Career Change


Considering a career change can be daunting and yet exciting. Many of us consider a career change 10-15 times in our working lives, and for many different reasons.

The reality, however, is that many people do not make the change. A complete change may not even be necessary, but a review of your career, how it is progressing and what steps you need to take to put it back on track probably is. If you are currently dissatisfied and considering a change here's how to get started.


Explore your motivations: why change?

Career moves can be sparked by a variety of reasons. Try to explore what it is making you feel dissatisfied. For some a complete change of direction is just the tonic, for others merely changing employer will be enough.


Triggers for career change

- I am returning to the world of work after a career break

Many skills are increasingly transferable across a range of careers, such as good customer service, analytical skills, team-working and effective communication. Try to reassure potential employers that your skills are up to date. Do you have examples of where your skills have been used whilst out of work (such as organising parents evenings, volunteering at a playgroup if you are returning from having children)? Short courses are also available to refresh skills.

- I am insecure about the future of my job

The employment market can be very insecure at times; no job is guaranteed for life. However, if it happens to you remember it's the job that is redundant, not your skills. If you are concerned, keep your eye on the market, find out what skills are in demand and take advantage of any opportunities available for retraining/brushing up before you leave.

- There is something else I have always wanted to do

It is great if there is something that you feel passionate about and even better if you can get paid for doing it. Research carefully though as this may be something that requires a substantial time commitment for retraining, new skills or a need to start at the bottom. However, it could be a dream come true. Some people decide to pursue an alternative career/interest in their spare time and then go on to make a successful business out of it if they have the qualities and skills required. Others find that the working environment attached to their dream career: job insecurity, low pay etc or a lack of appropriate skills mean they have to pursue it just for fun.

- I want more money

Half of all career change thoughts revolve around a desire for more money. Find out about the salary potential for your current career. Are you near to the top of the scale or are you just with the wrong employer? The professional bodies can tell you about the earning potential of different careers.


Possible red-herrings: is it really a career change you need?

- I am bored with my current role and need a change

If you are no longer learning new skills it may be time to move. However, find out if there are any other opportunities with your current employer and discuss possible opportunities for development with your line manager. Think positively and explain you are looking for additional responsibilities/challenges - you may be surprised. Take any opportunities for training that arise. These could help you to explore additional openings and develop the skills/experience needed for an effective career move. Look more closely at your situation. Is it the whole of your job, a current project or too much paperwork that is the problem? Perhaps there are projects you could delegate and others that you could take on. Sometimes day to day routine can prevent your progress. Is it possible to request administrative support?

- There are no promotional opportunities in my present role

If your team is quite small and you are waiting to jump into someone's shoes, you may have to consider other routes up the ladder. What about secondments or project opportunities? Your employer may not wish to lose you and it could broaden your existing expertise and increase your future chances of promotion. Then, if you do decide to leave, you have a broader range of skills and possibilities to take with you.

- I do not enjoy my job

Try to identify what it is you do not enjoy and the extent of the problem. For example, a certain amount of office politics can unfortunately be a fact of working life. Similarly, ask yourself whether the way you work affects your enjoyment too. A lack of planning, effective project management or assertiveness skills could affect how well you work and unless these change, your problems may move careers with you.

- I am no good at my job

Again, with this one you may not necessarily be in the wrong career. Your broader skills may be letting you down. Some skills, like effective communication, project management or leadership are important in a range of careers; they are skills that don't come naturally but can be developed. Could this be you? Are there any courses for such personal skills development available either within your organisation or outside of work?

- I want more responsibility

This can only be a positive thing. Any job becomes more routine over time as your competence levels grow and increasing your responsibility can progress your career. However, you may not need to jump ship in order to do this. Why not discuss taking on additional challenges with your line manager. Employers look for dynamic people who wish to progress. Take advantage.


Know yourself

Taking time to consider where your skills, strengths and interests lie will help you to focus your career change in the right direction. Such insight will also be vital when you reach the stage of making applications. You will need to convince prospective employers that you have the relevant qualities and motivation that they are looking for and knowing where your strengths lie can help.


Know what working environment you want

As your experience of the world of work grows and you learn more about what you want and don't want out of work, your working environment can become an important part of your career decisions. Thinking about your preferences, commitments and values can help you to identify company cultures that would fit your needs. The job may be the same, but the feel of the organisation and the satisfaction gained can be very different. For some people a competitive environment and constant change provides the necessary challenge for them. Others work better in a friendly, team oriented focus. Some people need to balance their working lives with a busy home environment, others can give it their all.


Effective strategies

There is no doubt that some transitions are difficult. The most successful changes of direction have included careful thought and effective planning.


Try not to change too many things at once

If you are changing role completely, look for ways to bridge the gap and consider how your experience to date may be of value.

- Are you staying within the same industry/field? For example, moving from marketing to HR within the travel industry. What careers are available in the industry?

- In your current role, are you the customer or supplier to your new role? Can you offer wisdom or ideas from the other side?

- Will your commercial/business perspective be an asset? Perhaps in a not-for-profit organisation? If not now, are there any skills you could develop that will be?

- Do you have skills that can transfer across? Look at yourself through the eyes of an employer - what skills do they need and do you have examples of how you have demonstrated these? The context may be different, but the skill is the same.


Network your way to success

you are making a move it is important to find out all you can about your new career, how people find jobs and what skills are sought. This will allow you to pitch your application at the right level and to brush up on any skills before you move. As well as allowing you to make an informed decision about this career, it forms part of your job hunting strategy.

Talking to people will also allow you to make contacts within the industry. This will give you the opportunity to find out who's who in the sector, convince people of your qualities (very difficult on a piece of paper) and reassure them you can move across successfully. Many job offers are made over cappuccino - ask yourself why.


Keep the focus

Successful transitions can take a year or more to put into action. Financial, time and emotional commitment is required. Try to stay motivated and keep moving your plan forward. Considering the personal implications (salary cut, less free time) in advance may allow you to plan for them and prevent set backs.


Find people to help you

Don't try to do it all on your own. Whether by motivating you, providing you with contacts or lending a sympathetic ear, support of friends can be very useful. A wide range of professional career counsellors, guidance units or websites are also available. Don't forget the alumni network too.




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