Submitted by: Robert Benway, Ed. D.; M.B.A. – CCC Volunteer Career Coach and Assistance Professor at National Lewis University


You could fill a football stadium with Chicago Metropolitan residents who feel the need to transition their careers from one occupation to another one.  And there are lots of reasons why we wish to transition our careers, but we struggle with figuring out how to make it happen. 

Fortunately, there is published information available, and some of these publications highlight processes that explain how to do it.  A simple and straightforward one is written by Dawn Rosenberg McKay ( that includes 8 steps you can follow easily.

The first step McKay recommends is that you start with a self-assessment of your values, interests, soft skills, and aptitudes (McKay, 2018).   Self-assessments tools are available at the Community Career Center, at other career centers such as colleges and universities, in libraries, online, through counselors, and in bookstores.   These assessments help you understand the kinds of work activities you enjoy most and least, and they connect to occupational categories.  A useful source of occupational categories is The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is part of the US Department of Labor.  The web address is:

The second step McKay recommends is to make a list of occupations to explore (McKay, 2018).  You may already have a short list of occupations you’ve contemplated from time to time, so put them on your list.  Other sources can be suggestions from family, friends, teachers, and network contacts.  Still other sources can come from career assessment tests, or other resources you’ve read. 

The third step McKay recommends is to explore the occupations on your list (McKay, 2018).  Look them up online, obtain copies of job descriptions, and review job duties.  Also review the job qualifications to determine if you have prior work experience, credentials and education that partially or fully matches the requirements.  Generate a broad list of these occupations that you can next pare down.

The fourth step McKay recommends is to create a short list of occupations for more intensive review (McKay, 2018).  Your list should include a handful of occupations.  Remove from your list occupations that require educational credentials that you cannot or do not wish to obtain for various reasons.  Also remove occupations with major duties that do not appeal to you. 

The fifth step McKay recommends is to conduct more detailed and intensive research through informational interviews (McKay, 2018).  Here is where you should use your network, LinkedIn, and other sources of contacts that can advise you on each of the 3 to 5 occupations on your short list.  Ask lots of questions about each occupation, and compare responses thoroughly. 

The sixth step McKay recommends is picking an occupation that most closely fits your criteria (McKay, 2018).  Actually, you may wish to target several different occupations that share some job duties and qualifications.  This will maximize your chances of getting interviews and landing a job. 

The seventh step McKay recommends is to identify your goals (McKay, 2018).  After you narrow your selection to one or several occupations, you will need to map out short and longer term goals.  Determine what education, work experience, and licensure/registration/certification credentials are required.  Doing this may help you narrow the scope of your target occupation further.  You can still search one or two of them, but at this point you may need to decide on one occupation.  Goals may include completing educational requirements, internships, apprenticeships, and licensure/registration/certifications. 

The eighth step McKay recommends is to write a career action plan that looks like a project plan and functions like a road map to get you closer to your ideal job.  For people who are prolific writers, this won’t be difficult.  If you are anything but prolific, discipline yourself to create a plan, however simply you wish, that helps you keep track of your job search efforts.    

Transitioning your career from one occupation to another one may seem like a daunting task, but if you break it down to its component steps, it becomes easier to manage.  And the self-satisfaction of doing it yourself cannot be underestimated.

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