Call it Millennial ennui, or just plain dissatisfaction with careers that are more than a little lackluster if you want. All I know is that there is a disturbing trend among my friends. So many of them are absolutely miserable in their jobs. They want to make a change, but they don’t know how.

I don’t blame them. Businesses rarely if ever reward loyalty, so there’s no motivation to stick with one job until retirement. Also, who came up with the idea that we should have to pick a career at the ripe old age of 19 or 20, then be expected to stick with that until we die? What do we want? Meaningful work and decent compensation! When do want it? Now!

Of course, as with anything else, some of my friends have been more successful than others. I’m no career expert. I just pay attention to what I see. So, here are eight bits of advice I’ve created from the steps I’ve seen my friends take to successfully change their careers.

Understand Why You Want to Change

I’ve seen this happen more than once. If you simply jump into another career without understanding why you want to make a change so badly, you could very likely end up just as miserable at a new job.

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Take some time to identify what it is that makes you want to change. Make no mistake, there are plenty of good reasons to change careers. You might be pursuing a passion, or taking on a challenge you believe could make a real difference to the world.

Here’s the problem. If you don’t know why, you could be missing some key information. For example, what if your issue is depression or anxiety? What if it isn’t your job that’s making you unhappy, but you’re focusing on that instead of dealing with what you should be. If you can’t answer the simple question,’Why do you want to change careers?’ it’s time to slow down.

Assess Your Skills And Talents

Before you go further, it’s a good idea to take an honest inventory of your skills as well as your talents. Remember, there are important differences between the two.

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Skills

These are the things that you can do, because you have learned to do them. If you can perform miracles with Microsoft Excel, for example, that’s a skill. Your skills are often the things that make you marketable to potential employers.

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Talents

These are the abilities you have because you happen to be naturally good at them. You can identify your talents by considering the things you enjoy and can do relatively effortlessly.

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Both skills and talents are important. When you are clearly aware of yours, you can use both to identify your new career, and to prepare for it.

Consider Alternatives to Returning to School

Don’t go back to college! Okay, that’s not completely right. There are some cases where that is the best solution. It’s just that going back to school can lead to crushing debt. Plus, if you do this, you’re often faced with adjusting your daily schedule to life on campus.

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Instead, consider getting some online schooling. A lot of courses are often free and offer the opportunity to learn new skills, and shore up old ones. Others do require some investment - big or small, but that investment will not be as crushing as a student loan. Lambda Coding School - a 30-week comprehensive program for web developers, will not charge you a single penny up till you land a 50K tech job. And that’s not the only e-school, offering an option to pay for your education via an income-share agreement, rather than pay for tuition upfront.

Freelance And Moonlight to Gain Experience

The booming freelance economy is creating great opportunities for people who are considering a job change. If you have some marketable skills, but lack experience consider jumping into gig work to help pad your resume.

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This is another area where your connections to others can help. If you’ve developed relationships with people within your desired career, ask them if you can provide any assistance on any of their freelancing projects. If so, you can test the waters of your chosen career, and get some relevant experience.

Use Your Resume Objective to Sell Yourself

Call it a resume objectives statement, branding statement, or personal statement. Just know that this part of your resume is extremely important if you want to change careers. Why is this? You can use this to sell your reason for changing your careers, to articulate your passion for your new career, and to show how you are prepared to make the transition.

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Stop Contemplating Your Navel

I hate my job. I want to do something meaningful. My company is a soulless, blood-sucking corporation. I can’t imagine doing this for forty years.

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I have heard all of these things from my friends. The ones who made a change took action. They spoke to people. They learned things. They attended career seminars, and they sent out their resumes.

The ones that didn’t, enmeshed themselves in the process of thinking about a new job, but never took action. There are only so many self help books you can read, only so many career podcasts you can hear. Eventually, you have to hit the pavement with a plan of action.

People Not Jobs

People are an important part of this process. If you want a job you will love, seek out the people you want to work with. If you enjoy your coworkers, the chances of your enjoying your job increases immensely.

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Not only that, making personal connections is a key part of getting the job you want. It’s no longer a matter of simply waiting for someone in HR to review your resume, and call you for an interview. Now, you can work your way into the job of your dreams by connecting with people on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.

Put Your People to Work For You

Don’t keep your goals a secret. Let your friends and family know that you are on the lookout, and what you would like to do. If you have professonal associates, you can loop them in as well. Just be sure you can trust them. If you’re attempting to leave a toxic work environment, you may be better off keeping your goals to yourself.

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If you’re ready to change careers, you aren’t alone. Many of us find ourselves in that position at least once. In fact, people will change jobs an average of 18 times in a lifetime. If your goal is to successfully make a change, and land someplace that makes you happy, try the tips above. I have seen them lead to success on more than one occasion.