Unless you’re one of the lucky few who has had a burning desire to become a doctor since you were six, a career change is something that most people have contemplated at one time or another.
It’s a big decision, and one that you need to focus on getting right. Most people will spend more of their life at work than almost anywhere else. If you feel your passion may lie somewhere other than your current career, think seriously about taking steps to shift your professional direction.
Write a list of pros and cons
Like most judgement calls, a list of pros and cons is a good place to start when trying to decide whether to make the career leap. You may want to make two lists: one that’s about staying in your career, and one about changing. This can help clarify things in your mind, and confirm whether this decision is a rash or a rational one.
Scope out potential careers
Think about what’s brought on your career change decision. Was it a personal realisation of what your ideal career would be, or more a case of being fed up with your current occupation?
If you’ve already got a firm idea of where you’d like to go, excellent. This is already taken care of. For those who are a little more unsure, it’s time for some deep introspection. What are your likes? Your dislikes? Your passions? What work experiences have really resonated with you so far? If you’re at a loss, a careers advisor or an online tool to explore varied careers may help, or maybe you could try scoping a range of professions and see where it takes you.
Research your new career
Once you’ve settled on a career that’s right for you, you want to make sure you go into it with open eyes. Do as much research as you can. Talk to people who are currently in that career and ask them about what it is like day-to-day, what sort of tasks they do, and what they find challenging and rewarding. To truly know whether it’s a good fit for you, you’ll need to be aware of the job’s worst aspects ‒ the nitty-gritty that the career flyer fails to mention.
Talk to your current employer
If you’ve decided to make the switch, and are looking likely to hand your resignation in at your current place of employment, be sure to talk to your employer first. If you enjoy the workplace, but perhaps not the work, this frank discussion could result in you finding a pathway to your new career without even changing companies. Alternatively, if you and your employer share a good relationship, you may find that they are able to help you in your transition.
Find transferable skills
It’s decided. You’re making the leap. Now it’s time to get the transition happening. Have you already got skills that you can leverage in your new career? Identifying transferable skills is vital for your career change, as these skills will form the basis of your re-worked CV, and will give you some talking points to help sell yourself to potential employers.
Network, network, network
As any successful industry professional will tell you, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. When it comes to finding your feet in a new career, nothing is quite as valuable as good networking. Get active on LinkedIn. Use industry functions to meet people within your new industry. Shake as many hands and make as many fans as possible. Talk to anyone you can find who has made a career change for the better.
Training and education
You may need to broaden your knowledge and earn some qualifications for your new career. If you require a degree or some other form of higher education, remember to start slowly. Take one or two subjects, and use this taste of the subject matter to reaffirm that this is the right choice for you. If you’re still in your old career, and can somehow tie these qualifications back to your old job, you may even be able to convince your employer to help with the education bills.
Get your affairs in order
A career change is a big decision. You need to ensure that you have the resources ‒ in terms of time and money ‒ to make this work. If you feel like you might be stretched financially, particularly if you need to do further study to move forward, it’s worth checking to see if you’re eligible for any scholarships, government assistance or financial aid.
Getting on-the-job experience in a new career can sometimes feel like selling your soul. We’ve all heard the horror stories of endless unpaid internships, or work experience that is solely an experience in collecting the office coffees. But don’t be put off. Getting part-time work, an internship or putting in a small amount of (good quality) volunteer time will not only look great on your CV, but also solidify your decision to change career.
Find a mentor
Finding a trusted person with a wealth of industry knowledge can be difficult. But if you do manage to find a mentor, you’ll be a step ahead of others who are also starting out. With their years of experience, mentors offer expert guidance to those who are trying to navigate a new career, and more-often-than-not come with a sprawling network of contacts.
If you’re committed to a new career path, it’s best to be willing to move jobs, or take a potential pay cut to make it happen. You need to be comfortable with that, and do what’s required to get a foothold in the industry. But if you’re passionate about what you do, and put the effort into doing it well, you won’t be on low on the totem pole for long. A career change can open up a whole new world if you’re brave enough to do it, and may get you places you’ve only ever dreamed of going.
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