7 Steps For Making A Successful Career Change

Whether you’ve been furloughed, made redundant or simply aren’t thriving at work, this year has led many people to question if they’re happy with their job. If you’re keen for a change, there are some important factors to consider before you leap into the unknown.

EVALUATE YOUR JOB SATISFACTION

Before you do anything rash – like handing in your resignation or speaking to a line manager – it’s important to understand exactly how happy you are at work, and whether a complete career change is really the answer. Mike Profita from The Balance Careers advises the following: “Keep a journal of your daily reactions to your job situation and look for recurring themes. Which aspects of your current job do you like and dislike? Are your dissatisfactions related to the content of your work, your company culture or the people with whom you work?” While you're doing this, he says, there are some things you can do at your current job to help you prepare to move on when it's time for a change. “Review past successful roles, volunteer work, projects and jobs to identify your preferred activities and skills. From there, you can determine whether your core values and skills are addressed through your current career.”

THINK ABOUT THE KNOCK-ON EFFECTS

While the idea of a new job might sound exciting, Emma Knowles from Prospects advises you take stock of how big a change you’re actually committed to making. “It's likely you'll have to make sacrifices,” she warns. “For instance, you may incur extra costs from relocating or changing your commute – you may even need to take a pay cut to move companies or sectors. A new career is also likely to bring with it a new routine, which may affect your work/life balance, particularly if you're entering a career that requires you to study for a qualification beforehand or alongside work. What's more, you'll be entering an unfamiliar working environment, and will have to build new relationships and a good professional reputation from scratch. It's therefore crucial to have a good support network around you.” If the thought of that sounds daunting, Emma says there is another way to go about it. “If you're happy with your current work conditions but you'd like a new challenge, you don't necessarily have to change jobs,” she says. “Instead, enquire with your HR or personnel department about any available continuing professional development opportunities.”

ASSESS YOUR SKILLS & EXPERIENCE

If you’ve decided a change of job is the only viable solution, experts agree you’ll need to work out how to sell yourself to potential employers – as well as find some sort of tangible link between your transferable skills, no matter how minor. “The key to standing out when changing careers is how well you can communicate your skills, no matter what your background is,” says Amber Rolfe from Reed. “Start by making a list of your stand-out skills and experience, and research potential roles that require these abilities – even if it’s only on some small level. Think transferable skills, and you’ll be on the right track. Being realistic with your expertise is also a great way to ensure your choice is suitable. Some roles may seem like they require certain attributes, but you might find they involve something entirely different after a bit of digging.” Once you’ve worked out what the common skills are (think managing change, leadership qualities, listening skills), be sure to make a point of these on your CV when you come to update it. 

 

"Whether it’s by taking a course, volunteering, or gaining insights from friends, there are many ways to test the waters."
Amber Rolfe

GET NETWORKING 

While networking is always important in any job search, making a career change later in life means you’ve likely met more people, shaken more hands and done more deals than the younger you who first set out into the world of work after school or university. For that reason, it’s crucial you use this experience to network with colleagues and acquaintances. They can give you pointers about breaking into a new industry – and might even put in a good word for you. And don’t be shy – if your confidence starts to wane, think about whether you would mind if someone asked your expertise about getting into your profession. “Just because you are entering a new industry doesn’t mean that your existing contacts are no longer of use to you,” agrees Sophie Deering from The Undercover Recruiter. Spread the word that you are looking to change careers and you never know, somebody may know somebody in your target industry who they can introduce you to. Don’t limit yourself to your professional network either, as your family and friends may also be able to point you in the right direction.

CONSIDER INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS

As you’re choosing your new career – and applying for new jobs in your chosen field – the experts at Career Shifters recommend setting up a few informational interviews with people who are doing what you’d one day like to do. This way, they can give you advice on how to enter the field and impress in an interview. “Whenever a career idea crosses your mind, it brings with it a whole list of unknowns. Won't you have to retrain? Is it all it's cracked up to be? What's the pay really like? Is it even possible for someone to move into that field with no experience? How long will it take to make your way back up the career ladder? What haven't you considered? And not having answers to those questions keeps you stuck inside your head, chasing your tail, feeling lost and alone.” Indeed, when your CV is more likely to be a hindrance than a help, the personal connections you make are priceless in terms of your ability to bypass job applications and be the first to hear about new opportunities. “Whatever forms your conversations end up taking – whether they're the source of disappointing realisations or lifelong love affairs – every interview you have will give you an insight into the world of the career you're considering.”

TEST THE WATERS

Once you’ve decided on a course of action, it’s tempting to jump at the first opportunity that comes your way – especially if the offer will get you out of your current situation. However, the experts advise caution. “Although it might be tempting to over-analyse each aspect of your dream job, realising there’s an open possibility is just the beginning,” says Amber. “While you need to start acting on it, that doesn’t mean you have to quit your job and jump into something straight away. Instead, test ideas while you’re still at your current job to get an idea of what actually suits you – in terms of working environment and job role. Whether it’s by taking a course, volunteering, or gaining insights from friends in your preferred field, there are many ways to test the waters without diving into a new job at the deep end. That way, you’ll be able to make sure your career change is worth it – and, more importantly, actually right for you.” Mike agrees: “Identify volunteer and freelance activities related to your target field to test your interest. For example, if you are thinking of publishing as a career, try editing the PTA newsletter. If you're interested in working with animals, volunteer at your local shelter.”

HAND IN YOUR NOTICE WITH CARE

If you receive a new job offer, you'll need to hand in your notice at your current job, typically to your line manager. “Your notice should be succinct, positive and respectful, and include your date of departure,” advises Emma. “This will be in relation to the length of your notice period, which will typically be at least two weeks – however, this could be shorter if you're still on probation, or longer if you're in a senior position.” Emma also says as a resigning employee, you should be prepared to discuss your reasons for leaving with your manager. “This could have a number of outcomes – you may be offered an incentive to stay or be required to negotiate a longer notice period than you were expecting. If you're joining a rival company, you may be placed on gardening leave and asked to leave the premises immediately.” After your notice has been accepted, focus on making a good lasting impression, she says. “Keep on good terms with your colleagues and managers and compile comprehensive handover notes for your replacement – you're more likely to be given a positive reference for your next employer this way.”

 

For more information and advice on making a career change, visit CareerShifters.org; TheUnderCoverRecruiter.com; Reed.co.uk; TheBalanceCareers.com or Prospects.ac.uk.

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