A successful career change takes more than good luck. I have met thousands of people who have pursued a career change – with varying degrees of success. This, combined with my own experience, prompted me to reflect on the importance of understanding your motivations for change, along with your values, strengths, concerns and preferred way of working.
Career change starts with you
Understanding yourself is and will be central to finding meaningful work and navigating the careers landscape.
The reasons people change careers are varied and often multifactorial. Quite apart from wanting to take advantage of a strong jobs market and/or emerging careers, popular reasons include:
- unhappiness or boredom at work
- a desire for career progression or for less demanding work
- more commonly – seeking a career more closely aligned with personal values.
Career change is personal. Some people experience a “light bulb” moment of clarity and they charge forward with plans for a significant career change, while others are looking for what I would describe as a career pivot where work is aligned with or builds upon their previous work.
Preparation is key
Career change is not easy, especially if you have been working in the same role or sector for an extended period. Self-doubt, procrastination, inadequate preparation and a lack of adequate self-analysis are common obstacles to successfully navigating change.
Making a career change takes:
- a good dose of honesty.
Preparation is key to setting realistic goals and formulating an achievable plan of action.
Health and well-being matters
Having helped clients of all ages navigate change, I appreciate the roller coaster of emotions often associated, particularly in the context of other life pressures and responsibilities.
If you are concerned about your physical or emotional health and wellbeing, consult your GP or health professional. Seek help when you need it and surround yourself with supportive people where possible.
Time for some thorough self-analysis
Preparing to change careers is a very individual experience and typically happens in stages, starting with understanding yourself.
So, what does this mean in the context of career change? Below are just a few key pointers to help you begin the self–analysis process, based on the assumption you have a few thoughts around what you would like to do.
- Why do I want/need to make a change? Is it my career I want to move from or my job? (These are two very different things, and each requires a different approach.)
- Is there anything else going on in my life which might be impacting my work that I can deal with so that I can continue in my current position (if I am otherwise happy in it)?
- Have I had sufficient exposure to the different sectors possible within my occupation, to really assess whether it is my employer or my career that needs changing? (This is particularly relevant early in your career.)
- Have I had a sufficient induction and the ongoing professional development/ training needed to perform well in and enjoy my current role? (Sometimes people seek a career change because they or their employer considers they are underperforming when training is the issue.)
- To what extent has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted how I see myself and my career?
- How motivated am I to make a change and how substantial do I want that change to be? What research have I undertaken? People I have spoken to?
- What will I miss about my current career?
- How do I like to be managed at work, and to what extent has this impacted my decision to change careers?
- What have I enjoyed/not enjoyed about my previous positions? What could I have done better? (This is a hard one as we all make mistakes and hope to avoid repeating them in a new job/career.)
- How important is salary to me? Can I afford to take a reduced salary for a period if need be?
- Do I have the requisite skills, values and personal qualities required of the industry(ies) I am interested in?
- Will I require additional training/education to launch my new career and how am I placed to pursue this? What are the costs?
- What style of work and hours/location of work (for example, hybrid, office, home) do I prefer?
- How do I picture my new career? (Part-time, full-time, combined with voluntary work or a portfolio approach?) How flexible do I need my new work to be especially if I have family/caring responsibilities?
- What are my strengths and limitations and how are they relevant to my proposed career?
- To what extent do I have or need the support of my family and other networks? (Make sure you do not gloss over this one; it may not seem important when there is everything else to consider, but it is.)
Work will be increasingly inter-disciplinary, necessitating strong employability skills. You might have five or six careers throughout your working lives. But it takes more than a stroke of luck to have a successful career change.