I'd like to do something completely different, but I'm not sure, practically, how to go about doing it.
A: Changing your career can be very rewarding, but it can also be tough. Before you embark on this course, it's worth tracking down the source of your dissatisfaction. Are you fed up with your sector, or have you just had enough of your present role in your current organisation?
A number of my clients have shifted within their organisation from a role that they no longer found rewarding to another, very different one and have found far greater satisfaction. For example, a senior sales manager switched to an HR role and found pleasure in using the knowledge he'd gained in line management to ensure that the policies and practices of his new department were geared to promoting high performance in the people he'd recently been managing. The advantage for him was that his past experience proved directly relevant to his new post.
But if you're hell-bent on a complete change of career, you'll need to do careful research to identify the right opportunity and to position yourself to ensure a good chance of being appointed - unless you just happen to meet someone in the pub who recognises your talents and gives you the job of your dreams.
What would your ideal job be? Go through a checklist of questions to establish your criteria. For example, do you want to work in an organisation and, if so, what size would suit you best? What type of work appeals? Do you want to work full-time or part-time? How much do you need to earn? Would you be prepared to undergo training or take a qualification? Is location important - would you consider moving to another area or even another country? Add in any other factors that are important to you.
Now do a skills audit on yourself. Don't look just at the functional competencies and qualifications you've acquired over the years; consider the generic abilities you've developed too - eg, managing people and creating productive, working relationships with other departments. Include qualities that may not have had an outlet in your present position and, if you've had recent feedback, pick out the positives to add to your tally. You can draw on this databank when you come to create a CV for the new job.
Next step is to create another list, this time of your ideas for the kind of job that might suit you. Include possibilities that may not seem entirely practical but nevertheless attract you, as well as roles that are similar to the one you hold now. Score all the options out of 10 for their attractiveness to you and, on the same scale, for how easy or difficult you think it would be to land a job like that. Refer to your skills audit for this. If you find it tricky to work out the accessibility score for a particular role, you may need to do some research (asking informed people, checking the internet) to make your assessment more realistic. What will emerge are the frontrunners for you, in terms of their appeal and feasibility. You'll also be able to discard a few theoretically appropriate but actually unappealing roles.
Having narrowed your target, find out what the reality of working in this role would entail and which organisations in your chosen field seem to match your criteria most closely. Obtain copies of relevant trade or professional publications. This will give you a good idea of the current preoccupations of your target sector, and the classified ads will show what kinds of jobs are coming up and what expectations employers have of their candidates. You'll also discover which recruitment firms operate in that area.
Now construct your CV, adapting it to the particular opportunity you're pursuing. The CV shouldn't be more than two pages long. Consign address, marital status and education to the second page. Under your name, in bold, a short paragraph should describe the 'working you' at your very best. Then list your jobs (most recent first), picking out significant achievements. Include evidence of any knowledge and experience that are highly relevant to your new sector.
If all this seems like hard work, the consolation is that by doing it, you will have boosted your confidence and given yourself a good idea of where your strengths lie, what type of work you'll find most satisfying and how to present yourself as the ideal candidate.
Miranda Kennett is an independent coach. If you have an issue you'd like her to cover, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.