There’s a good chance that you’re not going to stay in one career for the rest of your life. But once you identify what direction you want to go, the steps you take will make the difference between success and failure. And guess what? Most people take the wrong ones.
This is one of my favorite topics, actually. First, it’s a great topic because there are few changes you can make that will have as much of a positive impact on your life as changing your career. If you’re looking for happiness, start pursuing a job you can enjoy.
Second, it’s one of my favorite topics because the secret to successfully changing careers is both incredibly simple and vastly, vastly, vastly ignored. (Emphasis on the vastly.)
Ready for the big reveal?
3 Steps to Successfully Changing Careers
Whether you want to become a copywriter, a rocket scientist, or a librarian, the way to succeed is universally true. And it’s not especially complicated, either. The keys to successful career change are these:
1. Get training. Learn how to do what you want to do.
2. Get experience. Practice what you want to do. If possible, get someone to pay you to do it.
3. Get work. Get freelance projects and/or a job in your new career.
#1 Reason Career Change Fails
Those three steps may sound simple, but the number one thing that leads to failure when trying to change careers is that people skip step one or skip step one and step two.
When they’re trying to get into a new career, most people will spruce up their resumes and send them out—thereby trying to jump right into step three. Think about it: When you talk to most people who want to change careers, what do they usually do first? They look for open jobs and then apply to them.
But if they’re applying for jobs doing things they don’t know how to do (no training) and have never done before (no experience), why would anyone hire them—or even call them back?
A Note on On-the-Job Training
Now, maybe you’re thinking, “What about learning on the job? Won’t some companies train me?” Well, sure…but the vast, vast, vast (emphasis on the vast) majority of companies are looking to hire people who already know what they’re doing.
Think about it: if a company gets a dozen resumes for a job (which is a vast underestimate for most positions) and everyone else knows how to do the job but you don’t…they’re not going to call you for an interview.
That’s the bad news. But the good news is that if you go back and start at step one, you’ll have a very high likelihood of success.
There are jobs opportunities that include on-the-job training—but those are the exceptions, not the rule. Wouldn’t you rather prepare yourself to succeed in all scenarios than hunt and compete for those rare possible exceptions?
Why Do People Skip Steps 1 and 2?
Step one and step two are crucial to successfully changing careers. Actually, step one and step two, getting training and getting experience, are crucial to doing anything successfully.
So why do so many people skip them? My theory is that most people just aren’t used to learning new things after we leave school the way that we did in school. Sure, you happen to learn new things at work or just in your daily life, but a lot of us have forgotten what it’s like to sit down and focus on a topic until we’ve mastered it.
Training and experience aren’t topics that are often discussed once we enter the working world; instead, all we’re told to do is update our resumes and apply for jobs. And this is especially ironic since the people who are most likely to get the jobs they apply for are the ones who’ve taken the time to get trained and amass experience!
How to Get Training to Change Careers
So let’s talk about Step 1 first: Get training. Why? Well, there is no job out there that doesn’t require some level of learning in order to do it. Even if you’ve been doing something similar, if you haven’t been doing that exact job, you don’t know how to do it.
The good news is that getting training and experience doesn’t have to be difficult. (And, really, the best trainings should help you get experience, too, by giving you the tools to do it.)
There is training available for just about any job you could want—and, very often, you can access that training online. And no, a potential employer won’t penalize you for learning online; there are some phenomenally high-quality trainings available out there.
One of the main reasons that we offer our Comprehensive Copywriting Academy only via our website is that it allows our students the flexibility to learn where they want to and when they want to.
And the truth is, the sooner you start learning, the sooner you start earning. Unless you’re truly in dire straits and concerned about being able to pay your rent or mortgage, there’s no better time to start learning than now.
I know a lot of people who wait and wait and wait to start training until they have just a liiiiitttle bit more money. But, in most of those situations, all they’re doing is wasting time until they can start learning and earning. And, after all, as Ramit Sethi says, “There is a limit to how much you can cut but there is no limit to how much you can earn.” If you want to have more money, the best way to make that happen is to earn more money.
How to Get the Experience Needed to Change Careers
On to Step 2: Get experience. Again, high-quality trainings should give you the tools to gain experience. (That’s why ours does.)
