There are many reasons we may decide that it is time for a career change. A lack of job satisfaction, the need for more flexibility, seeking better opportunities or greater challenges, or (as was the case for me) a move to a new jurisdiction. In view of the role of career success in our overall quality of life, it is no surprise that more and more people are considering career changes. Research shows that the average person has 10 different jobs before the age of 50, and with the increasing role of migration, career changes are likely to increase in the years to come. As a recent career changer myself, I have learnt a lot of lessons about what considerations should be front of mind to make the best of the life-altering decision that is a career change. In this article, I will share 4 strategies for a successful career change.
Assess your options
This is my number on the list of strategies for a successful career change. This is because a career change is a big deal, and however emotive or not you may be, it is helpful to take a step back and assess what your real options are. Analyzing your reason for a change alongside what you are passionate about (your values and priorities, what you do really well/strengths, your skills and proven experience), is a good place to start.
Research into alternative career paths for your educational degree. In addition, experience can provide useful insights. Job titles and the career trajectory of others on LinkedIn may be the source of a light bulb moment! Reaching out to recruiters may be helpful to get a sense of what the demand is and where your skills are marketable. Connecting with other people in similar fields to seek insights can also be an invaluable resource. While planning is important, don’t get so stuck on analyzing and calculating that you don’t move!
Some questions to ask:
- What do I want to change about my current/past job?
- Who can connect me to n opportunity, person, or organization?
- How do I leverage my skills as I make this move?
Nothing is permanent sounds cliché but it sums up such a critical part of the mindset that goes with changing careers. You need to be flexible in your approach to taking on opportunities especially if you are not certain that a path is ideal for you. Taking on a part-time, Pro-bono or temporary role may provide some insights into a role or industry. Also, it may provide the leverage you require to make the switch.
Lessons from prior experience can be leveraged as you pivot into the new role. Don’t feel like you are swearing an oath of allegiance to the new role. Give it time but take stock frequently and identify what is working or not, and feel comfortable to make changes when reality requires. Give yourself time to adjust. As humans, we can be resistant to change. So, do give yourself permission to embrace the change as part of a new journey to self-discovery.
“Give yourself permission to embrace the change as part of a new journey to self-discovery”
Commit to Learning
A huge part of career transitioning is going through some sort of learning curve, and (depending on how far from your prior career you are moving) this could be a huge challenge if you are not mentally prepared. I will be the first to admit that going from knowing (almost) everything required to do my daily job and thriving at it, to needing to learn and re-learn and lean on others can be tough. Give yourself some grace and take things in your stride. There is nothing wrong with having a learning curve. So, allowing yourself time to learn and to stretch in new ways is part of the journey. Enjoy it, take it in and don’t beat yourself up.
Expect that there will be a period of learning and adaptation, both to new skills needed to thrive on the job, as well as to a new work culture if you are changing organizations. Try to lean on resources that are available as well as people who are willing to support your transition. Be willing to ask the right questions. Asking questions comes with the new territory though it can be a big shock going from knowing all the answers to knowing very few!
“Allowing yourself time to learn and to stretch in new ways is part of the journey – enjoy it, take it in and don’t beat yourself up”
For most people, the skills and experience from your prior career will be leverage in the new career. However, for some, this will not be the case. Depending on how much relevant experience you have in the field, you may have to start afresh or lose the seniority you have acquired in your prior role. Based on your assessment of your options and the outcome of your research, it may be easy to tell if this is a worthy trade-off.
Be willing as you up-skill to negotiate changes to remuneration, role or title to reflect your new level of skill. If you possess skills that are totally impossible to use in your new job, take note. It may well be worthwhile to begin to develop the relevant skillset. Make decisions subsequently about leveraging your newly acquired skills in the marketplace. Remember that skill and experience are a huge factor in remuneration in many fields. So, lacking skills and experience may impact your earning potential at the beginning. You can also consider making a move within your industry first to leverage your prior experience in that industry.
“For most people, the skills and experience you have built up from your prior career will be tradable as leverage in the new career and may not impact earning capacity or role, but for some, this will not be the case.”
As you can see, a career change successfully is definitely possible and it is totally within your control. Once you have made the decision, avoid excuses that may hold you back, maintain a positive attitude, and go for it. Good luck!
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