Career Change Guide for 2021

Man in six different work outfits showing him as a builder, musician, painter, builder, chef, businessman

2020 and 2021 have been years of labour market upheaval. From the layoffs of 2020 to the high number of resignations throughout much of 2021, many people are eager to shake things up professionally. Job boards and sites around the world are swelling with job offerings as businesses in many industries struggle to find employees. For a lot of workers, it seems like now might be their chance to start a new career. With that in mind, below is a strategic career change guide for 2021 to help you make an informed and guided decision.

Know Why You Want to Change

It can be tempting to change careers if you are in a rut, tired of the monotony at work or have become exasperated with workplace policies that are making you wonder why you got into the field, to begin with. If you are truly serious about switching careers, however, you need to eliminate potentially superficial explanations from your list of reasons. It could be that it isn’t so much the career as it is your particular employer that is causing you to second guess what you’re doing.

Additionally, by weeding out these explanations, you can better understand what you are really after. Do you dislike long hours in general, or do you dislike long hours doing what you are currently doing? Do you want a job that allows you to feel like you are having a positive social and environmental impact on the world? A legitimate question that many people find themselves asking at this particular point in economic history is “how much longer does my profession, niche, or industry have before it is radically transformed or made redundant by automation?”

Be Realistic When it Comes to Your Passion

Following your passion can lead you to a world of misery, and it is important to recognize your passion’s limitations when it comes to monetization. Additionally, many people don’t have passions that align well with career goals. You might love animals and know a lot about them, but that alone is not going to get you a job curating a natural history museum or working at a zoo. You should also consider what might happen to your passion should you make it a full-time job.

A viable alternative to trying to map your passions onto a career is to look at your current job and break it down into its constituent parts to see which you find most pleasurable. If there are one or more things about your current role or industry that you find disproportionately fulfilling, given the other aspects, it might make more sense to use those as your starting point for a new career or role.

Create a List

Once you have a rough idea of what you want out of a new or second career, start a list. It is ok to have several career ideas or options that interest you. For each option, write down some of the things you find most enticing or interesting. You can mention the duties, field, opportunities for travel, to meet and work with interesting or like-minded people, etcetera.

The bottom line here is that it is important to think deeply about why a new career seems like a good idea and what you want to get out of it. It is important to be highly critical of your motives and reasoning to make sure you are not simply deluding yourself because you have become temporarily disillusioned with what you are currently doing.

Understand the Knowledge Gaps and Upskilling Requirements

The next step, once you have created your list, is to determine the upskilling and knowledge–in the form of experience, courses or certifications–you might need to successfully transition into a new career. Even if you don’t plan to make that dramatic of a career change, you will likely need to acquire some new skills and knowledge in order to be considered for jobs. This is a two-part process. The first involves taking stock of your current skillset and assessing its transferability. What hard and soft skills do you possess that will be considered universally valuable no matter what you do?

The second requires you to spend some time analyzing the jobs you are interested in using job boards and career pages on company websites. Which technical skills, certifications and/or education are they looking for that you will have to add to your CV?

Create a Shortlist

After you have done your due diligence and have an accurate and objective understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, assets and shortcomings, you will need to start a process of elimination. This involves going through your list of careers and, in a clear-eyed way, starting to remove the ones for which there is a prohibitively large experience and knowledge gap that will make it highly unlikely you find gainful employment in the industry.

Starting a new career can be a major shot in the arm professionally and even a new lease on life for many people, but you have to narrow your options down to those for which you stand a reasonable chance of getting hired.


The phrase “the great resignation” has been tossed around a lot during 2020 and particularly 2021, as people leave their jobs and industries for all sorts of reasons, including a desire to change careers. Whether because of economic conditions or prospects or because the COVID-19 pandemic caused them to rethink their priorities and trajectory in life, a large number of people are considering or making career changes. If you plan on joining their ranks, keep the above recommendations in mind and be strategic about your approach.

Rebecca Grewcock

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