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Whether it's for advancement or a need for better work conditions, people change careers. All the reasons are valid. The real task is preparing for it and getting others, like hiring managers, to come along for the ride.

If you are considering a career change, you want to be sure it's the smart thing to do. Many have regretted the decision, finding themselves going from what they thought was bad to what's definitely worse. So, before you make that move, prepare carefully. Changing careers is going to be hard enough without discovering later you didn't really think it through. Here are some ideas and tools for not only changing careers but making sure it's the right thing to do.

Start with a vision board. Use a large piece of paper or card. Fill it with images, keywords and objectives. It doesn't have to be professional goals. If you want more money for travel, place images of places where you'd like to go if you could afford it. If you want to start your own business, use material of people who have succeeded or businesses that inspire you.

Determine how you want the career change to affect your goals. Decide three to five objectives you believe this career can help you achieve in each: finances, friends, family, interests, health, etc. Having this list will give be inspirational and give you a greater idea of how much a career change means to you.

Begin researching new career opportunities. Maybe you already have an idea of what you'd like to do. It's time to start a checklist of the best ways to get into that industry. Reeducation, certification, degree, connecting with old colleagues or meeting new ones could all be part of the process. If you're not sure, look at skill-matching websites that will take a range of criteria and help align it with professions that fit your tastes.

Be prepared to work hard for your goal. The job market isn't always kind to people who want to change careers. Hiring managers like dependability and stability, not candidates who change their minds. The resistance is only going to make a tough decision tougher. Start networking, meeting people in the industry through current contacts or through family and friends. Get a mentor in the interested industry. Get counsel from trainers and teachers on ways to navigate the upcoming obstacles to your goal.

Don't completely overlook your current employer. You don't necessarily have to change employers to change careers. A good employer will be progressive, looking to help employees stay productive and happy as long as it doesn't interfere with their objectives. Keep an eye on the company's job postings or talk with a rep in Human Resources. The new career you're looking for may already be in front of you.

Prepare to be flexible and patient. Set your goals but expect adjustments and setbacks. You may be asked to relocate, take a salary cut or hold a position that's in the field but below what you were looking for. Remember you're starting over and may have to bend a little to achieve your long term goal.

For the record, career changes are considered a natural progression. Studies demonstrate that, over their lifetime, people change careers any number of times.

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