IT careers: 5 secrets to making a successful change

The path to a career change can sometimes seem scary. Consider this advice to embrace change and move forward with confidence
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If you’ve been daydreaming about making a career change, you’re not alone. But while it’s enticing to imagine yourself in the career of your dreams, getting there can be scary. Whether you’re jumping into a brand-new career path or leaving the industry you’ve been in for years, you need to prepare.

Here are five secrets to help you make your career jump as an IT professional.

1. Practice small rejections

The fear of being rejected prevents some IT professionals from going after their dreams. But rejection is a fact of life. Failure is always possible when you take risks, so you can’t let that hold you back.

[ Ready to jump now? Read: IT careers: 5 steps to get hired before the holidays. ]

Instead, turn your fears into fuel. Before you make a career jump, practice what rejection feels like in small doses. Put yourself in low-risk situations where you can build your muscle for rejection. For instance, if you’re an IT professional just getting started at a new company, offer to perform a planned email migration or server maintenance updates. The company may say no because they already have someone who performs those tasks, but putting yourself out there will show your confidence.

Evaluate how you feel after and ask yourself: Did putting myself out there make me feel stronger?

2. Find courage in your strengths

Big changes are scary, but commitment and courage will make your dreams easier to achieve. Before you jump, take stock of your strengths. Do you have some of the following - specific expertise, education, a network of smart people, a supportive partner? Can you talk your way out of tight spots, learn on the go, or predict successful products?

Before you leap, list the things that will bring you comfort and support as you dive into uncertainty. Refer to this list whenever you need a boost of courage.

3. Create a one-year success plan

A year is a helpful yardstick for most career change jumps, as it provides enough leeway to prepare and act. Good planning should begin at the endpoint or goal and build backward, because if you don’t know where you’re going, how can you expect to get there? Write a clear vision that includes these three things:

  • Where do you want to go in one year?
  • What do you want to accomplish in one year?
  • Who do you want to become in one year?

This should be like a personal mission statement. It should be passionate but concise – ideally, a single paragraph.

Once you’ve done that essential step, you’ll be ready to build an incredible action-oriented plan.

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4. Outline a solid backup plan

You’ll never regret having a backup plan. Whenever you jump, you need a parachute in case of an emergency. Your backup plan should be practical and personal; after all, you’re the only one who knows where you can compromise and where you need to stand firm. List the things that are most likely to go wrong and create a plan that prepares you to handle each one. As a general rule, it’s always best to consider finances and logistics.

5. Conquer self-doubt with practice

Self-doubt can cloud your vision, causing you to believe in your doubt more than in your own abilities.

Think of this as a mirage of uncertainty. Begin a daily practice in which you move beyond the shadow of a doubt. There is a proven power in imagining yourself succeeding in what you’re about to do. If you are doing something new, reframe your inexperience by reminding yourself that you’re not expected to be an expert immediately. Expertise only comes with time. Finally, give yourself the same advice your best friend would give you. This exercise can be a great way to keep you from harboring negative thoughts.

Whether you’ve been an IT professional for decades or you majored in computer science and are having a change of heart, my best advice is this: Trust your gut, plan accordingly, and make the career jump. And always embrace change. You will move into the next phase of your professional development by rejecting stagnation and taking action. Despite the wins and failures I’ve had throughout my career, I can confidently say that I have never regretted any of the jumps I’ve taken.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Kim Perell
Kim Perell is a serial entrepreneur, top US female angel investor, and bestselling author. She sold her last company for $235 million after going broke just ten years earlier. A great believer in paying it forward, Kim is an investor in over 100 companies.