I previously shared the story of how I moved from a dead-end job I wasn’t enjoying to a new career field that I loved. Below are seven specific actionable tips that I followed – and you can too – as part of my career-changing journey.

7 tips to improving your career situation

1. Self-Study

You aren’t going to grow and improve yourself if you don’t accept responsibility for it – and take action. If there is a dream job you would like to have someday, saying “I don’t know how” isn’t a good reason to be held back.

You can find a TON of websites online covering almost every topic.

There are also a lot of guided online learning options. Here are just two that I’m familiar with:

Udemy– like their “Complete iOS 10 Developer Course – Build 21 Apps” which is very popular. Learn how to develop iPhone apps and you’re almost certain to be able to find work in that field. They also have courses on Photoshop, graphic design, WordPress, accounting, and much more. It’s also very affordable and definitely worth checking out.

I’ve taken multiple development courses through Udemyand have been very impressed with the quality.

Lynda (a LinkedIn company) – Similarly Lynda has courses for development, business, marketing, design – and many others. I haven’t use Lynda directly, but they’re a respectable option – backed by LinkedIn, and now Microsoft. I would compare their courses to Udemy to see which might make more sense for you.

2. Put the study to work

Frankly, just reading some information doesn’t really prepare you to do anything. If you are going to study marketing, go market something (like “yourself” – the best opportunity for a marketer!). If you’re going to study development, develop something! You can create apps on almost any computer anymore.

The point is, do something. Just like I did. Learn something then apply that knowledge. You will retain the information much better. You will then have produced a result that you can show to a potential employer.

This really is key. Far too many people take some courses or some tests just for the sake of passing something and saying they finished it. The goal should be to learn. You want to be able to provide genuine value to a potential employer.

3. Look for experience opportunities

There are a ton of ways to gain experience today. You can even do it while retaining any current employment you might have. Sure, that could mean working nights and weekends, but what is a career change worth to you? Certainly allocating some of your spare time to this would be a worthwhile long-term benefit.

Understand too that “experience” doesn’t always have to be paid work. Trust me. I ran a company that hired many dozens of employees over the years. If someone didn’t have direct work experience, but they were excited enough about the type of work that they did it in their free time, that was a huge bump in their favor.

Some specific pre-career change experience ideas:

  • You can create a blog and write about what you are learning. Who knows, maybe you can even make some money on the side doing this. Affiliate marketing is a real thing.
  • You can volunteer somewhere. Use your newly developed skills at your local church or other non-profit. Or perhaps find a small business that could use your assistance and volunteer to work for free. You never know, these types of situations sometimes turn into paid engagements… or it could potentially motivate you to decide to work for yourself as a freelancer.
  • You can get a part-time job in the new field. Back to the nights and weekends here. It’s very viable. I know – I did it. I also know others who have done it. Check out some of the popular job sites (or just Google) to see what options might be available to you.

Consider one step back for three steps forward

This is definitely a challenge, but I did it. Others have done it too.

First, make sure you have a plan in place – otherwise, this option could lead to disaster.

Second though, with a proper plan in place, sometimes it makes sense to take a job that is less than ideal. Perhaps the hours aren’t great. Maybe the pay isn’t great. It could be that the work really isn’t something you love.

But if it is in the field where you hope to move with your career change, then it just might be worth taking a chance on the position. Again, make sure you have a plan. Be sure part of that plan is to move on to the type of position you REALLY want to do long-term.

4. Have good support

There is no way I could have made the change I did without my wonderful wife’s support.

You need support too.

It doesn’t have to be a spouse. It can be family or friends. But you need someone. People who will encourage you and cheer you on. A group that will keep you motivated and focused on the bigger picture and long-term goal.

If all you have around you are skeptics and negative people… consider surrounding yourself with different people. Seriously.

You don’t want a “yes man” type of person. You want support from people who will give it to you straight and honestly. But that honesty needs to be tempered with the bigger vision in mind.

5. Take calculated risks

OK. Back to planning here.

I think everyone should have some basic financial planning done – even more so if someone is considering a career change.

Have a budget so you understand your cash flow. If you do find yourself considering an opportunity that would really propel you forward, but it is less money, you want to know – in advance – if that would work for you.

It’s also a good idea to have an emergency fund in place. The average American can’t handle an unexpected $400 expense without causing financial stress and problems. Don’t let that be you. This is enough work as it is – you don’t want to be stressed over an unexpected expense. The emergency fund should be measured in thousands, not hundreds. Ideally, it would cover six months of living expenses so get as close to that as you can.

Drop debt. If at all possible (and it’s more possible than many people understand) lower your debt load. Certainly don’t add to your debt! Changing careers is not the time to go buy a new car, or a new house, or a new anything! Scale spending back over the short term. You can buy all that stuff you want once you get employed in your dream job.

Having a plan in place allows you to take calculated risks. Risks can’t be calculated without a plan. Without a plan, they are just “risks.” Put a plan in place – in advance – to allow you to embrace opportunities that are likely to come your way.

6. Put in the effort

Nothing I’m talking about here is SUPER easy. It’s not complicated, but it does take work -it takes effort.

Quite likely it will take up some of your spare time. It could take up some of your money. You might have to DVR your favorite TV shows – or give them up for a while altogether.

When you’ve surrounded yourself with the proper support this is much easier. Ultimately it all comes down to you though. You’ll need to put in the time. You’ll need to push through. You can do this, but it will take time and hard work.

It will be worth it.

7. Always look for ways to improve

This is a journey. Depending on your path, it might be a long journey. Your path might go similar to mine where there are multiple stepping-stone positions before you reach the dream job.

Even once you are in your dream job, look for ways to improve.

Through this process, you will develop some great skills. You’ll develop:

  • Discipline
  • The ability to self-learn
  • The ability and habit of putting work into practice

Those same skills will continue to help you after you have made your career change. This will allow you to “move up the ladder” (if you want); earn more money; and provide more genuine value to the business where you work.

If appropriate for your career you can obtain some certifications through a company like Transcender. This is who I’m familiar with – they’re mostly IT. I used them, and similar programs while progressing in my career to obtain certifications like Microsoft MCSE, RedHat’s MCSA, and VMWare certifications. Yes. I have a business degree. But I self-learned technical skills and used these certifications, and others, to help me demonstrate my knowledge to earn better and better positions over the years.

Are you ready for a career change?

Do you feel that your job is limited in earning potential? Are the hours in your current position less than ideal? Would you like to move into a field that can create excitement about going to work every day?

Changing careers is an option. It’s a very reasonable option too.

Consider taking the steps above now to position yourself for a career that you’ll enjoy for the next 40 years. Life is too short to work at something you don’t love.

You can do it. I believe in you.

(Before you go, if you didn’t read my personal story that was a lead-in to this post, go check it out now: Career Change: The Move That Made Me Millions.)