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If you want to change careers, start by finding your 'why'

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Twenty/20

This is an excerpt from CNBC Make It's weekly newsletter. Subscribe here.

Workers are itching for change. 

As I wrote about last week, people are quitting their jobs at record rates. And while a lucky few are doing so to take a break from work altogether, most are hoping to land something better. Approximately 55% of American adults are planning a switch, according to Bankrate's August job seeker survey.

What's led to the shake up? Living through the coronavirus pandemic was eye-opening for many people, and has pushed them "to the breaking point" when it comes to staying in a career they're unhappy or dissatisfied with, says Chelsea Jay, a resume writer and career coach. 

"Clients say it's now or never," Jay says. "They have this whole new philosophy that life is short and they actually really want to enjoy it."

A change is appealing for many reasons. Some workers have different priorities than they did before 2020, such as more time to spend with their families. Others realized in the chaotic pandemic market that their current job isn't as stable as they once believed.

If you're feeling ready for a change, here are three things Jay suggests doing to make a smooth career transition.

1. Work on your mindset

One of the biggest obstacles to changing careers is not having the confidence to do so, says Jay. 

"A lot of people come to me and there is a hesitancy, there's a fear, there's people telling them it won't be easy," she says.

To change that negative mindset, Jay advises researching the new role you are interested in and looking for the overlap with your previous experience. That can help you gain the confidence you need to make a move.

2. Find your 'why'

If you're unhappy with your current job but don't know exactly what to switch to, Jay says to consider your "why."

"Why you want to make the change is the first thing hiring managers are going to ask you," she says. "You need to understand who you are, what you want and what your expectations are for the role."

To come up with your why, consider what motivates you and your reasons for wanting to change jobs, Jay suggests.

Christine Snow, 30, left her job as a flight attendant at Delta Airlines during the pandemic to become a software engineer. She now earns significantly more and is happier with the flexibility and future opportunities of her new career.

What ultimately helped her make the switch was to create a list of what she wanted her life to look like. Her priorities included less travel, the ability to work from home, creative problem solving and to work independently but still in a team environment. Coding fit the bill.

"I asked, 'What do I want my daily life to look like?'" she says. "When I had those things written down, it was much easier to filter through the career paths that matched and create a game plan."

3. Be proactive about your next steps

Once you have a better idea of why you want to change careers and what you want to find, take courses or go to conferences that will help you gain the skills and contacts necessary to land your dream role, Jay says. You will likely want to do this before you leave your old job to ensure you like the new path you're embarking on.

Snow decided to make a career switch while she was on leave from her flight attendant job during the coronavirus pandemic. She left Delta and got a temporary gig as a clerk at a courthouse while taking intensive coding courses through a program called Zip Code Wilmington, a coding nonprofit in Delaware. The organization also helped her land a new job. 

Jay also advises setting up informational interviews with people who have a similar role to the one you are interested in so you can learn the good, the bad and the ugly.

"You want a full picture," she says. "Not having all the information you need to make the right decision and not knowing what you really want out of a position and a company, that's the biggest mistake."

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