Making the decision to change your career is hugely exciting but it can be fraught with fear and doubt too. Before you take the plunge, read our experts’ top tips for success and discover the common pitfalls to avoid.
1. Don’t rush it – So you’ve decided to follow your passion and make the dream a reality. It’s wonderful to have a renewed sense of enthusiasm (especially if you’ve been stuck in a job you hate for years) but remember that overhauling your career takes considerable thought and planning. ‘One of the biggest mistakes that we make when thinking of changing careers is to charge into action,’ a company which supports people through their career change. ‘The most obvious example of this is going straight to the CV – amending it and then spraying it out into the market. That is a really bad way to project your brand. Every time you give it to somebody, you potentially dilute your value.’
2. Network wisely – Networking is a great way to meet professionals and learn more about your chosen industry – but again, don’t rush in. ‘Before you reach out to contacts in your network, make sure you’ve done your research and know what you want from them, ‘Would a few days work shadowing be most beneficial? Do you need details of hiring managers at this stage? A vague, poorly timed request or asking the wrong questions will waste their time and yours.’ When you do decide to approach your most valuable contacts (i.e., those people who are most likely to open doors for you), -softly approach rather than asking about job opportunities outright. ‘People love to talk about themselves. Show a genuine interest in them and their career – ask what their job is like and how they got to be where they are – and they’ll be more likely to remember you favourably when they hear of an opening.’
3. Don’t repeat the past- You might have a dream – perhaps you’ve always wanted to be a journalist or a fashion designer – but for others, deciding on a new career can involve extensive soul searching. ‘Many people look over their past experience, skills and education and look to see where they could make a sideways step,’ . ‘While this can be helpful for some, remember that the past is what’s got you to where you are now. ‘If you want a job you’re truly passionate about, you need to go back to basics. Ask yourself “what do I enjoy doing most?” Think about what really makes you tick – you can worry about how to sell your transferable skills later.’
4. Careful how you label yourself – When it comes to re-writing your CV, be careful how you label yourself. ‘Avoid using the term “career changer” on your CV as this simply flags up your lack of experience in your new career,’ . Instead, present yourself as already in the role – label yourself as a fashion designer or journalist, for example. Re-thinking the format of your CV and using a functional rather than a chronological layout. That way, it’s easier to show your transferable skills on the first page and downplay the fact that your previous career history was very different.
5. Keep your expectations realistic – Many career changers are unrealistic about timing and expect things to happen overnight. ‘You might need to make a few different job moves to take you in the right direction or undertake further study.’ Be prepared to gain experience, as well as attending courses. ‘Practical experience in your new career is essential if you want to be taken seriously by recruiters – a qualification by itself is not enough,’. ‘Actively look for ways to get experience, even if this means offering your services for free via voluntary work, work shadowing or undertaking temp work in an appropriate organisation.’
6. Talk with someone impartial – Be aware that not everyone in your personal life will be enthusiastic about your plans. Even if partners appear outwardly supportive they may have concerns about finances and an uncertain future. Friends may feel threatened or jealous, wishing they had the courage to make a change themselves – all of which can colour the advice friends and family give you. ‘No matter how much research you do, making a career change takes a leap of faith and it would be concerning if you didn’t have any fears,’ ‘Talking through your fears is the first step to overcoming them. Speaking to someone neutral, such as a mentor or careers coach, can be a great way to get impartial advice. ‘Lots of people talk about switching careers for years without actually doing it – talking to a careers professional can help you identity the steps you need to take and make it “real”.