29 May 2020

How to make a career change

The COVID-19 situation has been a wake up call. Many of us have been riding a momentum wave for so long that we never had a chance to stop, take a step back, and ask ourselves - what do I really want to do with my life?

These strange times are an opportunity to reassess and decide if you want to keep going on the same path as before, or do you want to embark on an entirely new journey. 

We can't tell you what you should do, but we can offer you guidance if you’re thinking about making a career change. 

1. Start with why

If you've outgrown or have begun hating your job or the industry you’ve worked in, ask yourself why - why do you dislike it so much? Without asking yourself this question you risk ending up in a different career, that you end up hating again. 

Be clear on your why - 

Ask yourself:

• Why do I want to do this?

• Why do I think a new career will improve my life?

• Do I just need to find a new job?

If you’re still working, keep a daily journal to help you pinpoint exactly what it is you dislike about your job. Note down all the issues - is it the actual work itself, the people you work with, company culture or the industry?

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2. What do you want to do?

Identifying what your passion and purpose is in life can lead to some groundbreaking discoveries on where to take your career. Learning what you enjoy outside of work is a great starting point as you can turn your passion into a new career. To help you get started have a read of our guide on how to find your passion and build a career around it.  

3. Research

Before making any drastic decisions like packing in your job, do some research to discover if the new role you have in mind is a good fit. Talk to people in the job or industry you’re considering moving to. LinkedIn is a great place to start - connect with professionals working in the space and see what trends you can spot from their feedback. 

Talking to people who have been there and worn the t-shirt will allow you to make more informed decisions which will greatly minimise the risk of choosing a job that won’t work for you. 

Test the waters 

Try out different career options to see what job is right for you. 

The important thing here is to get ideas for what you like and dislike. This process of dipping your toes in many different career paths allows you to cross off potential possibilities so they don’t remain unknowns in your mind.

This exercise can be performed whether you’re in a job or not. So if you’re currently employed it reduces any risk while testing ideas to help discover what you really want to do.

Some ideas to get started:

• Enroll in a course

• If you have a friend, family member, or connection in an interesting role - see can you shadow them for a day and get a taste for the job

• See can you work as a freelancer for the role you have in mind

• Seek volunteer work that is closely related to the job or industry you want to move to

If you need inspiration on this process of discovery, have a read of Richard Alderson’s story on how he made the move from a role he hated to finding the job he loved.

4. Setting up a plan of action

Start thinking about your end goal and an ideal timeline.

Once you have a date, break it down into the major milestones you will need to accomplish which will include:

• The skills you need to acquire

• The people you need to network with

• What you need to take care of in your current job

• Personal matters which include finances (More info on this to follow below)

Once you have the major steps outlined, break them down into daily and weekly actions so you know exactly what to do to reach each milestone. The smallest steps you take will build momentum, give you confidence and help you realise that this new career is very possible. 

Track: Ensure that you track your efforts when you begin implementing your plan of action. A simple Excel sheet or Google sheet will allow you to set reminders and follow up actions you need to complete.  

An important point to consider when taking action: Can you build your chosen career on the side while continuing to work your current job? Test it out and see how it goes. Set aside 30 - 60 minutes a day to get the ball rolling. The likelihood is that you may need to stick with your current job or at least pick up a part-time job until you've acquired the right skills or qualifications to make a career move. Patience is key here so take your time, build everything slowly and stick to your plan relentlessly. 

Financial considerations

Find out how much money you need to earn to live on.

Start doing an audit of what you currently spend in a single month and see what cutbacks you can make to begin saving money. It’s a very interesting exercise to actually see the amount of money you need each month to make ends meet. You will be surprised when you strip away all of the non-essential items. Here’s why this figure will help with your plan:

  • If you want to quit your job or you’re unemployed right now, perhaps a part-time job will cover your monthly expenses while you begin building your passion into a career or while you’re spending time upskilling.

  • If you have any savings this monthly figure will help you plan ahead and see how many weeks/months you could spend working on your new career while not having any income, if you do decide to quit your job.

Salary considerations 

If you want to move to a completely new field you may have to take an entry-level position. To find out how much you could be potentially earning from the get-go: 

• Search for related job vacancies online and see what salary ranges are commonly listed

Payscale.com may also help you find the average salary

• Network on LinkedIn and talk to people in the space

Self-employed route

If you plan on going out on your own there is a safety net available. If you’re not earning any income the Jobseeker's Benefit (Self-Employed) is available to keep you afloat until you begin making money. More information on the Self-Employed Jobseeker’s Benefit here.

5. Tips for applying for jobs in your ‘dream’ field

There are a number of strategies you can use to apply for roles where you don’t have traditional experience. The focus should be on your transferable skills - skills that can be transferred from one job to another. These are skills you’ve already obtained - examples include communication, leadership, organisation - and these skills can be applicable to your new career. 

If you feel you need to bump up your transferable skills in order to land your preferred job, you could consider looking at internship programmes or perhaps a volunteering role may tie into the new industry you seek to move into. See if there are any opportunities to volunteer in your local area. Also If you’re returning to the workforce, listing volunteer experience on your CV shows the employer you were actively developing new skills during your time off.

Include any transferable skills in your CV when describing volunteer experience. 

For example:

Volunteering at the local homeless shelter, serving food and preparing clean bedding for 40 people. Helped organise a marketing campaign on social media to promote awareness, allowing me to develop my digital marketing skills.  

The transferable skills that stand out here are organisation, communication, while the hard skills listed are digital marketing and social media marketing. 

Transferable skills - Hobbies and interests 

We recommend including hobbies and interest in your CV because it’s yet another opportunity to show off those fantastic transferable skills of yours. ‘Playing chess’ Can become ‘I enjoy playing chess, and I contribute tutorial videos regularly to an online community chess club.’

Help with your CV, Cover Letter, and advice on transferable skills

Finally, if you need any help putting together your CV and Cover Letter have a look at our step-by-step guide here which includes free templates to download with guidelines from start to finish.

If there was ever a time to make a career change or to plan one out, it would be now. We wish you the very best of luck on your journey. 

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