In the last couple of years I have noticed a growing trend in my work in distance learning – more and more people seem to be deciding on a career change. And far from the cliché of the mid-life crisis, I have found that people are making this decision for many different reasons and may be aged anywhere between 25 and 60 years of age, or older.
People may decide to change careers because:
- they are becoming disillusioned with their current profession or career
- they have lost interest in their current role
- they feel they have gone as far as they are able in their current role
- they are seeking a better life-work balance
- they would like to earn a living out of something they love doing, perhaps currently a hobby.
Today, career change is becoming the norm rather than the exception, with many studies showing that the average person will change careers (not just jobs) several times over the course of their working life.
If you are considering a career change, you may find the following steps useful as you navigate your way through the process.
Step 1: Take some time to rediscover yourself. If your main reason for considering a career change is dissatisfaction with your current situation, it’s important to step back and assess your situation objectively. What it is about the situation that is really causing the problem – the job, the boss, the company, the profession itself? Are there any aspects of your current role that you still enjoy? These can give you a clue about which direction to take next. It may be that factors outside work are causing the problem – perhaps you don’t have enough time with your family, or to follow your other interests. Sometimes when you have completed this step you will realise that a drastic career change is not the answer. Switching to flexible or part-time working may give you the freedom you need to create a better work-life balance. Shifting to a different area of your profession may reinvigorate your interest and enthusiasm.
Step 2: Explore alternatives. If you decide that a career change really is what you need, the next stage is to explore your interests and enthusiasms in more depth. What really gets you firing on all cylinders? Explore possible careers around your interests. You can find useful career information on the independent, government funded website offering a range of resources, including career advice and over 700 job profiles. It also includes advice on the training required for each career.
Step 3: Assess your current skills and experience. Even if you are planning to move into a very different career area, you may be surprised at how many of your current skills and experiences are relevant. Make the most of these as they can provide a strong foundation for your career change. Sometimes current skills can provide a stepping stone into a new career area. Louise worked in a big marketing agency and had decided to change careers completely, building on her keen interest in gardening, she planned to start her own landscaping company. She realised that retraining was essential. Her first step was a new job as marketing officer of a large landscaping and design company. This gave her the opportunity to learn more about the industry while completing her horticultural training on a part-time basis.
Step 4: Obtain further training. Often career change will require some retraining or updating of current skills. It may be possible to obtain funding for some of your training from your current employer, especially if your current career shares some similarities with the new one. There are many options available that allow you to train and work full-time as well. These include distance learning courses as well as part-time college or university courses. Introductory courses are a good way to test the water and ensure you really have made the right career choice. Sometimes a subject that you love as a hobby can lose it’s lustre when it becomes a career and you have to earn living from it.
Step 5: Work experience. Another way of finding out more about your chosen career is to obtain a part-time job or volunteer in your new area. This is a good way of learning more about the industry and making contacts, as well as helping to confirm that this really is the right choice for you.
Step 6: Be open-minded. Flexibility is important. Starting in a new career often means starting from the bottom of the ladder again. You will almost certainly need to take a salary cut as well as a cut in your status at work. You may also need to relocate. Set clear goals and be prepared for the odd setback. Think of it this way, if you were having a new kitchen fitted you would expect a bit of mess and disruption, it’s an inevitable part of the process, and the same is true when making life changes too. But however well-prepared you are, such drastic change can be tough at times. It’s important to have support network in place – whether a mentor in your new workplace or supportive friends or loved ones. Also keep in mind a clear vision of your long-term goals, it will help you to stay focused through the difficult spells.