How to change careers (and love what you do)

Scroll Down

As culture and technology evolves around us, career change has become a constant part of professional life. Gone are the days of staying in the same job forever. But that doesn’t mean that making a shift from one industry to another is easy. So how do you go about changing careers? We talked to three people who’ve made significant work-life leaps, and they shared their experiences and tips for transition.

Fashion design to construction

When Julian Flanders, 31, studied fashion design a decade ago, he was eager to create beautiful work. But he fell out of love with his career choice as he climbed the ranks to production management. Flanders had worked his way into national fashion businesses that paid between $80 000 and $100 000+. He took a $20 000 pay cut to work for a smaller independent label, but couldn’t find the satisfaction he was seeking. The administration, the pace and the lack of sustainable practices contributed to his decision to explore new options. ‘I looked at things that originally got me excited: working with my hands, making garments, pattern making,’ he says. Flanders settled on carpentry, which would allow him to physically create and contribute to sustainable building.

‘I spoke to a lot of friends that are carpenters or employed in the building industry and worked out what needed to be done,’ he explains and adds that he spent time researching companies that were building sustainable houses. After shortlisting ideal oragnisations, he soon landed a role with one. Now the first year apprentice is earning $20 per hour. But once he’s qualified he’ll generate an income that’s not dissimilar to what he was earning in fashion – not that it’s about the money – enjoyable work is the driver.

The biggest surprise is the number of people who’ve openly envied his decision. ‘It’s amazing how many people complain about their work and don’t do anything about it,’ he observes. Flanders believes that after a long time in an industry people feel bound by it. But when they say they wish they could make a change, he simply asks, ‘Well, why don’t you?’

Architecture to radiography

After taking a few months off from her architecture career, Rachel Jones, 28, realised she was happier working for an online store in their warehouse, plotting her next move. ‘Very early on I had a sense that architecture wasn’t something I saw myself doing forever,’ she admits. Jones knew she didn’t enjoy spending her days staring at a screen, but she persisted. ‘A few difficult projects gave me the extra push to make change a real consideration,’ she says.

The most daunting part of the decision was establishing how she’d support herself. It’s something that she’s still coming to terms with as she undertakes her first year of radiography in 2016. ‘Having to balance a 30-contact-hour course, with enough work hours to pay my rent and expenses is going to be extremely difficult,’ Jones says. She’s hoping to win a scholarship, but knows she’s not the only student who’ll be living on a strict budget.

When considering the dramatic shift to radiography, Jones spent a lot of time asking people in the industry what the job entailed and what the work conditions were like. Having studied science in high school, this was another path she’d initially considered. ‘In Year 12 people often make decisions without much insight into the jobs they’ll be entering at the end. Second time around it was important to do research and feel comfortable with the decision,’ she says. Part of the comfort meant not leaping straight from one to the other. According to Jones, ‘Stepping away from my current industry first so I could consider it with a little distance was incredibly helpful. I looked at options objectively.’

She doesn’t fear studying radiography only to find that it’s not for her. Rather, Jones encourages others in her position not to make decisions out of fear. ‘Have the confidence to give something new a try. If it’s not for you it’s not the end of the world. At least you won’t spend your life wondering what things would have been like if you’d made the leap,’ she concludes.

'Have the confidence to give something new a try. If it’s not for you it’s not the end of the world. At least you won’t spend your life wondering.'

Rachel Jones,
Radiography student and former architect

Law to teaching

After immigrating to Australia from Urmia in Iran, Bani Iranpour, 35, took the opportunity to change her career path. ‘I worked as a lawyer for 10 years, focusing on family law.’ Her initial plan was to further her education in commercial law, but a number of factors, including working with children as a volunteer for the Australian Red Cross, shifted her focus to early childhood education. ‘The experience raised questions in my mind about how important education is in a multicultural society,’ Iranpour explains.

She completed the Masters of Teaching (Early Childhood Education) at Deakin University and graduated in November 2015. Now Iranpour is a kindergarten teacher at Deakin’s Community Childcare Cooperative. As someone who can speak Turkish, Persian and English as well as having extensive family law experience, she is an asset to the organisation.

Getting to know the families and children has been rewarding. Her colleagues Niki and Lisa have been instrumental in helping her settle into the kinder room, which is a completely different environment to a court of law. ‘In the past I thought being a lawyer was the best way to change lives, but education can changes the lives of individuals and the wider community,’ she says.

Making a career change can be daunting, but with a plan of action it is achievable. If you’re considering changing careers and looking for ideas, begin with some course inspiration from Deakin University. 

Topics