Building a successful career is exhilarating and it seems like everyone wants you — you offer a fresh new perspective, the latest understanding of industry trends and have optimum energy to bring passion into the work that you do.  But what if you realize that, all this time, you’ve been building the wrong career?

Take a deep breath.  Major career changes don’t have to be stressful.  It will take some introspection and careful planning, but with these 5 steps you’ll be on your way to pulling off a major career change in no time.

Step 1:  Identify your passions

Making a big career move takes time, so ensuring it’s a job you’ll find passion in is crucial to your day-to-day happiness.  Once you begin to entertain the thought of shifting your career, it may seem like the possibilities are endless.  But there are a few questions you can ask yourself to pinpoint exactly which career you were meant for.  Ask yourself:

  • How do I define success?
  • What would others list as my professional strengths?
  • What things do I hate about my current career?

After contemplating the answers to these questions you can narrow down the jobs that may bring out the best in you and lead to a fulfilling career.  But first, you’ll have to temper the possibilities with reality.  Sure you love watching movies and excel at karaoke — but that doesn’t mean you should quit everything to write film scores.  This isn’t a decision you should take lightly, so do yourself a favor and choose a path in which you can truly excel.

Step 2:  Prepare by re-branding your online presence

Employers use the internet as their primary go-to tool for job postings and candidate searches.  Once a resume is received, the first thing they do before even considering scheduling you for that first interview is check out your online profile.  Many will not even take an applicant into consideration unless they can seek you out online first.  The sites they are searching include:

  • LinkedIn.  This is the first stop for most employers. Make sure your profile looks professional, photo included, and is as complete and detailed as possible.  Use their Resume Builder tool to turn your profile into an instant resume that can be used for easy submission to job opportunities.
  • Google+.  This is especially great for creatives looking to showcase their work from around the web.  Be sure to keep your profile up to date and include all of the places that prospective employers can find your work.
  • Facebook and Twitter.  These are the top social media sites to screen job applicants.  Make sure if you have a profile published that it is clean and professional.  If not, make it private immediately.

More than that, be sure that your profiles cohesively present your personal brand.  Pick a style that best represents you and the career you want to pursue and imbue all of your profiles with this persona.

Step 3:  Network

The best job opportunities don’t come from an online job board.  They come from someone you know.  Friends, family, neighbors, past coworkers, these are all key members of your network you should be tapping. Even if someone doesn’t have the ability to hire you on the spot, chances are they know someone who is hiring.

Networking is always essential to the job hunt, but it’s even more important when switching careers.  Why should prospective employers hire you over a more seasoned candidate?  Because they already know you on a more personal level and are sure you’d excel in this role, that’s why.

Step 4:  Walk the walk

If you believe in yourself, others will pick up on it.  Carry yourself like a successful professional every day and don’t let the little things bring you down.  You know you have it in you to knock this career shift out of the park, you just have to prove it.  Even if you feel a little fraudulent or like a fish out of water, always be well dressed, articulate and be confident in yourself and your abilities.

Step 5:  Think outside the box

Starting out in a new career is a great time to look for innovative opportunities to gain some experience. Adding international experience to your resume is a great way to stand out among other contenders.  Depending on the career you’re looking to enter, it might be easier to start out in another country.  This will require a lot of preparation — such as document preparation and learning the rudiments of the language — but it’s an invaluable addition to any resume.

Consider other ways to gain experience like joining a start-up or offering up your services pro bono.  Stay in your position and start a side hustle while you gain experience for your new career.

So fear no longer, everyone survives the leap and lives on to share their stories with others who only admire confident professionals who go for it.  You can be one of the admired few as long as you own it and lead the way to your own future.