Updated: Jun 21, 2022
The dilemma of a career change
If you're in your 30's and still wondering if there's something better out there, you're not alone! As we get older, we get fixed in a routine that can be hard to break. Sound familiar? This routine can hinder us if we want to make a career change. Thinking that you can't do something new because you're too old, or it will take too much time or money is a trap you don’t have to get stuck in. The emotional cost of not making a career change is worth considering too.
Undecided whether to stay in your current career or make a dramatic change? If so, this is the blog for you! Here are ten points to help you get “career change clarity.”
1. What are the major fears holding you back from making a career change?
It's a brave step to take a leap from your current career path to a new one. According to a recent survey, almost 70% of people think about changing their career at one point but few are able to take the leap. The worry about the monetary risks of leaving a job, or perhaps the idea of going through a stressful job hunt can be daunting.
While there are certain risks involved in a career change, there are also a lot of rewards to be had.
Don’t be afraid to ask yourself why you're not making the move! Maybe you’re...
Worried about taking the plunge?
Worried about financial stability?
Worried about how it will affect your family?
Worried about redundancy?
Worried about taking on new areas of learning/training?
Worried about how you will make the leap from where you are now to where you want to be?
Here’s a helpful tip. First, clarify the main sticking points that are holding you back from making a move. Once you have identified them, look at ways that you can confront or manage them to make the next step.
Decide what you want most from a new career, then find out what you need to do to get it. The most common mistake people make when they change careers is changing only the thing they “do for work”, not how they think or act at work.
Need any ideas for deciding on a new career? Download the career exploration workshop slides (free of charge). Click here.
2. Prepare to face your career fears so you can move forward.
This is a big one! Before you can jump into your chosen career you will need to find ways to overcome your own fears.
The best way to overcome your fears is to face them! Significant changes are physically and emotionally taxing, so it's best to weigh them up and break them into realistic objectives.
Creating a career fear analysis framework.
In column/line one, title it: Career Fear.
Write what you identified in step 1.
In the second column/line 2, title it: Reasoning Behind Fear - really think about the reasoning behind these fears.
In the third column title it: Reframe and New Action(s) - look at all the reasons you have listed in column 2 and then for each one, write down a way to reframe your fears(s)to change the negative thinking, into positives actions.
Are they actual real fears you have no control over, or are they fear beyond your control?
How can you apply past learning/experience to help you to reframe and create a positive action?
Career Fear: Worried about making the change.
Reasoning Behind Fear: I am worried about making big changes because it will mean a lot of effort and I am not sure I can cope with it.
Reframe & New Action(s):
How did you manage a big change in the past?
The action(s) I will take….
Career Fear: I am worried about financial instability.
Reasoning behind the fear: I worried about a lower income and how it will affect me.
Reframe & New Action(s):
How did you manage a financial challenge in the past?
What action(s) can you take to manage this financial worry?
Are these things that you can handle?
It is just a matter of deciding if they are worth the effort.
If you break down a big problem into rational manageable pieces, you can decide how to proceed.
3. Is the career you want to do within your reach?
Is the career option that you want in reach? It’s an honest and upfront question. If you've already got a bachelor's degree in business and you want to be an accountant, you could probably complete 2 or 3 more years of education to get your accountancy degree. This career is in reach. However, if the career you want means committing too many years of study, it might be worth considering a job role within the same sector but with less of a learning curve. E.g. Instead of training there to be a lawyer, what about a welfare worker or legal secretary?
Helping yourself make the best career move is a risky proposition but it is a risk worth taking. It is important to use your judgement and assess all the factors, and then you can determine what choices will help you achieve your career goals.
4. Identify your transferable skills and how they can be applied in your new field.
Transferable skills are any set of abilities you have to apply to a job regardless of what employer you are working for.
Examples of transferable skills are communication, planning and organization, motivation, enthusiasm, initiative, teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, flexibility, and self-awareness.
Ask yourself what skills you have that are relevant to your new field and will help you succeed. Be sure to include those in your CV/résumé and cover letter.
If you are still struggling to identify your transferable skills, check out some career profiles and identify similar skills that you have, or try checking a company of interest's website for job vacancies to see if you might be interested in growing in that field.
Look at ways to develop your transferable skills further this could mean taking on more responsibilities or learning at work, gaining more experience or completing a qualification. This will help to make you a more attractive candidate to employers and help you stand out from the crowd of other candidates who have applied for the role.
5. Know what you're getting yourself into and be realistic about the financial and emotional costs of a career change.
To make a successful career change, you need to be realistic about the financial and emotional costs. If you're planning to quit your current job to start your own business, then you need to plan for the financial costs of doing so.
A solid financial picture can help you make projections about how long it will take, what expenses you'll incur, and what you will earn in your new career. Calculate how much income comes in and then factor in the job-related expenses. Evaluate the minimum salary that you can live on.
