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How to Switch Careers:
The Professional Pivot

What you need to know to break into a new industry, land a government job or join a nonprofit.

Your career can’t turn on a dime. A well-planned switch can take from six months to two years, and it’s best to plan the move on nights and weekends while you’re still employed. If that’s not possible, unemployment benefits, a severance check or a temporary job may tide you over. Without income, though, it’s hard to launch a reinvention. “The energy you need to think outside the box will be consumed by thinking about how to make the rent,” says Mitchell.

Do you know where you want to go next? If not, ask yourself what you’d do if money were no object (studies show money is rarely the primary source of career satisfaction). For a good overview of emerging opportunities, visit, a collaboration of the Department of Labor and the Department of Education. You’ll find industries or fields that are projected to add the most new jobs-currently hospitality, health care and business administration-along with which occupations will be most in demand (among the fastest-growing: event planner, fitness trainer and accountant). You’ll also find advice for career changers and links to sites that can help you assess your skills and match them to the right job.

After revamping your résumé, find ways to beef up your crossover credentials. For instance, when obliged to earn continuing-education credits in your current job, try to take classes in the field you hope to enter. And check community colleges for affordable professional certification programs.

A number of programs have materialized specifically for refugees from struggling industries. In September, for example, ReServe, an organization that matches retirees with paid public-service jobs in New York City, began a program to help print-media professionals become grant writers.