Work and careers have been changing over the last few decades, to the point where a “career for life” just isn’t the norm anymore. In fact, it’s now common to change careers at least once in your working lifetime, by swapping roles within a sector, between organisations or even changing sectors entirely.
When work isn’t working
There are many individual reasons and circumstances why people seek to change career, although there are some general trends:
- Frustrations within current work place / role, such as limited potential for promotion, feeling under-valued; conflict of ethics and ethos, or poor management, pay and conditions
- That burned-out feeling of having given everything within your current employment
- The need to change geographical location (for family or personal reasons) often leads to a career re-think at the same time
- Interpersonal difficulties with colleagues or line management
- A change of personal circumstances, such as getting to an age where the children are grown up and there’s the chance for work to be a choice of what you’d like to be doing, rather than doing something you’re bored by just because the income is reliable
- Similarly, redundancy or scaling back in your company may be forcing you to consider other options
So, if work currently isn’t working for you, how can you find the perfect fit for your next step?
The great thing about a career swap is that all the experiences you’ve already had (positive or negative) really count in helping you decide what to do next. Positive work experiences can help you to:
- Build up the expertise which makes you a solid candidate for other roles
- Identify your strengths and possible roles which would use these (within your current or alternative sectors)
- Identify how, why and where you want to make an impact in a new role, and then…
- Use this information to identify the sectors and companies whose ethos suits your own
- Understand the working scenarios which have offered you the best job-satisfaction
- List the myriad of skills you use daily in your current job which are essential within another role, for example your office management and organisation skills which transfer well into event management
- Have established a ready network of contacts for enquiry about your next step
Similarly, from colleagues, commuting and pay, to work-related tasks and expectations, any negative work experiences you’ve had will help you to:
- Identify and eliminate roles which you know would cause you stress or frustration
- Identify and eliminate specific companies or sectors from your potential choices
- Identify the minimum salary, commuting costs or travel time that you would be prepared to accommodate when changing career
Considering all of this should result in a comprehensive list of what your experience means you can offer and where to start looking, but it’s also important to ask yourself what you actually want, so ask yourself:
- What do I enjoy / not enjoy in my current job?
- Am I getting a reasonable work-life balance or do I want to find a role which gives a more satisfactory balance?
- What would I change about my current role to make it a job I’d like to stay in? This question can throw up lots of ideas which help to inform your next step and you can also consider it in reverse:
- What aspects of my current role do I want to keep in any new role? For example, working in a team rather than in isolation, maintaining my IT skills, supporting others etc.
- What motivates me? This question will help you to identify some of the aspects of your current role that might be impacting on your motivation and will help you focus on staying motivated in a new role, for example.
- Am I prepared to / can I afford to retrain or start over in a new career?
By the time you’ve pondered all of the above, you should have a definite idea of the circumstances that you do or don’t want as part of your next role, even if you’re still not entirely sure about what specific change you want to make yet.
To help with this, apply the answers to your ‘want’ questions as you consider the types of possible change to make, for example:
A) If those years-of-service benefits are too good to pass up but your talents are currently being under-used, then a change of role within your current organisation might be the way to create a change and new challenges without having to start over elsewhere?
B) If you love your actual role (teacher, manager, retail, sales etc) but find yourself frustrated by your employer, then changing organisation and employer may be the right change for you?
C) If you’ve reached your personal and professional limits in your current role / career, or have too many things on your wish-list which are incompatible with your current role and sector then a whole career change might be what you want?
Once you’ve decided what type of change you’d like to make, you’ll be able to use all your other practical and professional deciding-factors to start planning your next move (in answer to those ABCs above):
A) Within your current organisation: ask for an appraisal, CPD, line-management or HR meeting to discuss your current role or other roles available in the company.
B) Look within industry publications and job listings to find other companies employing people in your role, such as TES for teachers, national newspaper and online job portals.
C) Consider which alternative careers use those skills that you want to keep using or offer you the chance to explore the new skills you want to develop. Identify appropriate training routes or work-based training opportunities and vacancies.
Finally, whichever kind of change you’ve decided to make, use the information you’ve gathered about your skills, strengths and positive performances and add them to the competencies section of your CV, to help prepare for your applications and make your experience count.