Career change: 4 steps to break into your dream industry

Mar 18, 2024

5 mins

Career change: 4 steps to break into your dream industry

Building a career is a long and arduous process that often occurs during the most formative periods of our lives. While everyone’s career path is different, many people spend years studying, training, and gaining experience in a specific industry. So, what happens when you lose interest in what you thought would be your dream industry? After spending so much time and resources on getting to where you are, the idea of changing industries can feel impractical or even impossible. However, it’s not as uncommon (or difficult) as you might think. With the current trends of evolving technology, remote work, and countless other workplace advancements, the workforce has never been more flexible.

While it’s hard to succinctly define what constitutes a career change, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average American worker will change jobs over 12 times in their career. While it’s not possible to say, it’s more than likely that at least one or two of these changes would be an industry switch. While more than half of these changes occurred between the ages of 18 and 24, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to change industries later in life, in fact, the average age to make a career change is 39 years old.

There are many reasons why people decide to switch industries, and all of them are valid. From salary expectations to changing personal values and interests, there are countless factors that can leave you disillusioned with the industry you chose. The good news is, it’s never too late to make the switch to your dream industry. So, how can you do it?

1. Research the industry

If you already know the industry you want to switch to, the first step is to buckle down and do some deep research. If you’ve decided to make a career change, then you already know that you shouldn’t choose lightly when it comes to your professional industry. Explore everything you can about the field to make sure it’s right for you, and see what steps you need to take. There are many factors you’ll need to understand before you can make an action plan for your change. Let’s look at a few of them.


If you’re at a middle to senior level in your current industry, you’ve likely become accustomed to whatever lifestyle your current salary affords you, so it’s important to know how changing fields could impact that. Maybe low compensation is the reason you’re making the switch to a higher-paying industry, but maybe you’re pursuing your passions and moving to a less lucrative business. Either way, remember that it’s very likely you could have to start off back at entry level with a salary to match, or even pay tuition to go back to school. So, make sure you’re aware of how your situation will change, and be financially prepared to put in your dues.


While most industries can be found nationwide, it’s possible that your dream job may take you to a new city. If you’re moving into certain fields like publishing, tech, or film, for example, a career switch may mean relocating. If so, that will require a whole other plan to set in motion. Moving for work can be an enormous decision. It means finding new housing, adapting to a new culture, finding new friends, or even relocating your family. Still, this shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your dream job, it will just require some more planning on your part to organize the logistics of the move. Just be sure to safeguard your finances as well as your mental health during the process.


Perhaps the most important thing to look at is the job opportunities already out there, the competition for them, and what your career could look like down the road. Look at the kinds of jobs you see yourself applying for in the future, are there lots of opportunities out there, or is it basically a lottery system? The level of competition for work will have a profound impact on the energy and resources you will have to put into making the change.

Another crucial aspect to look into is what your career path would look like. How are the entry, middle, and senior-level roles structured? Would you be in a position to make a lateral move, or would you have to work your way back up from interning? Make sure you can see where you would like to be five or ten years from now in the industry. One of the best ways to do this is to find several people who are already doing your dream job and take a look at their career paths on Linkedin. Did they all graduate from the same specialized program at a certain school? Is there a rigid path to their development, or is there room for flexibility and diversity in the industry? This will help you understand where your starting point should be.

2. Take a professional inventory

Once you have a thorough understanding of your dream industry, the next step is to take a professional inventory. Think of this as a sort of “reality check” where you reflect on your current circumstances and what it would require for you to make the change. Do you have the necessary education or training for your new field, or will you have to go back to school? Does your current skill set overlap with what you would need for your dream job, or will you need to invest in some training to learn new techniques?

You can brainstorm by making a list of everything you think you need to get your first job in a new industry as if you were starting from scratch and checking off everything you already have. Once you know what you need to gain, you can start making a plan. Having a timeline with goals and milestones will help you track your progress and stay motivated.

3. Start networking

While less concrete than other steps to take, networking is one of the most important. Having a healthy network can be one of the best ways to find a new position. In fact, it’s estimated that between 70% and 80% of job openings are never posted, and simply filled via network connections. It can be quite intimidating to build a new network from scratch if you don’t already have contacts in the industry, or are enrolled in studies for your new field. However, there are ways to lay a foundation and start meeting people.

First, you can go through your current network and see if you know anyone who has experience in your dream industry or can refer you to someone who does. Another valuable tool for any industry is to conduct informational interviews. An informational interview is a conversation with a professional where you simply ask questions about their role, the day-to-day, their career path, and any other questions you may have. They can offer very valuable advice about what qualities recruiters look for, what skills will help you most, and many other ways to get your foot in the door. Most importantly, they could keep you in mind for open positions or refer you to people in their network. It may be a bit daunting to email strangers asking to interview them, but you’ll be surprised how many people are willing to give a little bit of their time to talk about their passion.

4. Refresh your professional brand

This is one of the easiest but often overlooked steps to take when making a major career change. If you’ve been in your current industry for a while, you’ve likely developed a strong professional brand that allows people to see who you are and what you do. This includes things like your LinkedIn profile, portfolio website, resume, and references. If you’ve done the job of researching your new industry, you’ve probably noticed that people present themselves in a different way, depending on their field. For instance, a person in the artistic industry and someone in the medical field would have very different ways of showing their merits.

Take some time to refresh your online presence to better reflect the standards of your new industry, whatever they may be. Add new education or training, connect with your new network online, and start curating your new image. Another key aspect is, of course, your resume. If you’ve been in your current role for a few years, you likely haven’t updated it in a while. See what the industry standard is for resumes, and replace any outdated or irrelevant experience with things that showcase the new skills and experience you’ve gained to make your career switch.

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