Making a career change can be overwhelming and, let’s face it, sometimes a little scary. It is much easier to change jobs within the same career sector, but what happens when you become tired or not fulfilled in your current profession?
Many are deciding to take the leap of faith and pursue a career that aligns with their passion and is more rewarding. Sometimes the fear of the unknown accompanies a career change, and many ask themselves if they are equipped to make the transition? Some common fears that individuals face when transitioning into a new career include the fear of change, anxiousness about work transition, and fear of not succeeding.
But fear of changing your career shouldn’t paralyze you, in fact, it can be a great motivator when you take the experience, learn from it, and find the courage to go forward. In addition, career changers can face many challenges as they switch from one field to another. Read on to learn about five of the most common challenges career changers face, and tips for overcoming them.
1. What if my skills don’t transfer perfectly?
If you are switching from an unrelated field to social work, you may wonder how your professional skills will line up. Most of the time there won’t be a perfect match, but that doesn’t mean you have nothing to offer your new profession.
Start by highlighting your achievements your past positions such as training, assisting, and motivating coworkers, developing company policies, and so on. You can also focus on your soft skills, as these really matter and are the easiest to transfer from role to role, and from your previous career to a new career. Soft skills include things like time management, problem-solving, critical thinking and more. The combination of these soft skills, your previous professional experiences, and your passion for your new field offer you a great launching pad into the field of social work.
2. How will I build a new network?
Perhaps you have spent two, five, maybe even ten or more years in your current field, building relationships and crafting your professional network, and changing careers to an entirely new field seems like starting from scratch. Although your current network might not be useful in landing a job in social work, the work ahead of you is not as insurmountable as you may think.
To start, networking begins in the classroom with your professors and the other members of your cohort. As you dive into coursework, you will have the opportunity to form relationships with professors and faculty who have different areas of expertise, which lead to new connections in the community and elsewhere. Outside of the formal classroom setting, networking resources like LinkedIn are an easy way to connect with others in your profession. You can also attend networking events like the National Association of Social Workers conferences, which offer face to face opportunities for relationship building with professionals in social work.
3. What if I need further training or education? How will I finance it?
To practice as a social worker, you must hold either a BSW or MSW and obtain your licensure. Because many career changers are looking for their fresh start after working post-undergrad, earning your MSW is an easy way to launch a new career in social work. Not only will returning to school for a graduate degree in social work kickstart your career change, but it will also fully equip you to begin a successful practice as a social work professional.
In the field of social work, your undergraduate degree and previous career could range from business to psychology, from public health to communications, and so forth. Most master’s programs can be completed in two years, giving students hands-on experience through internships and research opportunities. If funding your graduate degree is a challenge, financial assistance can be acquired through grants, scholarships, and financial packages from universities.
4. How can I compete in the job market for the position I want?
Some career changers might be apprehensive about beginning a new career in a totally different field because they are concerned about the job competition they might face from those who have had a single career trajectory or are fresh out of an undergrad or graduate program. The truth is, all of your unique professional experiences bring something to the table and experienced employers recognize this. If you are passionate about entering the field of social work, it doesn’t matter what your previous career was, just learn to articulate how it has prepared you for this next step.
In fact, professionals who are working on their MSW and have experience in different careers are frequently more marketable than those students fresh out of school. These professionals have built soft skills, have valuable, demonstrated work experience, and can relate to others in a professional setting. They have more workforce exposure than fresh graduates who are just beginning their first career.
5. How will I find new mentors for support?
In your previous career, chances are that you relied on the support of one, if not many, mentors who walked with you as you journeyed through your professional career. Leaving the security of those relationships can be difficult, but finding new mentors is not only possible: Doing so can actually help you grow and change into a more skilled and adaptable professional.
To begin seeking mentors in the field of social work, look for those who stand out as leaders, who have several years of experience (5+ is ideal!), and who share your core values and ideals. A great place to start is by connecting with faculty, staff, or a professor who specializes in a topic that interests you. These individuals can share their experiences with you, answer your questions, offer you guidance, and generally help you get a feel for the field.
Other opportunities for mentorship can come through volunteer positions or an internship. Look for leaders in these areas, and ask them if they would be willing to meet you for a cup of coffee to share their experiences and their tips for success in your new-found passion for social work.
Consider Switching to A Career in Social Work
Social work provides those looking for a career change, many options and opportunities. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ current job outlook for expected growth in the field of social work is 16 percent, much faster than the average for all jobs. So what does that mean for those seeking new professional careers who have an urge for social change or advocacy? It means that now is a great time to be a social worker and an MSW can help prepare you for this profession!
If you are interested in learning more about what it takes to be a social worker or how to get started on your graduate social work degree, we invite you to reach out and request more information. You can also browse our digital resource for a full-picture view of the profession. Best of luck with your new career!