If you’re looking for work and aren’t having much luck in your current field, it’s tempting to decide now is the time for a career change. But although it’s always good to be flexible, it’s also important to be realistic. There is a large reservoir of higher trained people looking for work paying less money during economic downturns. Experts offer these four tips for ensuring a career change will work — before you make the leap:

– Do Your Homework Make sure you don’t jump from one sinking industry to another. You can start your research online, with government publications such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. Also, look at whether a specific specialty within your potential new field is in demand. For example, perhaps school districts in your area aren’t hiring many elementary school teachers, but they may need special education teachers.

-Talk to People

Before you make a change, you need to find out what the career and job really involve.

For example, many careers, ranging from interior design to financial planning, may involve selling your services in addition to performing them. Or you may be enticed by the high average salary of your dream job, only to find that it’s a field where a few people make a lot and most people make very little. To get the real story, talk to people who work in the field you’re targeting.

-Assess Your Experience

The lowest-risk decision for a hiring manager is to choose someone who has done the job before. If you try to compete in a new field, you’ll be at a disadvantage.

It is hard to sell yourself when you don’t have any experience, or the experience that you do have is a completely unrelated field. You can’t make your past not exist.

This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to change careers. But you may need to find a substitute for the experience you lack. One way to do this is by networking. Does somebody know you from a former company? People are much more likely to take a risk on someone they have worked with in the past, even if it was in a different job. Volunteer experience can also help.

– Build a Bridge

Not all career changes are equally difficult. The hardest is to move to a field where none of your previous experience is relevant. Often, though, you can find a way to build on your previous experience while doing something new. Consider staying in your industry but moving to a new role so you can play up your industry knowledge. Or you could keep working in finance, for example, but for a biotech company instead of a publisher. In that case, you can show that you have already done the job, even if the industry is new.