Six tips for changing career

MT EXPERT: Many people chowing down at Christmas will start thinking about a change of career in the New Year, but how do you avoid jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire?

by Shaun Thomson
Last Updated: 04 Dec 2014

It’s well documented that online job searches and staff resignations are at their highest in January, as people finally take the leap and pursue a new role. As the festive fun dissipates and reality sets in, the urge to turn your hand to something new may be too tempting to resist.

But if it is your dream is to swap careers entirely then it’s a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Although pursuing one’s passions sounds exciting, it often comes hand in hand with a huge pay cut and competing against a lot of younger, more experienced candidates.

Here are some tips to make the process as painless - and successful - as possible.

1. Set realistic goals

If you are resolute about changing careers then it’s important to choose your new calling carefully - it needs to pass both the realism and passion tests. Changing careers isn’t eas,y so it has to be something that you can feasibly do and that you feel strongly enough about to fight for when the going gets tough.  Use the Christmas holidays to reflect and set goals and timelines on when you will do your research and take the leap.

2. Challenge yourself

Ask yourself about the real reasons why you want to leave your current career. If your frustration is job specific and environmental, such as long hours and an irritating boss, then it may be worth considering other solutions - changing company or even starting your own business, for example. You need to absolutely clear on what is driving you to switch career.

3. Identify your transferable skills

Once you have decided on your target career you need to spend time developing ‘your case.’ Identify the key skills that you have developed at your current role and compare them to the ones that would be useful in your target career - personnel management, problem solving, troubleshooting, etc. Demonstrating that you aren't coming from a standing start, and that you can immediately add value, will differentiate you from the competition.

4. Start training before you leave

Sometimes the heart can get ahead of itself and ‘rose tint’ a sector. Before jacking in your current job, test the waters by doing some home learning and speaking to people already in that field about what your prospective new career entails.

5. Ask your boss

Before you start applying for new roles, it’s worth checking to see if there are any opportunities to try your hand at something different where you already work.  Explain your goals and your reasons for change. If you are a valued, respected member of staff they may be more amenable than you’d expect, and might even sponsor training. Employers respect ambitious, focused individuals more than those who let themselves drift with the tide.

6. Get your foot in the door

It goes without saying that you will research the company and role; what is tricky when changing career is being given that first opportunity. Getting your foot in the door via internships or trainee roles may mean sacrificing on your salary, but it will get you over the hardest hurdle and let you start climbing the ranks.

Shaun Thomson is UK CEO of business development consultancy Sandler Training.

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