Before you start looking for a new job, make sure you have sufficient money in your account or savings set aside for your new venture and a clear understanding of your financial outlook before you start looking for the next job.
On the emotional side, a new career is a learning curve that will demand commitment, time, and patience. Talk with someone you know in that career area and ask how they coped early on? Find out what steps they took to manage in that career role.
By fully understanding the emotional cost you can allow yourself some slack with readjustment and managing the career change.
6. Accept uncertainty.
People have a tendency to want to know everything about their future careers. They want to know their exact path before deciding on a major, a job, a career but the truth is, you can't know all of this and it's a sure way to get yourself stuck in indecision.
Accepting uncertainty is a healthy way to navigate your career, and if you can learn to embrace it, you're going to be a lot happier with the results. Create a career contingency plan that allows you to cope with the changing variables. Any new career venture involves some risk. Focus on the issues you can control and ask for help with the rest.
7. How to find support while changing careers.
Do not share your career ideas with anyone unless they've offered to help you and remember to evaluate the relevance of each person. Approach people you work with or professional connections who are most likely willing to help give you career advice. The key here is to assess who is the most relevant to help you.
Discuss ways they can help you such as, dropping your name to the company representative (preferably the Hiring Manager) or adding you to their professional network. People love to talk about what they know. Alternatively, you can connect with people through online professional groups, forums, or platforms. Only confide in your boss if they are fully supportive. If they are not, they might try to talk you out of this idea, or worse yet, sabotage your efforts.
Alternatively, could ask for a guidance counsellor or career coach to give you information on your new career. When you talk to them, be sure to ask detailed questions about the new career, the hours, the training required, and so forth. You could even try contacting a recruitment consultant and see if they could offer you insight into companies that may be hiring.
8. Avoid quitting until you have a new job.
You may not like your current career but it is paying your bills. It’s best to not quit a job until you have a new job, as this will add extra pressure to your career plans. Employers are most comfortable with people who are currently employed as they can see active skills and experience. If you want to build up your experience, look for opportunities to work on cross-functional projects without leaving your current role.
Can you volunteer somewhere outside of your current job?
Volunteering can help build up your skills, provide an invaluable service to the community, and make you a more valuable employee. Consider taking a job in the short-term as a part-time job until you make your career change. Your best option would be to take a job in your chosen field that is relevant to your new endeavour.
We live in a gig economy now, where you can build up your experience by working on "freelance jobs" even if you are doing them pro-bono. No matter how much or how little you are being paid for your work, you are still gaining valuable experience and your skills are still getting sharpened.
Your new career may mean sharing an office, working on non-essential projects, or more arbitrary types of work. Just remember, the bigger the change, the higher probability that you'll have to start back at the beginning with fewer perks.
9. Make connections in your desired field as soon as possible.
One of the fastest ways to establish yourself in your field is to network with others in your industry. You may find the most helpful way to do this is to attend industry events. Besides giving you a chance to meet new people, they can also put you in touch with industry experts.
Look at other types of professional networking such as your alumni, your customer outreach, your online connections, and those you may volunteer with.
You can build relationships with people who might become great mentors. Maybe you're on a committee for your company or your industry. Maybe you have a friend that has a friend who works at an awesome company you'd love to work at.
Do you know anyone in your prospective field? Can you do an internship or volunteer? Is there a part-time position available to get your feet wet? It's so easy to connect with people today; find someone you can talk to and begin networking.
10. Start working on your CV/resume and interviewing skills.
Your CV is only as good as the skills and experiences it contains. If something in your past is transferable to your current or future career, put it on your CV.
It's essential to explain to potential employers why you want this particular job and why you've decided to change careers. You can do this by using a cover letter. Talk positively and show how passionate you are about this potential role.
The interview questions you will be asked will reflect your chosen profession so it's important to prepare accordingly.
This means that you will need to research and practice interview questions.
Here are a few examples:
1. What is your greatest strength?
2. Tell me about a time when you had a problem and how you solved it.
3. What do you think are the most important qualities needed in someone to be successful in life?
If you are asked about changing careers, frame your move as an opportunity to advance your career without disparaging your current job. The best way to do this is to refer to those aspects of the new job that appear to carry more responsibility. While the new position may not have a higher status, you could mention that you believe this will allow you to advance your career in the future.
Career changes need to be carefully considered. What you're missing in your current career vs. what you want elsewhere can be difficult to determine. But don't get discouraged! It's not always about starting from the very beginning. You can get closer to career change clarity with the help of these ten steps. Nevertheless, the most important thing is to weigh your options, take action, and be diligent in finding the right career for you.
Thank you for reading this article on the dilemma of a career change. If you are looking for career coaching support, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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