When you switch between jobs in the same field, your resume serves as your calling card. It lays out your experience and shows that you have done similar work to the new position you are applying for, or work that has built you up to be qualified.

If you hope to change careers, it's not that simple. Maybe you believe that your existing skills translate well to whatever new work you hope to take on. Perhaps you also understand that you will need to go back to school or gain certification to enter your new field.

No matter what you hope to do, there are some important steps to take. None of these will guarantee that you get the job, but following them will make it easier to end up where you hope to go.

A person stands at a fork in a road.

Making a major career change is possible with planning and persistence. Image source: Getty Images.

1. Take inventory

If you currently sell aluminum and wish to transition into selling steel, you may not have that far to go. If, however, you are a nurse who wishes to become a teacher or a teacher who wants to become a truck driver, then you have some work to do.

Take a deep hard look at your skill set and the skills needed for your intended profession. Look at whether there are hard requirements -- such as degrees or certifications -- and soft skills that you might bring to the job. In general, hard requirements are non-negotiable while soft ones are more discretionary.

2. Reach out

In some fields where there is heavy need, it may be easy to enter as long as you're flexible as to where you work. Teaching and nursing, for example, are professions in need of qualified bodies; if you meet the education requirements (which vary by state), it's not hard to get hired in many places.

For other professions, it might be about knowing someone or having a person who can open doors for you. Even if you qualify on paper, hiring managers may only see your lack of industry experience.

Your network can help fix that for you. Someone who knows you could make a call on your behalf, or serve as a reference to explain how your seemingly unrelated experience relates to the job at hand.

3. Have a plan

Don't just blindly send out resumes. That's not likely to work unless you're looking to transition to a field that has a desperate need for workers.

Instead, put yourself out there. Go to hiring events and seek out mentors. Email people, introduce yourself, and ask for introductory interviews. Sometimes the difference between being ignored and getting an interview is having even a slim connection to the person doing the hiring.

4. Be persistent and patient

In most cases, this will not be an easy process. As your journey continues, keep working on ways to make yourself a better candidate. As you progress, with luck and persistence, your skills will make you too strong a candidate to ignore.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.