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The idea of choosing a life-long career at a naive age is a little silly, and it’s no wonder some people can start to tire of previously chosen professions as they mature. If your current job feels tiresome, remember that you don’t have to stay in a career you hate. There are ways you can jump-start a new profession.

Find a Mentor

Finding mentors and experts in the field is vital if you want to change industries. Personal connections can let you know of upcoming opportunities and suggest the best way to pursue your dreams. The idea that knowing the right people is more important than having the right credentials still rings true. Hiring managers are more likely to take a chance on someone they’re already connected with than on a total stranger.

For example, they’ll be able to say if you should earn a new degree or if a few online classes will be enough for what you hope to do. No matter how they factor in your specific situation, personal connections are the best way to get your foot in the door.

Use Online Forums

Search through sites like Reddit and Quora for people who are in the line of work you’re curious about. You may glean nuggets on how to join their ranks or what it’s really like to do their job. You can also post your own questions, if you don’t find the information you’re looking for.

Subscribe to subforums associated with your interests and follow the discussions over time. This will help initiate you into the world you’re joining – how people interact, how they talk about certain topics, which the most respected companies are and more.

Locate Your Crowd

Attending conferences and group meetings provides access to people already doing what you want to do. Here, you can ask people in the know how to follow a particular career path. You can also get connected with professional associations related to your future career; some allow you to join at a junior level.

You’ll likely have to pay for memberships or admissions, but these costs will be worth it if you end up finding an in. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or share your goals; everyone once started out as a beginner, and most people will be happy to share what they know.

Start Working on the Side

You can start pursuing your passion on the side before even looking for full-time work. For example, a fledgling web designer can begin on sites like Upwork before transitioning to higher-paying clients; wedding photographers can start on Craigslist until they have good portfolios.

Working on the side may include working at a lower rate until you have enough testimonials and samples to charge standard rates. Starting a website where you can display your work is also a good idea. You can also utilize social media to showcase your new brand.

PR specialist and writer Karen Cordaway was an elementary school teacher who felt stuck in her day job. She hated being on a teacher’s schedule and wanted more flexibility in her day-to-day life. She said networking online and working for free helped her figure out what she wanted to do and gave her initial opportunities.

“I had to be patient with not knowing what I really wanted to do,” she said. “If you have a day job that you can’t quit but you have an idea you’d like to try, start a Facebook page.”

Talk to Your Boss

Having a conversation with your current boss may prove fruitful if you find yourself without all the skills necessary for a career change. For example, if you want to work in TV production, getting more experience in your company’s PR department could be helpful.

You can take on more work that will benefit your current employer while also getting valuable job skills. It’s important to remember that your current employer has no obligation to help you switch careers and may even take offense to your plans to depart, so approach the situation cautiously. Your current supervisor will likely be a future reference, so don’t burn any bridges on your way to a new field.

Have you switched careers? What tips do you have for your fellow Zing readers? Let us know in the comments below!

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