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Changing career paths: get your head in the game

Preparing for a football game is a lot like getting back into the job market.

Football is back, baby. And while we’re all looking forward to watching the Cowboys let their fans down for another season, the year’s end is also a time when many people start to consider new job prospects. Luckily (for the football fan, at least), football teams and job candidates actually have a lot in common.

There are a lot of factors that could influence someone’s professional life. Layoffs, labor market shifts, salary needs, or even just a change in personal, career, or family goals could spark a new job search. Use the following playbook for the challenges of this competitive job market.

Declaring for the draft

Preparation looks different for everyone, so identifying your goal is crucial in creating an executable plan and keeping your forward momentum. The top 5 reasons professionals consider a career change are:

1. Salary needs

Sometimes the best way to increase your earnings is to change careers or get promoted. There’s no salary cap in your life, and no agent to land a big deal, it’s on you to get what you need.

2. Lack of advancement opportunities

Some roles, industries, or small companies may not have internal career advancement opportunities beyond a certain point. No one wants to ride the bench for the rest of their career.

3. Moving to growing or stable industries

Volatile industries (like oil and gas, for example) experience dramatic highs and lows, making it difficult to predict job security.

4. Work flexibility

There is something increasingly attractive about the ability to determine your schedule and telecommute.

5. Value misalignment

The importance of finding identity in a company’s mission is essential to your happiness. This is especially true for military veterans. Your work should support your values.

If any of these reasons resonate with you, use this knowledge when preparing a game plan that plays to your strengths and helps you cross the goal line.

Making a game plan

A career change doesn’t necessarily mean a change in industry or company, it can also be a progression from a technical career path to a supervisory path, project management position, or even a role in a new department. Whether aiming to progress or change teams altogether, be the offensive coordinator of your career by creating a game plan that positions you for the goal you want.

Preparation is key

Review the game tape and look for weaknesses in your playbook, which in this metaphor, would be your resume. Go back and look at your career, your jobs, and the things you’ve achieved in those jobs. Does your resume reflect those achievements? Did you tailor your resume to the job for which you’re applying?

Just like in football, you wouldn’t just go out and start calling plays. You’d look at what you’re up against, consider the right plays, the right personnel, and maybe even call an audible when the time came. Make sure you list the right experience, the achievements that reflect that experience, and that your resume isn’t filled with military jargon. Clear communication is always important.

Assess the field

Football is a game of field position. Where you start on the field can be the determining factor in whether or not you reach the goal line. In your professional life, just like in football, tackling small goals moves you toward the big one.

Ask yourself:

  • Is there a clear next step in my career progression; what comes after this role?
  • Does my current organization support my career goals; can they facilitate my next steps?
  • Will starting a new role at a new company progress me in ways my current organization can’t?

Knowing where you are in relation to the first down marker will help you identify areas for improvement.

The play call

The quarterback is important on the field, but he gets a lot of input, even when he calls the plays. The value of a seasoned coaching staff can create opportunities in unforeseen places.

  • Do you have a mentor who has made a similar career move or is currently working in your desired field?
  • Are you leveraging platforms like LinkedIn to engage your network?
  • Have you sought counsel from top career professionals like RecruitMilitary?

The line of scrimmage

While progression may come naturally with time, many employees need to prepare for a change in responsibilities through education, training, or experience. This is especially true for employees looking to launch into a new industry or keep their possession moving downfield.


  • Is a career change the appropriate move?
  • Do I have the professional assets (education, licensing, experience) to support a transition?
  • Do my credentials overlap with my aspired role?
  • What environmental factors (economic, family, etc.) may impact my drive?
  • Am I financially prepared for a potential salary reduction while I settle into a new role?

Get to the line and read the defense (or job market). Having a mentor can be impactful, but on the field, it’s still up to you to adjust, call audibles, and make the final decision. Don’t be afraid to take a time out, reassess your game plan, or seek coaching. Avoid unnecessary penalties or delay of game by being aware of your qualifications and the environmental factors that may affect your field position.

Stay calm in the pocket

When changing careers or transitioning from the military, life can quickly switch from calm and ordered to pure chaos, like an all-out blitz. Remember to stay calm in the pocket, even when you aren’t sure you made the right call. It can take time for plays to develop, just like it can take time to go through the placement process. Stay calm, keep your eyes downfield, find your opportunity, and take the shot when it presents itself.

The end zone

Often, a perfect play requires preparation, practice, and time. When done correctly, you can find yourself in the end zone on your first down. But if this isn’t the case for you, stay motivated. Your military service has taught you how to face adversity and overcome challenges. Get back in the huddle, re-engage your coaches, and keep working until you reach your goal.