Take off Career

Exploring Alternative Paths for Career Success: Pivots Certifications Side Projects and Personal Development

Alternative Paths for Major Career Steps

Making big changes in your career can be both scary and exciting. It’s natural to feel uncertain about what path to take when you’re in the midst of a major career transition.

Fortunately, there are alternative paths for each major career step that you can consider before making a final decision.

Alternative for Career Change

Embarking on a career change can be daunting. However, there are many small pivots, industry changes, and role changes to consider.

These small shifts can help you gain new skills and insights while still keeping your foot in the door of your desired industry. Here are some alternatives to consider:

Small Pivots – Small pivots are shifts that take you in a slightly new direction without drastically changing your current role.

For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you may start taking on projects that focus more on web design rather than print design. Industry Change – Sometimes, changing industries completely is the answer.

For example, if you work in retail but have always been curious about healthcare, now could be the time to make the switch. Role Change – Changing roles within your current company is also an option.

For example, if you’re a project manager, you could transition to a product manager role. Gain Skills – Gaining new skills can help you stand out when applying for jobs in your desired industry.

Consider joining a professional development group or taking classes in a new skill you’d like to pursue.

Alternative for Going to Grad School

Going to grad school may seem like the logical next step for many professionals. However, there are alternatives to consider if you’re not ready or able to commit to a graduate program.

Some alternatives include:

Certification Programs – If you’re looking to gain a specific skillset, consider enrolling in a certification program. These programs often cost less than graduate programs and are more industry-specific.

Self-Directed Learning – There are many learning platforms available online where you can take courses and brush up on skills. These often are free or low-cost and can be done at your own pace.

Lower Cost – If cost is a concern for you, look into community college courses or scholarships and grants that could offset some of the expense. Industry-Specific – If your ultimate goal is to work in a particular industry, consider in-depth research or experience-based learning instead of a traditional graduate program.

Alternative for Starting Your Own Business

Starting your own business can be overwhelming and risky. Before you take the plunge, consider these alternative paths:

Side Project – Test the waters and see if running a business is truly for you by starting a side project.

This can help you gain experience and earn additional income while you continue working a full-time job. Passion – Identify your passions and consider ways to turn them into a viable business.

This can be a fun and fulfilling way to start a business and make an impact on your community. Marketplace Launch – Participate in a marketplace launch, where you offer your product or service in a temporary storefront.

This can be an excellent way to generate interest and gain feedback before committing to a full-time business.

Alternative for Quitting

Quitting your job can be tempting if you’re unhappy in your current position. Before you do, consider these alternative paths:

Improving Current Job – Talk to your manager or supervisor about ways to improve your current job situation.

This could be adjusting your work schedule, taking on new responsibilities, or focusing on areas of your role that you enjoy. Invest in Personal Development – Focus on personal development by attending seminars or conferences, taking courses, or seeking out a mentor.

Networking – Build your network by participating in industry events, online groups, or reaching out to colleagues and friends. Job Search Momentum – Begin actively job searching while employed so that you can keep up momentum in your career transition while still earning a paycheck.

Career Change: Change Just One Thing Instead

If you’re interested in changing careers, but the idea seems too overwhelming, consider changing just one aspect of your career. Here are some things to focus on:

Change Aspect – Identify one small aspect of your current role that you could change to make it more appealing to you.

For example, you could begin focusing on a specific project or start working from home. Test Path – Test the waters in your desired industry by taking on freelance or contract work.

This can help you gain experience and learn more about your desired industry without committing to a full-time role. Gain Skills – Pursue professional development opportunities that will allow you to gain new skills.

These skills can help you become more marketable in your desired industry. Hybrid Positions – Consider positions that combine your current skillset with a new industry.

For example, if you’re a skilled writer but interested in healthcare, technical writing in healthcare could be a good fit.


Making career changes can be overwhelming, but there are alternative paths to consider. By taking a step back and considering all of your options, you can make a thoughtful decision that will set you up for success in the long run.

Whether you’re considering a career change, going to grad school, starting your own business, or simply making small changes in your career, there are a variety of alternatives to explore. By identifying which option is best for you, you can take the necessary steps to reach your career goals.

Going to Grad School: Look at Certification Programs Instead

Graduate school can be an excellent way to enhance your education level and gain new skills. However, it is important to consider the cost and the time commitment involved with a graduate degree.

If you are looking for an alternative path to enhance your skills within a particular industry, certification programs can be a more cost-effective solution. Here are some benefits of certification programs to consider:

Lower Cost – Certification programs can be significantly less expensive than graduate school.

The cost is often a few thousand dollars instead of several tens of thousands of dollars. Industry-Specific – Certification programs are often industry-specific, so the skills and knowledge you gain will be direct and applicable to your field.

Exam Preparation – Certification programs come with a final exam which you must pass to earn the certification. Therefore, you have to work through the program and actively demonstrate essential skills that are necessary to be successful in a particular industry.

Self-Directed Learning – Certification programs offer self-directed learning modules allowing you to learn at your pace and schedule.

Example of Certification Program

Certified Corporate FP&A Professional, or CC-FP&A is an industry-recognized certification program designed to validate the capabilities of corporate finance professionals in financial planning and analysis (FP&A). The program covers FP&A concepts, industry practices and techniques, forecasting methodologies, budgeting processes, and financial modeling tools.

