The 4 best ways to change careers

Are you a toe-dipper or deep-end-diver? It's time to explore your options.

by MT Staff
Last Updated: 24 Aug 2017
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Down to business

After a lot of soul searching, you’ve come to a momentous decision. After 20-odd years building a career, you want out. There’s something else that you were born to do, and you’re going to go after it.

You’re not alone. Original research conducted by Management Today and Vauxhall Motors found that an astonishing 70% of 40-somethings are looking for a major change. The only problem is, it can be hard to know how to make that change, because what you want to do next is by definition a step (or three) into the unknown.

Fortunately, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Which approach is best for you will depend on your personality and your circumstances. Let’s take a look at what they are.

1. Taking the reins

The gist:

Going self-employed or starting your own business, within your sector.

This is for you if...

You want to be your own boss.

‘If I were in charge, I’d do things differently.’ How many times have you muttered that under your breath as you leave your boss’s office? Perhaps it’s time to do something about it. Striking out on your own has a great number of advantages, especially when you stick to what you know.

It means you can take real ownership of something while still leveraging your expertise and your network. Unsurprisingly, it’s a popular option: 14% of those surveyed by MT and Vauxhall Motors wanted to strike out on their own over the next two years.

Top tip:

Don’t expect it to be more of the same, even if you are in the same sector. At least at first, you’ll find there’s no HR, finance department or person to pick up the phone, so you may find yourself wearing many hats.

2. Dipping your toe

The gist:

Turning a hobby into a second income.

This is for you if...

You have a passion you want to explore but you value the steady pay cheque.

Not everyone’s cut out for huge gambles. Your family or financial commitments may be too great, or maybe you’re a naturally cautious person. That’s okay, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re condemned to the same old daily grind for the rest of your working life. 

Turning a hobby into a small venture, in effect becoming a part-time entrepreneur, allows you to try something out, learn if it’s going to work and make your mistakes from the safety of a salaried position. A not-insignificant 6% of 40-somethings surveyed are already doing this, with many more interested in having a go.

It could be anything from building an app to selling homemade jams at your local market. It’s the best of both worlds, and if it goes well, you can make it full-time later.

Top tip:

It may be tempting to prioritise your new venture, but don’t neglect your day job. You may want to talk to your boss about it – especially if your second income is in the same field. 

3. Jumping in the deep end

The gist:

A dramatic move into a totally different sector/function.

This is for you if...

You need a change. Now.

The world is a big place, far bigger than the treadmill on which most of us spend our working lives. Perhaps it’s time to stop longing for a new life beyond your office window, and go grab it for yourself. It’s surprising how many high-fliers have left the law firm for the farm or swapped the City for a career as a tennis coach, but it works the other way too. 

This isn’t burn out, it’s empowerment. Life is too short to spend it stagnating, and sometimes the only way to escape the rut is to light a little fire under your feet. It may sound dramatic, but one in five of those surveyed in our research were considered switching sectors or careers.

Top tip:

This is not for impulsive people. It has to be rooted in a deep interest in your new career, and thoroughly researched. It’s far too easy to romanticise something totally different, so find people who’ve done it already and ask what it’s really like.

4. Go back to school

The gist:

Retraining for a different career.

This is for you if...

You’re not afraid to take one step back to go two steps forward.

It’s a sometimes unfortunate fact that we make some of the biggest decisions of our adult lives before our adult lives have really begun. Our initial career choice is one, and in many cases our choice of degree is another. If you want to become a doctor, lawyer or software engineer, you can’t just rock up and join, you need years of expensive training and/or official accreditation.

Don’t let that put you off, though. Gaining qualifications as a mature student can be a passport to a new and rewarding second career, and it’s not all three-year degrees – MOOCs and short courses are becoming increasingly popular too.

Top tip:

You may be starting at the beginning, but don’t forget the valuable skills you’ve honed and the experience you’ve acquired over many years. These could be a decisive advantage in your new career, so don’t sell yourself short.

To coincide with the launch of the new Insignia Grand Sport, Vauxhall Motors has partnered with Management Today to produce Changing Lanes – a report looking at trends of the UK workforce. Visit to discover the stylish new flagship vehicle.