How to Make a Career Change
Updated 3 March 2021
What Is a Career Change?
When you are a fresh-faced teenager or a graduate fresh out of education, you might have lofty expectations of your career.
For some people, the feeling that they should be doing something else with their lives is something of a daydream; but for others, the need to make a radical career change is a powerful driving force.
If you are feeling unfulfilled or that you are not reaching your full potential, it might be time to consider a career change.
Reasons You Might Be Considering a Career Change
For many people, a career change is based on a personal and developmental need.
Even if you are working in the industry that was your dream at 18, you might find that the reality is quite different to what you expected.
A toxic culture, limited opportunities for promotion or general drudgery might be good reasons to consider a career change.
As you grow and develop in your personal life, your goals and aspirations change. For some people, the dream of owning a home becomes paramount, meaning that finding a career that pays more is important.
Perhaps you are starting a family and need more flexibility to work around the children.
Maybe you want to travel and have a career that can be taken around the world as you become a digital nomad.
All these add up to some quite different career goals than you might have had after graduation.
Sometimes, the lived experience of your chosen career can be the reason for a change.
If you are waking up every Monday dreading the week ahead, bored and unfulfilled, then finding a new career that you are passionate about could make those mornings much better.
For some people, achievement in a job is measured by promotions – but you might have reached the top of the career ladder in your work and have no more development possible.
A career might not be what you thought it would be when you started on the path – and if it is not your ‘calling’, you might be better served looking for something else.
If you just don’t love it anymore, it might be time to move on.
The workplace itself might be the reason for wanting a change. An environment where you do not feel supported or that your input is valuable, can be very demotivating.
From bad relationships with coworkers and management, to being overlooked for promotions, having a difficult time in your job will make you consider a radical change.
If your company is going through big changes, like restructuring or relocating, it can make you seriously consider your role in that company – and in that industry as a whole.
Major changes in your job role from external sources are a major catalyst for people thinking about a career change.
Things to Consider About a Career Change
There are a few things that need some serious thought before you jump into a completely new career.
If the urge to change career is a kneejerk reaction to a situation, then careful consideration about the benefits and risks can help you to decide whether to stay in your current role or move on to something completely different.
One of the biggest things to think about before making any major career change is finances.
Not only do you need to consider that you are likely to have to take a pay cut and an entry-level role in your new career, giving up your job to retrain or get a qualification might harm your income.
In fact, any training or education is likely to have an additional cost.
Considering the financial cost, as well as the impact it will have on your family, is important before you jump straight into something new.
Of course, the ultimate payoff will be the earnings that you could achieve in that new role – can you survive on them?
Find out more about salary expectations here.
Training and education are necessary for many career changes, so consider what you need to do to ensure that your knowledge and skills are up to scratch.
You might already possess some of the skills needed for the role you are changing to, but if extra tuition is needed, then it might require studying at a college or going to university.
Of course, you might be able to develop skills and gain experience without any formal education – and you can usually achieve this through volunteering or an internship.
Perhaps you have developed a new talent and you want to create a portfolio demonstrating your ability? Personal projects are a great way to show what you can do, as is offering the service and skill on a freelance basis or as a side gig alongside your current career.
Remember, as in everything at work, creating relationships with people is important.
Although networking can seem daunting, getting to know people in the industry of your chosen career can help you gain insight into what the job is actually like, and also helps you to identify who is a good fit for a conversation about prospective jobs.
You will need to build new colleague relationships, create a reputation and develop in a new office environment, so getting to know valuable people in the community will help you become a better candidate if you do make the move.
There will always be some element of sacrifice when you decide on a career change.
Whether financial (loss of salary), the need to relocate or a temporary disturbance of work-life balance as you navigate studying at home, a career change is likely to have an impact on you and your family.
Understanding that this is likely to be the case will help to make sure that you are taking steps to mitigate the sacrifices – saving money to negate the financial impact, making time for family trips and friends, and ensuring that your commute is productive will help.
One of the lesser-known considerations is at what age you should make that big change.
There is no magic number, no particular age that is ‘best’ for a career change. Each milestone birthday will have pros and cons in terms of career changes – but the best advice is not to wait too long.
Can You Make a Career Change at Any Age?
A career change can happen at any age. In fact, people change careers for various reasons up until (and sometimes even after) retirement age – so you don’t have to wait to be a certain age, or be stuck in a job past 50 because you feel like you have missed the boat.
A Career Change at 30
A career change at 30 will see you having completed up to 12 years in a career. Long enough to really know what the role is, and probably long enough to have achieved promotions.
At 30, responsibilities like bills, home-ownership and a family might start creeping in, so your goals and aspirations begin to change from those of the fresh-faced 18-year-old you once were.
With up to 35 working years left before retirement, 30 could be the right age for you to make that change.
A Career Change at 40
Life begins at 40, and for many people, the kids are beginning to become more independent, the mortgage is being paid and a new lease of life might be found.
Perhaps an early midlife crisis or the urge to do something to ‘give back’ to someone or something might be a driver; but at 40, you are still a long way from retirement.
A Career Change at 50
For those who make a career change at 50, happiness seems to be the most important reason for a drastic change.
The drudgery of a career can make life monotonous, and with developments in technology and more of an understanding of the benefit of life experience, it is not too late for you to consider a career change at 50.