By earning certification, you can demonstrate your skills and commitment to your industry and career. This program is one example of many available to different industries.

Starting Your Own Business: Start a Side Project Instead

Starting a business can be a daunting process. You need to create a product or service, build a brand, set up a website, and create a social media presence, among other things.

But before you commit to starting a business, you can consider starting a side project. A side project enables you to test the waters, confirm your passion, and even launch in a marketplace.

Here are some benefits of starting a side project:

Testing Waters – A side project allows you to evaluate your skills and potential in running a business without committing to a full-time business. You can learn about demand, fine-tune products or services, and better understand your target market without risking livelihoods.

Confirm Passion – Defining passion in the feasibility of a business idea can be challenging. However, starting a small project allows you to see if it is something you enjoy doing.

You can experiment, be creative and learn what drives you and what to expect before investing significant resources. Marketplace Launch – If your side project is successful, you can leverage it into a full-time business launch.

You will gain valuable experience; learn website hosting and design; gain an insight into marketing, accounting, and customer acquisition. Turning your side project into a full-time business is a cost-effective way of testing your product or service in the marketplace.

Tips for Getting Your Side Project Rolling

Starting a side project should be non-intimidating and within your comfort zone. Here are some tips that can help you get your side project rolling:

Online Presence – Develop an online presence from the beginning of your side project.

Create a website or a social media page to showcase the services or products you offer. This will enable you to reach a wide range of audiences.

Feedback – Social media platforms provide a feedback model so you can use this to get feedback from users to improve the product, tweak the offering, and build a customer base. Non-Intimidating – Keep the project non-intimidating and easy to manage.

Choose one or two low-cost tools to help you with the marketing and day-to-day tasks.

Final Thoughts

Making major career steps can be unsettling, but alternatives can be a helpful way of making valuable progress while having time to properly evaluate the situation. Instead of going straight to graduate school or quitting your job, explore certification programs or ways to pivot within your current role.

Starting a side project can be a great way of testing the waters in terms of entrepreneurship. Hopefully, these alternative career paths can provide new opportunities and expand your skills in ways that are beneficial to your career.

Quitting: Invest in Yourself Outside of Work Instead

Quitting your job can seem like the easiest and fastest solution to a difficult work situation. However, before you make a final decision, it is essential to explore alternative paths.

One alternative is to invest in yourself outside of work. There are various ways to improve your situation and pursue personal development while still being employed.

Here are some tips:

Ways to Improve Current Job

If you want to improve your current job situation, start by identifying what needs to change. Talk to your manager or supervisor about what improvements could be made.

Here are some suggestions on how to approach the task:

Identify Changes – Look for areas of your job that you dislike or feel are not meeting your expectations. From there, brainstorm possible solutions.

Is there a way for you to take on new responsibilities or work on a different project? Situation Improvement – Work to improve the situation from within by changing your approach, such as your communication style, or routine to make your work more efficient or more manageable.

Identifying changes upfront will enable you to make strategic decisions regarding your current job.

Pursuing Personal Development

Personal development is an excellent way to invest in yourself, regardless of your current job situation. Here are some ways to pursue personal development outside of work:

Personal Hobbies – Personal hobbies can be an excellent way to invest time in yourself.

They bring great joy and happiness while keeping you grounded and stress-free. These hobbies may help you get out of challenging situations at work.

Volunteer work – Volunteering can provide you with a sense of fulfillment while allowing you to gain new skills and make meaningful connections within your community. Networking – Networking can be as simple as meeting new people and sharing your passions.

Join Meetup groups or attending industry-related events or conferences to cultivate your interests. Job Search Momentum – If you’re feeling particularly dissatisfied with your current job, consider actively job searching while employed so that you can keep up momentum in your career transition while still earning a paycheck.

Invest in yourself by pursuing personal development. It is essential to consider how you can improve your situation and grow your skills outside of work.

These activities can provide the motivation and support you need to remain hopeful and achieve your career goals.

Final Thoughts

Having a job should be more than just collecting a paycheck. The right job should provide a sense of fulfillment while allowing you to grow your skills.

There are alternatives to quitting, and it’s important to consider all of your options before making a final decision. By investing in yourself outside of work, you can work towards a fulfilling career while meeting your current responsibilities.

Ultimately, your career should give you a sense of purpose and enhance your personal development. Pursuing personal development can provide a sense of meaning and create happiness, regardless of your current work situation.

With the right mindset, you can create the career you desire. In conclusion, considering alternative paths for major career steps can be a smart and proactive way to navigate career transitions.

Whether it is exploring small pivots or industry changes instead of a complete career change, looking into certification programs rather than going to grad school, starting a side project instead of immediately diving into entrepreneurship, or investing in personal development rather than quitting your current job, these alternatives can provide new opportunities for growth and fulfillment. By investing in ourselves outside of work and pursuing personal development, we can gain new skills, test our passions, improve our current situations, and keep our career momentum.

Ultimately, the key is to be open-minded, adaptable, and proactive in exploring alternative paths to achieve our career goals and find fulfillment in our professional lives.

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