Pursuing second careers may be a matter of choice when, for instance, your current profession no longer fits with your values, needs and expectations, or they may also arise out of necessity when you face layoffs and a challenging labor market in your existing industry.
Whatever your reason for pursuing a change, some smart research and planning will help you to make smart decisions about your next steps.
Determine Why You are Making Change
Your reasons for pursuing a second career may be very obvious in your mind, or, if you are like many people, they might be quite vague. Most people who pursue a mid career change start out with a good understanding of what they don't want in their next career (tough labor market, long hours, micro-managing boss, or whatever else may be causing stress at the current job), but few have a solid understanding of what they do want in their next career.
Taking some time to understand your work values and expectations can help you to choose a career that is a good fit for your needs. If your concerns with your previous job are related to a poor labor market outlook or low income prospects, these career research strategies will show you how to learn more about average salaries and labor market outlook for new careers that you may be considering.
Determine What You Have to Offer
While making a career change does sometimes require some retraining, don't immediately assume you'll need to start all over from the beginning when you launch a new career. If you conduct a transferable skills analysis(basically, a very thorough assessment of your current skills), you may be quite surprised by the number of skills you have that could transfer easily into a new job. Start to think of yourself in terms of the skills you can offer employers as opposed to simply a job title, and you'll very likely open up many job opportunities that you previously did not know you were qualified to pursue.
Determine Where You Want to Go Next
While it's entirely possible and reasonable to make a mid career change without going through piles of career assessments, if you are feeling quite unsure about your next direction and you want some more insight into the ways your personality and/or your aptitudes fit with different careers, then you may want to consider taking a career placement test. There are several on the market. The best test for you will depend on the type of information you're hoping to gather from the test.
Ideally, career placement tests should be interpreted for you by a qualified counselor. Sometimes the results of these tests are quite straightforward; other times you can be quite surprised by the results. A counselor who is qualified to interpret the results of these tests can help you to understand what the results mean and how you can apply those results to your career change.
If you have a good sense of where you what to go next, or if you have a short list of a few careers of interest, some smart career research including a few information interviews will help you to get good insights into the second careers you are considering.