Sometimes people need more than a change of scenery. It's not enough to simply get a new job. Instead, it's time to change careers entirely.

This can happen for a lot of reasons. In some cases it's not a choice. If you work in retail or write for a print newspaper, the changing reality of your profession may make a change a necessity. The same might be true of some people who work in manufacturing, or those who have made a living driving a cab.

In other situations, of course, people want to change careers because they want something new or they're looking for a profession that pays more money. No matter what the reason you have for wanting to change careers, there are a few things everyone should do before tying to make the leap.

An illustration showing words related to a job search.

Before changing careeers, have a plan. Image source: Getty Images.

Decide what you want to do

Sometimes people make job decisions out of emotion, not reason. Before you quit your job or make any choices you can't undo, it's important to have a definitive plan.

To do that, you have to not only identify the new career you want but also evaluate what it will take to get hired. If your new profession, for example, requires a specific degree or certification, you'll want to evaluate how you will get that. Can you do it at night or on the weekends? Will you have to quit to go to school or to get training?

No matter what those answers are, it's important to know them before you leave your old career behind.

Make some connections

Sometimes, a dream job can be a nightmare. Before you go all in on changing careers, make an effort to connect with people who do the work you want to do. For example, your dream might be becoming a nurse so you can help sick people get better. If you talk with people in the nursing field, you may find that many are frustrated by bureaucracy, paperwork, and other things that make their job harder.

That's just one example, but every profession has drawbacks that outsiders may not see. Becoming a long-haul truck driver would fulfill your dream of traveling the country, but you may not be factoring in the many nights away from home or the physical demands of sitting down all day long.

Meeting people in the field may make you want to move into that career more, or it could scare you away. Either way, it's important to know what you are getting into.

Dream, but be realistic

If you currently work as the assistant manager of a convenience store, it's probably not realistic to think you can change careers and become a film director. Yes, there are schools that might help you gain the needed skills, but many jobs require a lot of steps beyond school.

That doesn't mean to give up on the idea of becoming a film director. Instead, it's important to realize that starting as an entry-level production assistant puts you on that career path.

Whatever your desired career is, you should examine the steps needed to get there and whether you'll be happy if you never reach the ultimate destination. For example, would the wannabe film director be happy if he or she ended up doing something else in the film industry?

There are some careers in which a degree more or less qualifies you for some version of the job. In those cases, it's easier to plan your change, but in less certain professions, it's possible to map out a journey that may not get you exactly where you want to be but should bring you someplace you want to be.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.