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So You Are Thinking About Changing Careers. What do you need in order to make a successful change?

Maybe you are reading the “handwriting on the wall” and can see that you may soon be let go or phased out of your role. Maybe you took the job you’re in now to pay the bills, but it’s not your career of choice. Maybe you’ve discovered a new career passion you want to explore. Maybe you are just bored.

Whatever your reason, let’s assume that you have selected your new career and  have taken the steps to ensure you have the requisite credentials, certifications and hard skills you need to land a job in this new career. Now, what do you need to make the change?

Perhaps your greatest resource is your network:
People in your network (and your own intensive research) can help you assess your prospects for even getting a job as a newbie in this career. And they can help you understand what it takes, in addition to the basic hard skills, to be successful in this field.

Have you got what it takes to be successful? Call on people you trust to help you assess that. Look to your network to seek help from people who can give you a perspective on your brand.

Once you’ve identified what characteristics are the hallmarks of a successful professional in your desired career, it’s important that you seek candid feedback about your strengths and weaknesses in terms of these professional/leadership attributes and characteristics. (For example – If successful people in this field are typically very comfortable with risk, you need to be clear-eyed about your own ability to embrace risk. If successful professionals in this field are intensely focused and driven, you need to assess if you can operate that way – all the time!) You may know a lot about yourself. But we all have blind spots. Don’t go into a career change without 20-20 vision.

If you determine that you have what it takes to be successful in this line of work, you’ll ask people in your network to help you connect with employers who might be willing to take you on at this point in your new career. 

Here are a few other things you’ll need:
Confidence – You have talents. You have passion. You have a strong work ethic. They need all that you are willing to bring to this work!

Humility – While you may bring great skill, tons of business knowledge and a myriad of super powers,  please don’t lose sight of the fact that at least some (if not most) of the people you are interacting with have  devoted their entire working lives to this business.

Fresh Eyes – You bring a new perspective to the work and the businesses. This can be a great asset, if it is grounded in a genuine sense of curiosity and an open mind. (There’s a huge difference in attitude and approach between “I wouldn’t do it that way!” and “I wonder why they do it that way?”)

Patience – Your learning curve will be enormous. Be ready for that. Gear up your energy for that. It can be great fun and truly exhilarating to learn new things every day. It can also be exhausting and frustrating.  You’ll need to be patient with yourself and with your generous “teachers.” 

Commitment – You don’t want to build a reputation as a “dabbler.” Give the work and your co-workers your full commitment. It will take time for you to fairly assess whether or not this is the right fit for you. 

Get more insights from Marquette alumni through the Career Experts Network.

Mary Alice TierneyMary Alice Tierney, Sp '72, is an executive coach at Right Management, ManpowerGroup. She can be reached at



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