Changing careers can be a daunting process, but it can also be a rewarding one when it leads to a job that you enjoy more and find fulfilling. However, many people are put off the idea because they simply don’t know where to start.
So, first of all, here are five first steps you can take to start changing your career:
- Assess your current career: Take a close look at your current job and ask yourself if it's really what you want to be doing for the foreseeable future. Consider what you like and dislike about your current role, and whether there are other career paths that might be a better fit for you.
- Identify your strengths, skills, and interests: Think about what you are good at, and what you enjoy doing. Consider taking a strengths assessment online (CliftonStrengths or Strengths Profile) or an interest inventory to help identify potential new career paths that align well with these.
- Build a network: Reach out to people in the new field you are interested in and start building relationships. Attend industry events and join professional associations to expand your network, and find out more about the new career you want to pursue.
- Update your CV and cover letter: Tailor your CV and cover letter to the new career you are interested in, highlighting any transferable skills and experience. Only include what’s relevant to this new career.
- Start applying: Once you have completed the above steps, start applying for jobs in your new field. Be prepared for the possibility of starting in an entry-level position and working your way up. Remember that 80% of jobs aren’t advertised though, so don’t rely solely on online applications. Get out there and use your network and connections to understand where there might be opportunities for you in this new field.
Take A Test Drive
The above is a great place to start. However, there is one vital step missing from the above, which I was reminded of recently when I bought a new car. I’ve had a VW for a few years now, but the new cars I was looking at where different brands that I had never driven before. I was anxious about making a mistake - What if I didn’t like it? What if it was worse than my current one? Sound familiar?!
Buying a new car is a lot like changing career. It can feel like a big deal, and a decision you don’t want to get wrong. There are just so many options to choose from, too. You can do all the research you want online, but there is only one way to really decide what you like best - ‘test drive’ a number of different options.
In the same way, ‘test driving’ a number of different careers before committing to one can really help you feel more confident and reassured about the decisions you are making. It can help you assess what the career actually feels like in real life, and whether it really does suit your needs. A career that looks good on the outside might feel very different on the inside, especially when you’re actually in the ‘driving seat’. But there is simply no way of knowing any of this without testing it out first in some way.
In order to ‘test drive’ the new careers you’re considering, think about a number of low-cost, non-committal methods to where you can get a feel for what it might be like in real life. For example: shadowing, informal or formal work experience, a short internship, volunteering, a short course/industry webinar or conference on relevant topics, proposing a skills swap, offering ad hoc project assistance, attending University open days, speaking to those that do what you're interested in doing - anything to open you up to how you really feel immersing yourself in the day-to-day of the new career you’re considering.
You can then re-group and reflect on your experiences. How did you feel in that career? Are you inclined to dig deeper into it, or perhaps park (the car anaologies are endless!) that idea for now? Either the 'test drive' will make you want to go further with the idea, or help you realise it's not for you - which is impossible to know without experiencing it in some way first.
So, what ideas do you have about how you could 'test drive' the career change ideas you've been having? Get started where you can!
Nick, Finance (in his 40s)
Alice was positive and constructive throughout, and supported me very effectively by encouraging me to analyse and consider different career options. By the end, I had a much clearer and well-defined sense of what I wanted – and didn’t want – out of my career. I’d definitely recommend Alice to anyone looking for the same.