A change of career: going about things the right w...

A change of career: going about things the right way

We spend upwards of eight hours a day, forty hours a week at our workplace. We spend more time with our work colleagues than our closest friends and family, and much of who we are is defined by what we do. There’s a reason why ‘what do you do for a living?’ is one of the first questions people will ask to get to know you. So making a change is a massive, life changing decision and isn’t something to be taken lightly. It’s not just a case of leaping in with both feet, quitting your current role and hoping for the best. There are steps you can take to set yourself up for success and ensure you do well in your next job. Here are some ideas.

Decide why you want to make the change

First things first, you should have the reasons for why you want to change career clear in your head. With it being such a big decision, you want to make sure you’re doing things for the right reason. If for example you’re having issues with your boss, work colleagues or the way things are run at your current role- speaking to someone higher up and trying to resolve issues could be the way to go. Maybe you’re over or under worked, and you have an issue with the way things are being run rather than the job itself. It’s easy to dislike your job when things aren’t going well, but often trying to initiate a change could be the answer instead of deciding to do something else entirely. However there are plenty of good reasons for wanting to change career. Maybe your job is no longer a good fit for you, this happens often since we start working at a young age and as people we change and develop over the years while our roles stay fairly static. It might be a case that you want to do something more rewarding with your time, instead of just make lots of money for a big corporation. Maybe you long to travel with your job, work outside, with kids, with people with disabilities. Perhaps there’s no progression in the role you work now, and you’re an ambitious person that wants to do more. Whatever it is, work out your reasons for wanting to make this change to be sure that they’re the right ones.

Work out what you want to do

Once you’ve decided that you definitely want to make the change, the next thing is to work out what you want to do. You will probably have to be flexible here and this may change over time as you progress, but it’s good to have in mind what kind of role you want to do. This also allows you to plan your career path, and will reveal the steps you need to take to get to where you want to be.

Get educated

Getting educated and gaining relevant qualifications to the job you want to do is one of the best things you can do when it comes to changing careers. Luckily you don’t need to quit your current role and go and study full time, it’s something you can do in a flexible way from home around your work. This might take a number of years, but it allows you to continue earning while gaining the qualifications you need, so if you’re playing the long game then this is how to go about it. Research different online colleges and universities online, and find out what degree, diploma or certification you will need for the job you want. In some cases, you might need a specific degree or qualification just to be able to apply. In other cases, having additional qualifications will set you apart from other candidates, increase your chances of finding a job and could mean you don’t have to start right at the bottom. Working hard here will really pay off when it comes to changing career, it can be difficult maintaining a job while studying for your next role but it’s so worth it.

Undertake some training

Lots of companies offer training days for all kinds of workplace related matters. It could be something specifically related to the role, for example any kind of machinery or driving roles will require you to pass certain practical tests. It could be more general courses such as health and safety training or teambuilding. Either way, doing something like this looks good on your CV and shows future employers that you’re serious about your next role. It shows that you’ve taken the initiative to go out and learn more about the job that you want and gain the skills that you need.

Volunteer your time

One thing that employers love is experience, however if you’re changing career you probably don’t have experience in the new field you will be working in. But there’s one way you can go about gaining this, and that’s by volunteering. Find a place linked with the role you want where you can volunteer, even if it’s just for an hour or two a week. For example, if you want to work in healthcare you could volunteer at a hospital. Those looking to work any kind of law enforcement role could volunteer at the courts, a police station or even a prison. Those wanting to work in mental health could find a mental health charity to volunteer with. This is all time very well spent, you will gain new skills and it’s a proactive way to give yourself the best chance of securing the job you want in future. Separately to this, other kinds of volunteering also look good on your CV and can impress employers. Volunteering abroad one summer, or spending time helping at your local soup kitchen, animal shelter or hospice for example can all help you to stand out from the crowd when applying for roles. Employers generally like well-rounded individuals and know that a person’s interests and the way they spend their time can tell a lot about them as an employee. It’s a great chance for you to make a difference in the world, while improving your career prospects at the same time.


Work out your financial situation

Even if you undertake training and get qualified before you apply for roles, in many cases you will still be starting at the bottom (or towards the bottom) when changing careers. While this is almost always worth it if it means you’re happy and satisfied in your new job, you do have to think of the practicalities. Can you afford a reduction in your salary, even if it’s just in the short term? Is your partner happy picking up the slack for a while, or do you have savings that you can rely on? You need to make sure you can still pay all of your bills and cover everything you need. If you’re really serious about making the change but can’t afford things as they are, you could take the extreme step of giving up your car, moving to a smaller home, moving to a cheaper area in the country or selling valuables so you can afford to live on the lower wage. It’s a big step but your career is such a big part of your life, if you’re set on making it work by any means necessary then these are some options. See if there’s any help or advice out there for your situation.


Quit your job in the right way

Just like your employer would have to go about things the right way if they were to let you go, such as writing a termination letter and giving the correct notice, you need to do things properly too. Find out what the official procedure is for leaving your current role, and what exactly you need to do. The notice period is usually two weeks, but if you check your contract you will find out how long you need to give.This way you should be able to ask for a reference when you leave, and it allows your old company to start recruiting someone to fill your place. It can be tricky to time things correctly, you don’t want to give notice too early and then it takes you a number of months to secure a new position as you won’t be earning any money. Your best bet is to start the interview process, letting prospective employers know that your starting availability is two weeks (or whatever your notice period is).

Changing careers is a massive decision and there’s plenty you need to do before resigning from your old place to set yourself up for success. In some cases, you could be planning this move and putting the work in a number of years before actually taking the plunge. But if you’re unhappy in your current job and want to progress, earn more money, help people or do better for yourself then changing careers could be the best thing you’ve ever done.


*Photo at the top of the page by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

Christine Buske is a former academic who left science at the bench, and now considers herself a woman in tech. She is a frequently invited speaker, and enjoys talking about career transformation (particularly leaving academia for the business world), tech, issues around women in tech, product management, agile, and outreach. She is a proud Canadian resident, and qualifies as a "serial expat".

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