Time for a career change?

Have you been in a role or profession for years and it no longer gives you the satisfaction it once did and is becoming boring, mundane or just irritating? Or is your profession shrinking, with fewer jobs available and more redundancies? Thinking about doing something else, but not sure what that ‘something else’ is? You are not alone. Having worked in the career coaching space for several years, this is quite a common dynamic, especially among ‘mature-age’ workers…Those of us over 40! We know we need to keep working for the foreseeable future but don’t see a lot of security or pleasure with our current situation.

So, what should you consider when changing careers? Well first and foremost, you don’t know what you don’t know. Most people who want to change careers have no idea what else is out there in the market. You could go online and search for jobs or trawl job sites like SEEK, but I guarantee you that this will drive you progressively mad with a low guarantee of success. A far better option is to get out into the market and talk to people…Yes, talk to people (remember how we used to do that in the good old days)!

Draw up a list of family, friends and acquaintances who work across a range of industries and professions as a starting point, and then start to set up discussions with these folks. It does not have to be formal…Treat them as relaxed and informal discovery sessions. In preparing for these conversations, however, it’s important to understand 3 key things about yourself:

  1. What can you do? What skills do you have that are transferable (i.e. can be done between different jobs)? For example, you may have good writing skills, work with various stakeholders, run projects and so on…It’s important that you are aware and able to convey your skills to people you meet.
  2. What do you like doing? There are aspects of all our jobs that we enjoy and those we don’t. Clearly, it’s about increasing the former and reducing the latter. For example, if you like working as part of a team rather than individually, ensure that this is on your list of ‘likes’. Similarly, if you don’t want to travel more than 20% in a job, specify that as well.
  3. What are your values? In other words, what’s important to you? If it’s work-life balance, you will want flexibility in your work hours or a short commute to and from work. If you crave financial rewards, you will want a high-paying job with a significant variable component. These values must be in place for you to consider alternative careers.

Even if you don’t know what you want to do next, having some clarity on these 3 areas will help in your discussions with others. Rather than awkwardly saying ‘I don’t know what I want to do next’, you can say something like, ‘I’m exploring new opportunities and while I’m not exactly sure what these are, this is what I can do (skills), this is what I like doing and this is what is important to me in terms of my values.’ I’m sure you agree this is a far better way to get insight into other potential careers!

Another aspect of your research is to understand what’s happening in the market. For example, what industries are growing? Think aged care (growing) versus manufacturing (not growing and possibly contracting). What skills are in demand? What ones do you have and perhaps what are those you need to develop? This can ensure you have further information to ensure any career switch is well-researched with enhanced chances of success.

As you meet with others, this will give them some context and in return, they will be able to provide further information on other careers in the market that may suit. Once you obtain more information, you are better able to then do some ‘desk research’ to see what is required to qualify and ultimately apply for available jobs.

As a career coach, I am constantly amazed to discover the jobs ‘out there’ in the market that I’ve never heard of. Did you know that finance companies employ engineers, or that major airlines employ people to design the seating configuration in different aircraft? Nor did I! I only learned about such roles by speaking with people.

In changing careers, it won’t always be as simple as having a conversation and receiving some options and direction re alternative careers. You may have to undertake some further training or education to build your skills base and therefore be able to move into a new profession.  Also, and let’s be frank here, it takes some courage to change careers and move out of our comfort zone. Starting in something new can be daunting, but ultimately, if you move into something you love doing, it’s worth it.

Hopefully, this article has given you some insight if you are considering changing careers. As the famous American soprano, Beverly Sills once said, “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” Good luck!

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