10 Key Steps for Making a Career Change
It is always a good idea to work in a structured way when making a career change so that you can minimize any negative impact on you, your family and your situation.
A successful career change needs to be carefully considered, and the below steps can help you work through the possibilities logically.
1. Analyze Your Experiences in Your Current Career
Thinking about the role you currently have will help you to discover what you enjoy about it and what you don’t.
Taking this information and creating a list of both good and bad experiences will help you when you are looking at other careers.
You can also take this time to consider what you are good at and what you enjoy doing – following a passion and using your talents can make any career more fulfilling.
2. Look at Your Career and Life Goals
What do you want from your job? Where do you want your career path to take you? Do you know what you want your new career to look like?
Think about things like working hours and location.
What are your aspirations and goals outside of work? Can you follow your passion and leverage your skills to help you achieve personal goals?
3. Decide What Career You Want to Change To
Of course, for many people, a career change might be an easy decision, something already chosen long before. For others, finding the right new career that fits your goals, aspirations and passion as well as your transferable skills could be quite challenging.
Some career change options that might suit include:
- Teacher – Pivoting your skills and qualifications to train the next generation of young people can bring real satisfaction and is a great option for a career change. Different age children (and in some cases, adults) require different levels of training and qualifications, so more research is important.
- Technology – If you have developed a passion for website development, coding or even hardware, a career in technology will allow you to grow alongside the tech sector. Roles are varied, training can sometimes be found online, and not all roles require formal qualifications.
- Digital marketing – If you want to work in a fast-paced environment, then marketing in the digital space could be a great option. From social media management to creating an SEO strategy, this is a career that could be suitable for you if you are looking for something flexible that usually involves working from home.
Some people choose to become self-employed or go freelance rather than look to begin a career for another company – of course, that comes with its own set of challenges, but is a good option for the entrepreneurial type.
4. Set a Timeline
To help structure your career change, a timeline allows you to follow a framework and decide what is achievable.
For example, if you need to take a course for a specific qualification, it might take you two or three years to achieve.
A timeline creates a linear step-by-step guide that makes sure you do not miss anything important – and gives you an end date when your new career will begin.
5. Set Small Achievable Goals
While it might be exciting, jumping into a career change all at once might not be the best way to make it a success.
Setting smaller goals to achieve in the journey might be a better idea – and could ensure that you are not missing anything vital in the process. Small goals and gradual progress are good.
6. Research Your Chosen Career and Maybe Have a Go
When you have decided on what you want to do with the rest of your life, find out all you can about it.
Career exploration can be a great way to achieve this.
Create that network of individuals in the role you are looking at and speak to them when you can. If you can find a way to get some on-the-job experience, you will be able to find out first-hand what you can expect – so volunteer roles, secondments, freelance gigs and even internships are a great option.
7. Set up an Informational Interview
An informational interview is a meeting with someone already in that career who can impart knowledge, experience and information that you might not find elsewhere in your research.
This is a valuable way to get inside information from someone in the role you are dreaming of entering.
8. Look at (and Fill) Your Skill Gaps
Once you know what qualifications are needed for your new career, take some time to assess your current skills and plug any gaps.
By taking practice tests, you can see where you need some extra work.
The training might be available online, or you might have to attend a physical course at a college or university.
9. Rework Your Resume and Get Applying
Your resume should always be geared towards the role you are applying for.
Look at what skills and experience you are highlighting currently and be sure that whatever you do to change it is appropriate for your chosen career.
Do not make it too long – recruiters appreciate resumes that are succinct and demonstrate the skills and experience required in the job posting.
Start applying for roles in your new career before handing in your notice if you can manage it – then you are less likely to suffer too much of a negative financial impact.
10. Hand in Your Notice
The final, and arguably most scary, leap when making a career change is to resign from your current role.
You might be able to hold out on handing your notice in until the end of the career change process if you start working your new career as a side gig before jumping in – but if you need to achieve a full qualification or have the opportunity to ‘earn as you learn’ through an internship or similar, you might have to hand in your notice much earlier.
A career change can happen for a multitude of reasons and finding a career that you are happy in is particularly important.
Knowing your passions and skills are appreciated in any role is important – so if you discover that the career you chose fresh out of college isn’t giving you satisfaction, a career change could be the answer.
Of course, it is always a good idea to thoroughly consider all your options before quitting your job and jumping into something new – if you want more of a challenge, you could look for a sideways move within your current company.
You could speak to your HR department about developing your skills for a management role. Continuous professional development should be something that is offered to you, so why not think about what else you can do in your current job?
If you are concerned about a toxic working environment or poor relationships with coworkers or management, then approaching HR might be a good way to remain in role and make the experience better. Mediation might allow better relationships to develop and improve the office environment, or a move to another department might solve the problem.
If your role is changing due to company restructure or relocation, then do you need a complete career change or can you move into a similar job in another organization?
With all this in mind, sometimes a career change really is the best option to make sure that you wake up on a Monday ready to work, feeling fulfilled and sufficiently challenged.
Changing career can help you achieve your goals and change your aspirations, getting further in life than you might have thought possible.
With careful consideration and good planning, a career change does not have to be a challenge – it is a monumental decision that could be for the greater good.