After 30 years in the same career, I need to do something different. How do I change careers?
Updated: Oct 4, 2022
It's not the first time I have spoken to someone in their early 50s who has fallen out of love with their job and is thinking about a career change.
There are several reasons why midlife can lead us to reconsider our career options, and it's becoming increasingly common. For some, it may be to reduce stress and workload. However, more and more people feel like they are just revving up their careers with a desire to pursue more meaningful work. For many professionals with ten to twenty years ahead of them before they are willing to retire, it can send them into a spiral of uncertainty, paralysing them into a state of inaction.
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity - Amelia Earhart
So, here are my ten tips to help get you started.
Start with the right mindset - an open mind. What are you prepared to change about your life to suit another career? What sacrifices are you ready to make? Potentially this could be financial but not always.
You can't connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards - Steve Jobs
Explore your past for clues. What are your inherent strengths? What are your values? What work contexts make you feel alive? Which work patterns support your needs?
Engaging with a reputable career coach can be very beneficial; however, I appreciate that this may not be accessible to all. So, talk to people who know you and whose opinions you value to help you generate career ideas or areas you can explore. Also, ask them to mentor you through your career change. Having someone to talk to can help keep your mindset positive through tough times.
Contact people in the career you wish to pursue and arrange informational interviews. Approaching someone cold can be challenging, so establish a common ground to come across authentically. Maybe they commented on a LinkedIn post you found interesting? Explain why you are connecting - you want professional advice, to learn more about their work, or to know more about their product.
Explore internal career transitions or secondments with your current employer. Many companies will be more open to lateral career moves in a worsening skill shortage rather than lose great talent. Not only that, it will mean that you can retain your benefits. If you are interested in working in other areas of the business, this will likely mean that you will need to reach out to your manager before you approach anyone else about your move. I appreciate that this will probably make you nervous, but this step is critical. A good manager will welcome an honest approach. Make sure you have a compelling case for changing roles and are well-prepared before meeting with your manager.
If practical, volunteer for shadowing opportunities to give you a critical insight into a role to help confirm whether it's the right pathway for you or to avoid a potential disaster.
Strive not to be a man of success. Rather become a man of value - Albert Einstein
Understand your strengths and assets, including your age, experience and potential and how to articulate them positively. Identify skill gaps and, where possible, explore training courses to upskill.
Ensure your CV and LinkedIn profile are focused on your desired career and create them through the lens of your future employer or manager. Consider the problems your diverse skills can help them solve.
When changing careers applying for jobs the conventional way can prove less successful; instead, approach companies and individuals proactively. Build your network by joining relevant online and in-person groups to increase visibility and put you in front of the right people. You are more likely to secure an opportunity if someone advocates for you for a role than applying directly.
It always seems impossible until it's done - Nelson Mandela
You will be more successful, resilient, and focused if you plan for change. Manage your expectations, and don't expect success overnight. Changing careers takes time. Expect setbacks and treat them as opportunities to gain knowledge and feedback to hone and improve your approach.