New year – time for a change. Along with the detox, the gym subscription, the resolution to learn that language, or run that marathon, is the urge to make a drastic and permanent change to your career.

So, first things first – what is it about a new career that makes you want to change? Is it your function? Are you an accountant that would prefer a new career in marketing? Or do you want to change your industry – bored of retail and want to move into something digital? Perhaps you’re happy in your work and it’s your location you want to change – similar job, different country.

We often see students who say they want to change all three upon graduation. New function, new industry, new country – all at once, bam, new life! Our advice to those considering a complete career transformation is: one thing at a time.

Katharine, VP of Global Career Development at Hult, says:

“We help hundreds of students every year make significant changes to their existing careers, particularly through our One-Year MBA program. And take it from us – your chances of long-term success are greater if you approach the change gradually.”

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Changing one, or even two, elements of your career in the space of a one-year program is challenge enough, albeit an incredibly exciting and rewarding challenge. Change all three at once and your head will be spinning; it may be an adjustment too far and harm rather than enhance your career in the long term.

Michael Lu, our VP of Global Marketing, is a typical Hult employee in that he has had a varied and international career. Coming to Europe via China, Hong Kong, New York, Singapore, and Australia, Michael started in management consulting, worked in e-commerce, moving on to interactive agency and media roles, before settling into a career in education. Hult News asked Michael if he’d ever done the ’triple whammy’ and changed function, industry, and country.

“No, I haven’t, not all at once,” says Michael. “I learnt from my first major career change – when I made the move from consulting at PwC to marketing in the digital sector at News Corp – that having a plan on paper is one thing, experiencing it is another. It’s not just a ‘career change’, it’s a life change, and the adjustments can be bigger than you think, especially if you’re changing countries.

“You might think, ‘I’m used to travel, I’ve had loads of different work experience, no big deal.’ But when you’re getting your head around a new role, a new team, half a world away from friends and family – do you really need to be getting up to speed with a new industry too? Are you going to be performing at your best when you’re contending with all these unknowns?”

The phrase ‘move the big rocks first’ is pertinent here: what is the biggest, most important change you want to make in your career? Focusing on this number one priority will help ensure you achieve it to your satisfaction.

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Say you decide that the most important thing is for you to change the region you’re working in. An organization is more likely to take you on, sponsor your visa application, etc, if it’s for a role you have a great deal of experience in.

Similarly, if it’s function you want to change – moving from finance to marketing for example – then the knowledge you have from working in a different area of the same industry will be point in your favor, as will your professional network. And getting as much experience in your desired destination role should be your priority.

Focusing on one thing at a time doesn’t mean complete career transformation can’t be your end goal. It’s just a question of maximizing your chances of success at each stage of the change. Once you’re firmly installed in your destination country, you can look to switching functions. Then, having gained experience in a new role, make the move to a different industry. Or any combination of the above.

Gradual transformation is still total transformation, and it can happen in less time than you might think. Something Michael notes in hindsight: “When I look back, to even five years ago, my career, my life – it’s changed so much. Go back ten years, and it’s almost unrecognizable.”