You never thought it would happen to you, but your dream job has become a nightmare. The good thing about nightmares, however, is that you can wake up from them. You can do the same with a bad job. Wake up! It’s time to find a new career.

At least there’s some good news. You no longer have to be a cookie-cutter person stuck in the same tedious career forever. Thanks to your self-awareness of your needs and your willingness to commit to change, you’re already steps ahead of an average employee. How courageous!

Here’s the bad news, though: changing careers isn’t as simple as changing your Facebook profile picture when you get a haircut. And unfortunately, if you’ve been in the workforce for several years, the “fresh out of college” excuse won’t do it this time.

There’s still hope! Even if all your past experience relates to your old career, you can still break into a new one. Here are a few strategies to guide you.

Focus on What You Loved/Didn’t Love About Your Career

What was it that drew you to the career you’re quitting? Time to do some serious brainstorming here. Was it your passion for writing, working with people or solving equations? Once you figure this out, you can research different careers that require similar skills.

It’s also important to assess the reasons why you’re leaving this career. Being realistic about the not-so-great qualities of the career you chose will help you accept why it’s okay to leave. Maybe the job was stressful. Maybe there was the constant threat of layoffs, a terrible boss, or simply a lack of motivation in the workplace.

You don’t have to immerse yourself in your field to the point where you’re drowning. Immerse yourself in part of it and accept that some aspects simply aren’t for you.

Research Your New Industry

You can’t just dive headfirst into a new career. Imagine sitting at the interview table, listening to the interviewer talking – and not understanding a single word she’s saying. That would be pretty embarrassing.

Treat this like a college course and do some thorough research. Read books, journals and magazines, take some online classes and maybe even get a certification. Potential employers will understand that you won’t know all the ins and outs of their standards, practices and trends, but every little step helps.


Like researching, volunteering is a surefire way to get your foot in the door of an industry. The best part is, if you don’t like it, you can always stop easily with no repercussions. Volunteering also gives you an inside glimpse to what a career will be like.

If you realize the career is not for you, it can open some other doors for your skills and interests. If you love volunteering, you’ll gain some real-world experience you can brag about to employers.

Establish a Network

You’re not alone in the world! You can probably find someone, whether it’s a close friend, relative or online connection, that works in your target industry. Networking can help you make connections with hiring managers you wouldn’t find walking on the street.

A referral from a trusted colleague can get you noticed right away by these managers. It can also prove you’re able to work through a lack of experience.

Be Honest and Enthusiastic

Don’t pretend like your other career never happened – managers and recruiters will know. They’ll also notice how you were gaining speed in your old field and came to an abrupt stop when you left.

This is your chance to be as upfront as possible. Lay it all out on the table and get it over with. Explain the why, when and how of your career change decision. Make sure to focus on what attracted you to the new industry.

Be passionate! Showing these employers why this career would be a better fit for you can win them over. An enthusiastic, can-do attitude can make an interview successful.

Although you might be back at the bottom rung, it’s possible to take the necessary steps to rebuild your career path. You might start out making coffee and copies, but remain optimistic and good-willed. Every bit of experience is beneficial in the long run.

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

2 Comments on Stuck at a Nightmare Job? How to Start Over with No Experience

  1. Sometimes
    June 24, 2015 at 10:54 pm (6 years ago)

    I will just include this article in my favorites and come back to read it several more times…I wanted to tweet it, suddenly realised my coworkers would have understood a little something 😉

    • Sarah Landrum
      June 25, 2015 at 12:30 pm (6 years ago)

      HAHA – Glad it’s making it to the favorites, though. Good luck with the nightmare job!


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