It’s one thing to know how to do something, and another to actually dig in and do it. The actual garnering of experience may vary depending on your new career path.
Experience allows you to expand what you learned in your training and put those lessons into action in a variety of ways. For your part, too, it also helps you discover what aspects of a new career you like, and which aren’t quite your cup of tea. This can help you decide which types of roles you want to pursue.
And then, of course, experience just makes you more useful to a potential employer. Experience is proof that you really know how to do what you’re saying you know how to do. This means they’ll have to spend less time getting you up to speed, and it also means you may have some new ideas or processes to bring to the table. Experience is part of what makes you hireable.
Landing Work Once You Have Training and Experience
Step 3, of course, is getting to this hiring process. Or, at least, it means you getting some paying clients that bridge the gap until you land a full-time job (if that’s what you want). The good news is that Step 3, what seems like the hardest of the steps, actually becomes the easiest once you get Steps 1 and 2 down. Training and experience are what make you hireable.
Now, even knowing all of this, most people will still try to skip right to Step 3. It seems easiest, right? But skipping to Step 3 has nothing to do with ease, and everything to do with wasting time—both yours and a hiring manager’s.
The people who will persist in trying to skip right to Step 3 will hit walls again and again and, eventually, dejectedly, decide that changing careers is impossible. Very few people are actually willing to put in the effort to get what they want. Most people wanted things handed to them on a silver platter—and when that silver platter never comes, they blame everything else but themselves.
But the other ones, the ones who get it and understand why you can’t skip to 3, who understand that Steps 1 and 2 aren’t easy but that they’re crucial, are the ones who succeed. And the extra special secret is that they’re also likely to be middle of it the process and realize that Step 1 and Step 2 aren’t so very hard at all—even fun. And everyone else will miss it.
Your turn! Have you seen anyone make these career change mistakes—or seen them do it right? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on December 6, 2022
David Throop says
Great article and the process you put down is fool-proof. I like that you mention the fact that just because you have experience or mastery in X doesn’t mean you know how to do Y or Z.
I come across that situation with potential clients every-so-often, they find it difficult to discern good copy from average writing and some think that because they are great at one task, they’ll be great at something else that they are merely familiar.
I’d never tell my family that’d I’d perform neurosurgery on them because I’ve seen Grey’s Anatomy.
One question, are there other resources than your own that you could point to for training? What separates your training from theirs?
Always enjoy your articles, looking forward to more!
Nicki Krawczyk says
Exactly – there’s far less of a “transfer of skills” than people would like to believe! 🙂
To be honest, the prime reason I created our training is that I couldn’t find any others I felt comfortable recommending to people who wanted to build or grow their copywriting careers. (See a need, fill it!)
Here’s a quick rundown of what sets us apart:
No B.S. promises: There are some well-known trainings out there that promise “six figures in your first year” or that you’ll immediately be working from the beach. It sounds too good to be true, and it absolutely is. You can earn six figures as a copywriter, but it’s certainly not going to happen in your first year. People see things like that, become disillusioned, and give up on what could have been a great career for them.
Real world, real career training: We don’t just teach people to write “online sales letters” (which are dying, anyway)—we provide them with all of the tools to write all kinds of copy and land work or jobs with clients, internal agencies, and/or ad agencies.
You get everything you need, all at once: Some training programs offer you cheap courses, but once you get them, you discover you have to buy six more (and much more expensive!) courses to actually know enough to get work.
You can do it on your schedule, not someone else’s: Our Academy is all online and self-paced, so you can learn when it’s convenient for you.
You get personal help: Students get access to me throughout the month via email and then live on our monthly, student-only coaching calls. People *should* have questions as they learn; it’s a lot to master. I’m here to help them.
You get the benefit of my 15 years of experience—and the benefit of remembering where I started: If I could go back in time to when I was starting out, this is truly the program I would give myself to accelerate my career. I’m not in the least exaggerating when I say I created the program I would have wanted, and I based it much of it on the training I put the copywriters who worked for me through.
Phew! Long answer, but I hope it helped. 🙂
Thanks for commenting!