A career change can be a daunting process and usually comes with a significant investment in the process: time, money or both. However, it need not be as daunting as you might think, after all, most people will change career several times over the course of their working life. The key to success is to ensure each change is a positive one – breaking the process down into just 5 manageable steps can help you find the right path through the maze…
Step 1: Assess what kind of career changer you are.
People who consider a career change usually fall into several loose areas:
- You’re feeling stuck in a rut. You don’t mind your job too much, but you feel you’ve been there for too long or there are no opportunities ahead of you
- You don’t get on well with your team or manager. You feel no satisfaction from spending time with your colleagues
- You’re in the wrong place. You dread going in to work each day either because it offers no challenge or you find the role boring
- You have a passion that you wish to pursue
- You would like to find a new challenge
- Your focus has changed and your work/life balance is no longer suitable. You may wish to spend more time with family or have a hobby you wish to dedicate more time to
Analyse your reasons for wanting to change career – do you feel the need to escape or to pursue something new? This is a key difference as to how you should approach your career change. If your feelings are linked to the need to leave your current place of work, you may find that you don’t need a career change but a role change. This is still difficult but can be less challenging than a complete change. Are there other organisations that may have a better fit to your values and personality? Are there similar roles but with a different focus? Can you reduce your hours/days to create a better balance for your life outside of work?
Step 2: Consider your personality and transferable skills.
If you decide that you need a more radical change, the first step is to discover more about yourself and to make sure that the change will take you in a positive direction. Consider your personality, skills, values and interests. There are some excellent self-assessment tools available online or you might prefer to simply sit with a piece of paper and write down the areas of your life that bring you the greatest feelings of fulfilment and then a second piece of paper with everything that you actively dislike. Whichever method you choose, the important aspect is really the act of assessing yourself. Remember to question all of your own assumptions – are you really who you think you are?
Step 3: What are your constraints?
What are the barriers to your career change? If you need to retrain completely this may come with a significant time and/or financial commitment. Avoid falling into the trap of thinking constraints are impossible barriers though. There may be ways to overcome your personal issues – can you retrain in the evenings or using distance learning? Can you save in order to afford a career break? Can you negotiate part-time hours for a short period in order to focus on developing new skills? Consider the long game – you may decide it’s worth any short-term difficulties in order to gain long-term satisfaction.
Step 4: Explore your options.
Online career assessment tools may help you to create a long list of opportunities that fit well with your self-assessment or you may already have some ideas of career areas that interest you. Create a list of all the occupations you wish to explore then try to narrow this down to a list of about 5 strong possibilities and begin to look into each of them in-depth.
- Read job descriptions for each role – what qualifications and experience are required? What are the typical salaries? Hours? Will the role fit in with your lifestyle?
- Compare your shortlist to your network. Do you have any contact with people working in these areas already? If not, make contact with people working in these fields. LinkedIn or company websites can be very helpful
- Conduct information interviews. Most people find it flattering to be approached for advice on how to get into a similar field of work and will be willing to offer you some of their time. Try to find out the reality of the role, the good and the bad points
Step 5: Create an Action Plan.
Once you have identified a new career that will fit in with your personality, skills, values and interests you need to create your ‘to do’ list. Do you need to apply for training courses? Can you volunteer in the role to build experience? Add in dates by which you will complete each step of your plan. The more detailed and specific your action plan is, the more likely you are to be successful.
Is a successful career change possible? Absolutely, but you have to be prepared to take action. The reason most people avoid making a career change is fear but remember – staying in a role which does not fulfil you is still making a decision, just not the one which will make a positive difference. Making a successful career change can have a very positive effect on your life so choose to begin exploring your options today and, who knows, by this time next year you could be in a very different place.