When I first started making my own career change a priority, I found a real mix in the quality of advice out there; often I felt it was unrealistic and too simplistic. I would read articles that now I know with hindsight would not help me answer my two burning questions 1) what do I want to do and 2) how do I make it happen.
As I have grown my own career coaching business, I’ve come across a lot of misconceptions about what it takes to make a successful career change and I thought it would be useful to share this with you. It took me 10 years to make my own career change and my aim is to help you make your move with the least risk and as quickly as you can, after all, life is short and we want to live our happiest life.
Here are my top 10 biggest bugbears to help you make an effective transition to a career that fits you.
Someone else can tell you what would be a good fit for you! Wouldn’t it be great if you could pay someone and they would tell you what would be your perfect job? ‘Oh you should be a funeral director’…. ‘you would make a great astronaut!’ But the truth of the matter is that you have the best insight into you and you are the only person who can really make that call. Yes, others can advise you, however, they are viewing your world through their lenses as they are putting their own perspective, their own views and they are taking control of your future. If you need help answering your own questions find someone who can guide you through a process to help you figure it out but not someone who claims they will tell you what to do.
Develop these 5 skills to be successful. Headlines which suggest that we need to build skills in certain competencies if we want to be successful I find very frustrating. Because success means different things to each of us and what interest and motivates each of us will vary. Yes, you can develop these skills, but if you aren’t interested, if you hate using these skills it isn’t sustainable and more importantly isn’t going to make you happy.
A key part of an effective career change is to figure out your transferrable skills. Ok so there is an element of truth to this statement, but it’s missing something. When a client comes to me to change career, it’s because they want to improve how they feel about their job and be happier and more fulfilled. The key here is yes you need to figure out your transferrable skills, but more importantly of those skills, you want to focus on a career that uses the skills you enjoy. You can be great at presenting, but if it feels you with dread: if you are that introvert that hates being the centre of attention, then is this going to be a good move? No!
Take time to reflect on what you want to do. If you are waiting for that epiphany when you have a clear idea of what your next career looks like before you are taking action – good luck let me know if you manage to do this before you retire! There can be a lot of uncertainty surrounding a career change, will you like it, can you earn enough money, and do you have the skills? To reduce that uncertainty and get more confident that you are moving in the right direction, you need to take action which you can do while you are still in your current job. You need to find people who are involved in your area of interest and talk to them, gather information so you can check that this is going to give you want you need.
Give the hiring manager what they want. The interview process is all about you, the real you that is. Yes, give them the evidence that demonstrates you have the key skills but don’t pretend to be someone you are not, because you want to be offered a job that is going to fit you and not one when you have to pretend to be someone else all the time. This is not sustainable and more importantly, will not give you the fulfilment you are looking for.
Career progression is about moving upwards. Career changes come in many different forms and aren't necessarily about taking on a bigger role in terms of salary and responsibility. Career changes can involve moving into a completely different field. It can be changing the nature of your employment relationship for example from employee to freelance. It can also mean having a portfolio career in which you combine a number of jobs to support your needs. A career progression is about changing your career in a way that will improve your life and enable you to move towards your goals, not the goals that society is telling you to aim for.
It doesn’t have to be your passion. Finding a career that you feel passionate about can place a huge amount of pressure on you. Passion is a strong word and some people can find it hard to feel this strongly about something. So let go of the word passion and think about a field that you are interested in, that will use the skills that you enjoy.
I can’t change careers as I will have wasted all this experience. We spend over a third of our lives at work or thinking about work. If you are not happy for the majority of this time, are you living your best life? Your experience that you have gained will help you in your new career, you might not be able to see how immediately but it will. Your career to date has served you but it’s now time to say goodbye and move on to your next adventure. Changing careers doesn’t mean you have failed, it means you are finessing your career to suit what's important to you now.
Success = big salary and leading a team of people. Success is what it means to you, not what society tells you and this may change as your life changes, what you consider successful in your 20’s may be very different to how you define it now. The key is to be clear on what you want and to build a career that supports your version of success whether that is money, running your own business, retiring at 50 or working a 20 hour week.
Secure a job that doesn’t feel like work. I find statements like this unhelpful as a successful career change is about finding a career that fits your needs and priorities, which may not be about the work itself but about the lifestyle you want. For example, your priority may be about spending the school holidays with your kids or about having the flexibility to travel when and where you want. Secondly, I think there is always going to be an element of a job that you don’t enjoy as much as other aspects. For example, if your dream is to have your own business, will it feel like work when you have to do elements of the job that don’t play to your strengths and interests? Therefore this statement is a little bit simplistic for my liking.
A career change is possible, I have made two in my career to date and here are some of my clients sharing their own personal experience of what it meant to them to make their career change.
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