories of people such as those listed above who have used the experience gained in one career to launch themselves into something wholly different. As you read through their stories, as well as the stories of people who have made a transition like the one you’re considering, you’ll note many similarities. They all took a strategic approach to finding a new career. They used their prior skills, education, and passions to identify which paths were most ideal, and often picked up a few new skills to pave the way for a smooth transition.

While some transitions are certainly more challenging to make, their perseverance and strategic approaches paid off in the end. Unfortunately for them, tools like JobGPS did not exist while they were transitioning, but it does now. Tap into JobGPS to learn what options are available to you based on your background and education and start creating your own career transition success story today.