Career changes – adapt to your future

Changing your career? What to look out for before you switch lanes 

Pretty much everyone accepts now that there is no “career for life” anymore, along with no guarantee of a “job for life”. This is due to the seismic changes in global economies over the past few decades, as well as social changes that have produced more working women and higher standards of education globally alongside significant and disruptive technological advances.

Changing careers used to be perceived as a risky strategy out of reach for all but the independently wealthy. It’s still a risk today, as careers become increasingly specialised and higher levels of education and experience are required for entry into any profession. However, people today generally expect more out of life and are freer to pursue their happiness than ever before, so it is not unusual to hear people talk about packing in one career to launch themselves into another. If you are in a situation where you want to, or need to, switch lanes, do you know where to start? This is a subject I have given much thought to during my own career break, so not surprisingly, many of my blogs have covered this ground. Here are my thoughts.

Find out as much as you can about your new career

Reach out to your network – an open and honest conversation with a friendly contact in the field will go a long way to helping you decide if this new career will be a good fit for you, and vice versa. Get yourself invited to a few key events as a guest or observer – you can check out how much work is involved in changing lanes and figure out how long you may need to make the change, as well as how much this will cost you. For networking tips, see my previous blog.

Go back to school

There are plenty of free and low-cost study options out there, especially online, for you to get more insight into your new career, and assess your ability to adapt and learn whilst also testing your willingness to change. There will be lots of learning to do to make it in a new industry or sector, so make sure you are prepared to go back to school in some shape or form.

Run it by your mentor

For more one to one support, talk through your career change plan with your mentor. This is someone who knows you and has your best interests at heart. They will challenge you, and you will develop a more robust plan as a result, whichever way you decide. Don’t have a mentor? Check out how to go about finding one.

Try it and see

Take a temporary job in your selected new career and test the waters. See my blog about turning a temporary job into a permanent one. Or volunteer in the sector if at all possible – you can do this in your own time and leave your current career unaffected.

Entrepreneurs - doing it for themselves

You can set up a business as a sideline and if it takes off, you can phase out your old career whilst growing your new one. In this article, alumni of Google, Facebook and Apple tell their stories of leaving tech giant workplaces and setting up on their own. Don’t be afraid of the unknown!

The career change cv

Perhaps your new career is not a million miles away from your current one – what transferable skills do you have? Find a job spec or person spec for your chosen career, or a job advert detailing the essential and desirable skills – which ones can you demonstrate that you already have from your experience in your current or previous roles? Add that to your passion for your new vocation, and you may have the beginnings of a very credible application cover letter, and if lucky you will use the opportunity of an interview to test your future employer’s attitude to a “leftfield” candidate. Cv skills need a reboot? Check my earlier post on cv writing and remember to orientate your cv (and your LinkedIn profile) toward the key requirements of your new role.

The career change interview

Preparing for a career change interview will require that little bit more planning and rehearsal – you will inevitably get questions around why you want to change, why now, and whether you are prepared to take a pay cut or start back at the beginning, if necessary. Work these questions into your interview preparation along with all the usual questions, covered in this post, and you will demonstrate that you are ready to change lanes as soon as the coast is clear.

Career adaptability

But before you reach for the job websites, do you have what it takes to change career? Not everyone has had periods of career break, parental leave, unemployment or relocation to test their ability to bounce back. So how do you know you will cope with the adjustment? Equally, what about those of you who aren’t seeking a career change right now – that doesn’t mean that your career path won’t change and require you to adapt with it. Career adaptability is the skill we all need to acquire – that’s the ability to respond flexibly to the changing world of work and make the career transitions necessary in these less certain times. Regardless of your plans to change or stay where you are, read more about career adaptability here.

As I prepare to re-enter the world of work at the end of my own career break, all of these factors are at the front of my mind. If you are returning to work, or in the midst of a career change, please comment below and share your experience!

Next week, I will be looking at return-to-work cv writing, and some of the keywords you can use when writing about your time out to care for family members, old and young.

Until next week...