Based on recent research, almost 10% of UK employees would like to have a complete career change as a result of the recent pandemic. In the following article, I have collected some guidance on how to get started.
Is it possible? Whether you have worked in the Higher Education sector for a few years or decades, it is absolutely possible to change your career. You can take some small steps immediately to start your journey. A career change may seem like a daunting experience to you at the start. You may envisage making a scary jump to a brand new career direction and starting all over again at entry-level positions. However, you can make your career change gradual, and transition at a pace which is comfortable for you.
There are several inspiring examples of people who decided to change careers:
The legendary novelist, Stephen King, worked as a caretaker before starting his writing career and accomplishing international fame. Julia Child worked many years as a researcher in the Secret Intelligence before publishing her books and developing educational programmes. Anna Mary Robertson Moses started her painting career when she was 78 years old. Previously, she worked on a farm.
Where do I start? If you have worked in your Higher Education role for a few years, you may naturally feel jaded at times and go through brief periods of boredom. You may find that your job satisfaction peaks and troughs. Before embarking on a change, it might be wise for you to look at ‘enriching’ your job. You could look at opportunities to build on what you enjoy, take on new exciting projects, and try to delegate tasks which do not align with your strengths. However, if you are perpetually dissatisfied with your job, reinventing your career might be the answer.
A survey conducted by Learning and Work Institute’s (L&W) revealed that 69% of people wishing to switch careers believe they need to develop their skills to do so.
It is easier than ever to take up academic courses. A large number of UK universities (such as The Open University) offer professional development courses, both short and long-term. Rita worked as part of a busy Admissions Office for over 10 years. She provided advice to prospective business management students and travelled overseas to represent the university at overseas student recruitment events. In the first few years, Rita genuinely enjoyed her HE role working in Admissions. After a while, she started daydreaming about going back to studying at university. She also wanted to change her career however struggled to come up with a new career direction. One day, she decided to apply for a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degree course. Whilst completing her course, she met fellow MBA students from a range of geographical and professional backgrounds. She was able to take advantage of career coaching to brainstorm possible career paths. When Rita graduated, she decided to set up her own consultancy and has successfully grown it for the last 5 years.
Initially, Rita could not come up with a new career destination. However, her academic studies allowed her to explore different career paths. Her studies helped her to identify a new career direction which otherwise she would not have thought of.
Allow time for experimentation: If you are working in a job that you do not genuinely enjoy, you probably expect yourself to find a new career direction within a few weeks. Try not to rush your research and allow yourself ample time for brainstorming options. You might find it helpful to devote a couple of hours weekly to your research. You could search online and browse job platforms such as the jobs.ac.uk site. You could hire a skilled career coach. You could research free academic courses and see if any of them piques your interest.
Learning about your strengths from others can be a life-changing experience. Do try to ask friends and colleagues to share with you some of the strengths they have observed. Approach at least 5 people you know from your work or personal context. Ask them to tell you 3 of your strengths or things you do well. This activity is only for asking about positives (and not improvement areas). Do jot down the responses you receive and see if you can find a common theme amongst them.
Try reflective questions: You would probably agree that journaling can be helpful in expressing your concerns and aspirations. It can help you see things from a new perspective. Take some time to reflect on the below questions:
*What do you like most about my current job?
*What would you like to have less of and why?
*If you had access to unlimited resources such as time and financials, how would you like to make a difference in the world?
*Would you be looking to change to a new sector or would you prefer to stay within Higher Education?
*Who could help you in your search? (friends, family, colleagues)
Take the first steps: Many people shifting careers start making a change whilst being in full-time employment. Keeping your regular job is helpful because you can minimise your risks and avoid financial pressures. As the first step, you could look at taking up a volunteering job to gain more experience in your chosen field. Alternatively, you could take up a freelance contract to dip your toe in the water. Tom used to work as an Operation Manager for a well-established university in the South East of the UK. After working in his area for more than 30 years, he wanted to try something different. Tom applied for a freelance business lecturer position and was successfully offered the project. Tom found himself taking on more and more lecturing projects, and gave up his operations job within a year. Starting on a small-scale basis allowed him gradually transition into teaching, and avoid making a leap into the unknown.
It is never too late to change careers. You can start taking small steps today to get started. You can find an exciting and refreshing new career direction which aligns with your strengths and interests.
More career change advice:
- How to Change Your Career Direction
- Preparing to Change Jobs? Make sure your CV is ready too!
- Top Tips for a Career Change
- Considering a Career Change? Your 5 Step Plan for Success