Updated: Aug 20, 2019
For most of us, it would be unrealistic to imagine that a blazing flash of insight is likely to magically drop into our brains one day with the knowledge of our best career path. Instead, it's likely to be something that we discover incrementally over time. Many times, it's the mistakes we make with our career choices that can be most informative, helping us to figure out what does, and doesn't, fulfil us professionally.
Make no mistake, changing careers involves more disruption and risk than simply remaining on a traditional career path. So, before you consider taking a ‘leap of faith’ and embarking on a journey to change careers ensure you are clear on your reason for changing.
The following 6 steps have been researched and created to help you transfer all the hard work you’ve put into building your current career into the start of a new one.
1. Accept that there are no short-cuts.
Now you’ve made the brave decision to change careers, let me start with managing your expectations, there are no short-cuts. Defining what's important to you takes time, and the investment you make right at the beginning will pay dividends when trying to create a meaningful career change.
At this point, I would strongly urge you NOT to start reviewing and applying for any vacancies online, instead define what’s important to you; your values and what value you have to offer. By doing this, you will talk fluently to prospective employers which is vital in a climate where employers are risk-averse and where they are more inclined to opt for the tried and tested.
You may find this educational 'Personal Branding' video that I created helpful to get you started.
2. View your career as a marathon, not a sprint
You can’t snap your fingers and conjure your dream career running from point A to point B as fast as possible. We all know that this is not a sustainable way to make smart career choices. Accepting that you are likely to have to make several job moves to achieve your dream is realistic. Consider initially exploring career pathways that are more evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary and that lend themselves to your transferable skills. For example, if you are a police officer who is wanting to spend more time making a difference to others, consider exploring opportunities in safety, probation service, loss prevention, fraud, audit & compliance, social work, court enforcement, insurance claim assessing, just as an example.
3. Mind the skills gap
Once you have identified your transferable skills, consider filling your skills gaps with education or ‘on the side’ experiences. Consider taking a course, attending a topical seminar, volunteering, talking to someone already in your desired career. Do what you need to do, and learn what you need to learn to increase your confidence in your ability. You will never arrive as the complete package however, understanding your gaps in knowledge and demonstrating your willingness to learn will show a prospective employer the steps you are willing to take to reach your goal.
4. Embrace your unique journey
Instead of being your own worst critic, you need to become your number one fan. If there’s something that you care passionately about, you need to stop thinking about it and create a plan to go for it. To effectively stand out from the crowd in a new industry, you have to believe you’re uniquely qualified precisely because of your unique background, not in spite of your unique background, so you can move forward with confidence.
5. Expand your network
In the words of motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. If you don’t venture outside of your existing network you will restrict what you will learn from others who may have successfully achieved the career jump that you are looking to make. Instead, join relevant groups on LinkedIn and make the effort to surround yourself with people aligned with your desired future, rather than those from your past.
6. Craft your story
Refining your personal story to position yourself as an attractive candidate despite having no experience in your desired industry can be tricky when choosing to change careers. Whilst important to your ultimate goal, highlighting past accomplishments in a current industry can feel like pigeonholing yourself in the industry you wish to move away from. So, invest the time and effort upfront to effectively tell your story, be clear on what you are looking for so that you can communicate your future ambitions with clarity. It's vital that others easily connect the dots between what you have done and what you want to do.
Is a successful career change possible? Absolutely, but you need to be prepared to invest the effort, time and discipline to get there. Achieving more meaningful work that excites, energises and fulfils you is one of the most rewarding endeavours you can pursue in your career.