Changing careers requires soul-searching, networking and maybe some new training, but it can be worth it.

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Have you decided that it’s time for a new direction in your work life?

You wouldn’t be alone. No one knows for sure how many careers the average person has in a lifetime, but it’s definitely more than one.

What’s certain is that the most successful career changes are not revolutions but evolutions. It stands to reason: Your second career is built on the foundations of your first one, your third benefits from skills acquired in the first two, and so on.

Which is good news because it means that changing careers does not mean starting over at the bottom. Skills and abilities are transferable. Others can be acquired with additional training, preferably while you’re still working at your old job.

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Before you make a move, however, you’ll want to thoroughly evaluate your assets, likes, and dislikes. This will help you find a direction if the only thing you’re sure of is that you want a change, but don’t yet know what that change should be. It will also identify the holes in your resume that need filling before you take the plunge.

Want to get started on your transition immediately? Turn to that old job-hunting standby, networking. Getting to know people already working in the field you think you’d like to enter will not only help you decide if this is the path for you, but your new contacts will be able to give you leads on jobs, introduce you to others in the business, and just generally provide advice. Networking will also help you find a mentor or mentors.

An excellent way to both decide what your next career should be and get some experience is to volunteer in that field. Working weekends and nights is challenging, but it can give you some valuable credentials, not to mention contacts.

You could also consider the possibility of changing careers without changing employers. Many companies recognize the value of keeping experienced employees, even if it means training them to take on completely different roles.

Finally, remember you’ll need to be flexible. Maybe your new career will involve a move, or a temporary cut in income, or a significant change in status. But if you’ve done your homework, you’ll know these are sacrifices worth making.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at