“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol
This quote sums up changing careers. You may feel that you need a new start, or that you would have more progression in a new role, or you just want to follow that childhood dream. But, whatever your reason may be changing can be the best move you will ever make.
Yet changing careers is scary. It involves change, risk and people can be filled with doubt. The most common objection being a lack of experience.
Some people ask if it’s too late to change careers. The short answer: No. You can change careers and take your life in a new direction at any point.
So here is some guidance if you’re feeling a little lost or overwhelmed by the question “What do I do next?”
Is change right for you?
If you’re reading this then you have probably already thought of this, but ask yourself, is changing right for you?
If you’ve been unhappy in your role for a while then the answer is probably yes. But have you talked to your manager or supervisor about your future?
Ask your manager if there is any progression available or opportunities open to you that will improve your situation. If this isn’t possible then, by all means, change roles.
Another question to consider is: Is it the career you want to move away from or the boss/colleagues/business?
A bad business, boss or environment can make your life feel like a nightmare. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you want to change careers, only businesses. That’s OK. If you want to change jobs and give yourself a fresh opportunity somewhere new then go for it!
By defining what kind of change you want you can figure out those important next steps.
Another thing to consider is: can you afford to change?
Changing careers, especially into an entirely different industry and skillset often means taking a step down in pay. So take a hard look at your finances and ask yourself if you can manage on a lower salary. Don’t let the fear of a dip in wage hold you back. Don’t let a pay downgrade eclipse a happiness or passion upgrade.
Finding a New Direction
You know that you want to change career, but to what? A lot of people overlook this step but it really does set up the road ahead. Make sure you know what you want.
For the more risk-averse amongst us, changing careers is a huge risk which is terrifying. This leads us to do research, lots of research.
Typically people do research on a role or career that intrigues them and never do more than that. They read all the books, all the blogs, listen to the podcasts and watch the YouTube videos. But this leads to inaction in what is commonly referred to as “analysis paralysis”.
This is a bad move because although research helps narrow down the options, it doesn’t actually give you a definitive answer. Reading, watching and listening just gives you more questions of “Is this right for me?”
There’s only one thing that will give us the answer as to what we want: Actions.
You need to trial your new move to see if it’s for you. Even if it’s only small, you will quickly get a feeling of if it truly appeals to you or not.
Even if it’s a small freelance project, or taking an online course, or even shadowing someone for a day. By taking these actions you will discover so much more than research alone.
When you do these actions you may find that your first choice is not what you had hoped, so strike it off your list.
Don’t get discouraged.
What you’re doing is finding things that aren’t for you, but there is bound to be something perfect. Keep experimenting and learning. When you find that one thing that really appeals to you, you will know and at least you have trialled it to be sure.
These small actions can also be worked around your current role, meaning you’re not sacrificing any time or money in assessing whether this new career path is for you.
Network & Build a personal brand
Most people consider changing career is the same as changing jobs. Whilst yes, you are changing jobs, you are also changing a lot of your life and a new career requires new contacts.
Developing a network of people who can introduce you to the industry is amazing. Not only can you find your avenue into a new life through them, but they can help and support you with your change.
Breaking into a new industry is a tough sell though, so this is where personal branding comes in.
Personal branding is a fancy term for branding and marketing yourself. Think of yourself as a business that you need to sell and you get the idea.
By building a personal brand and network, people get to know you, what you’re passionate about and also can understand and help you in finding your next role.
This gives you a chance to hone in on what you want from your new career. As you build your personal brand you are going to find like-minded people and understand what work culture suits you the most.
You don’t have to be the most extrovert of extroverts to do this either. By keeping your “personal brand” as close to your authentic self you are going to be more attractive to potential employers, potential colleagues and mentors.
This will take a little time, but those connections will prove invaluable when it comes time to find a new role as you would have prequalified yourself as a candidate.
Think about all the skills you can exhibit and show potential new employers, proving your value before you even submit a CV. That’s the power of personal branding and networking.
You’ve found the right career, the right business, the right role and you’re building your personal brand. A job opening comes up! Now the CV writing and interview portion of the journey begins.
Like every time you apply for a new role you should tailor your CV, however, with career changes there are certain areas you should pay attention to.
There’s no point trying to hide why you’re changing career. Be honest about it and weave that into how you approach your personal statement.
At the top of your CV should be a personal statement that not only really helps sell yourself but also allows you to explain your change and highlight important transferrable skills and experience. You may not have specific experience, but the experience you have can still be used to show your capability for the role.
When you write your CV, your key points, skills and keywords should be present in the top quarter to third of the first page. This is the golden area. Recruiters and hiring managers are always inundated with emails and CVs so, sadly, they will only skim read your CV to see if it’s relevant to the role. Make sure your keywords and the answers to “Is this person suitable?” are available in that golden area. This will instantly stack the odds in your favour.
So use your profile statement alongside a core skills section. The skills-based CV format is perfect for career changers because it includes the core skills section that really helps capture the recruiter’s attention. Remember that the top quarter to third of your CV is what is going to be skim read by a recruiter so placing the core skills section at the top with your relevant skills will catch their eye and compel them to read your CV.
Breaking into a new career is tough. But you’re much more likely to secure an interview if you can confidently explain why you’re making the change, why you’re a great fit for the role and what you’re going to bring to it.
Everyone has transferrable skills. Find the skills that are the best suited to the job role and highlight those. You can also show skills learnt through your small actions mentioned earlier.
People so often focus on the experience and not skills when chasing a new career, yet it’s your skills and abilities that will secure you the role.
Making a career change isn’t easy but when you find that new role, when you find a job you love, then you feel happy. That happiness is certainly worth the risk and effort.
Remember a career change can change your life. This new role could open whole new avenues for you or give you the flexibility to spend more time with your family. Whatever your priority is, make sure it’s the best career and the best change for you.