With youth unemployment and competition for graduate jobs at an all-time high, it might seem like a bad time to start considering a career change. You’ve got a job, you’ve found a career, so you should be thanking your lucky stars that you aren’t unemployed, right? However, some of us blunder out of school or university into careers that aren’t exactly right for us. So what can you do? Can you really consider changing career?
Should you change career, job or employer?
Do you want a new role in your current organisation, a change of employer, or a completely different career? If you’re unhappy at work (and we don’t just mean that you’ve had a couple of bad days), then you might want to examine the source of your discontent. It might not be that you need to change career, rather that you need to change jobs or company.
Do you enjoy the day-to-day tasks of your job?
It might be that you’re happy with what you do, but are unhappy with the people you work with. If that’s the case, you might want to look for similar work in a different company. If you really dislike parts of your job, you might want to think about a whole new career direction. If that’s the case, just changing department, job or company probably won’t solve all your job woes.
How long have you been unhappy with your job?
Have you pretty much always felt like this, or is it just more recently? Sometimes people get bored of their jobs, feeling unchallenged and untested. If that’s the case, you might want to speak to your line manager and ask if there are any opportunities for development in the company.
For instance, you might look for another role within the company or ask if you can take on more responsibility. Otherwise, it might be time to ‘up sticks’ and look for a more challenging role. If you feel like the area you’re in doesn’t make use of any of your skills, then you might want to consider a career change.
There are plenty of other reasons why people change careers. Popular reasons include: looking for more money, a desire for greater job security or more opportunity for promotion. Whatever your reason, it’s unbelievably important that you do your research and prepare yourself first before you leave your current job. After a particularly bad day, that means fighting the temptation to triumphantly waggle your notice in front of your boss. At the very least, have a read of our top tips first:
Let’s do the obvious bit first: how do you decide on your new career direction? First of all, identify what you want from a career. What is most important to you when it comes to a job? Career satisfaction? Work-life balance? Salary? Location? Look at your talents, skills and interests. What careers suit them? Certain skills that you’ve picked up from your current job might actually translate quite well across the different sectors. Try our Career Test for some inspiration.
Got a shortlist of potential new careers? Now be realistic. Research the kind of job opportunities, the salary prospects, the qualifications you’ll need and the current demand for jobs.
You might want to test the water first by pursuing an alternative career in your spare time; you could do this by freelancing, for example. This is a good way of finding out whether you’ll be able to make a success of your new career interests, or whether it should just remain as something you do on the side.
Once you’ve done all your research, set out a strategy. It’s time to get serious. Plot out a timeline and a series of targets to meet. For instance, you might decide to leave your current job in six months, using the time between to prepare and research extensively for your new career. Some career transitions might be relatively straightforward, such as PR to marketing, whereas others might require much more preparation and training, such as sales assistant to midwife.
Find out what additional qualifications and skills you’ll need for your new career. As above, for some careers you won’t need any new qualifications, whilst others might require substantial investment in retraining. Work out whether you can afford to study full-time, part-time or through distance learning. You’ll want to plug any skill and qualification gaps immediately, preferably whilst you’re still earning money.
For some career changes, it’ll be impossible to continue with your current job whilst studying. In that case, you’ll have to carefully work out your financial situation and look at all the avenues of funding open to you. But, of course, with many careers it’s not just about having the relevant qualifications, but experience, passion and persistence.
Be flexible. You might want to look into apprenticeships, internships, voluntary work, temp work or part-time work as a way of getting your foot in the door of a new career and gaining some experience.
Network whilst you’re still at your current job. Find connections and build up relationships with people in your chosen career area. Talk to people who work in the industry and network through social media. Essentially, try to build up as many contacts as possible.
You’ll need to rejig your CV. Tailor it to be relevant to your new career direction and goals. Highlight the connections between the experience and skills gained at your old job and those that’ll be needed for your new career. Really sell yourself. Emphasise the skills you’ve picked up at your current role, highlight your unique selling points and drive home your passion. Brush up your LinkedIn profile too.
Be careful about job hunting at your current job. People have been sacked because they’ve been caught looking for other jobs during work hours. Don’t use your company email to send off job applications, it’s far better to do it through your personal email. Also, make sure you aren’t linked up to your boss on Facebook or Twitter before you start plastering “I’m looking for a new job” everywhere. A little bit of discretion is vital.
Finally, don’t be put off by rejections. Changing career is hard, but with truckloads of persistence, passion and commitment you should achieve your goal.