How to make a career change: A complete guide

Businessman looking through office window in sunlight

Bored in your career? Lost your inspiration? A fresh start might be a big move, but we’ll show you how to switch to something different with our in-depth guide below.

Like any once-strong relationship, there may come a time where you realise that you and your career are no longer right for each other. Your reasons are numerous, and they can no longer be ignored. You feel unfulfilled. You’ve lost your passion for the role. That big paycheque just isn’t cutting it anymore.

Whatever the case may be, the idea of doing a complete career 180 seems daunting. If you’ve had your eyes on a fresh start for some time but feel like you lack the skills to make the change, it’s easy to feel disheartened.

Thankfully, with the right plans in place, forging a new career path is most definitely possible.

Here, we’ll take a closer look at why people make career changes, the benefits (and risks) of doing so, and some effective strategies to help if you’re looking to embark on a fresh start.

How do you know it’s time for a career change?

There are all kinds of different reasons as to why people aren’t a match for their career anymore. Perhaps you’re looking for something less stressful. Maybe it’s a better work/life balance you’d prefer. You might even want to finally realise your dream of running your own business.

No matter the motivations, if you’ve noticed any of the following lately, it might be time to make the switch.

Young women writing in a notepad in her living room in front of a laptop

1.You can feel it

And we mean that literally. A job you no longer enjoy can bring about some unwanted physical effects.

If you’ve found yourself getting headaches more and more, tension courses through your muscles, and Sunday night sends you into spirals of worry, then you’re probably in the wrong line of work. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you.

2. You’re doubting yourself

A truly fulfilling career has the power to boost your confidence and self-esteem. But grinding through a week of repetitive tasks and monotonous meetings in a toxic workplace can wreak havoc on your emotional wellbeing.

It’s important to know your worth. Switching careers to something more rewarding plays a big role in how we view ourselves.

3. “At least the money is good”

The old chestnut. When your heart’s not in your job anymore, it’s easy to look at the financial rewards as a fair trade. But it’s rarely worth the payoff.

There are plenty of rewarding, fulfilling jobs out there that will still pay enough for you to live on. Don’t let a handsome paycheque sway you into staying somewhere you’re not enjoying anymore.

Young man stressed at work in front of his computer

4. The passion is no longer there

Think back to why you originally started out in your career. Do you still feel the same way? In a job that’s become stagnant, it’s easy to lose sight of what used to get you excited. Perhaps you’re sat in more meetings than you’d like, or you’re bogged down in stats and figures instead of more creative outlets.

When you begin to miss what first grabbed you about your industry, a drop in passion is practically a given.

5. Your career bores you

Being 100% energised about your job all the time is unrealistic. There are some days where you’re bound to feel less motivated and more sluggish than others.

Likewise, there might be certain parts about your job that you find dull. But when you feel like that every day, and every task has become boring to you, then it’s time for a change.

What are the benefits of changing careers?

Compared to a job you’re no longer fulfilled by, a change in careers can bring about all kinds of benefits. Job search website Joblist conducted a recent survey of career changers, and found that those who packed in their previous role for something new reported the following positives:

• 77% felt happier

• 75% felt more satisfied

• 69% felt more fulfilled

• 65% felt less stressed

Two women laughing at a catch up in the office

Emotional improvements like these play a big role in our own wellbeing. While better pay was cited as the main reason for switching careers, the survey found that money had little bearing on emotional gratification.

In fact, Joblist reported that workers who earned less at their new job were more likely to be less stressed out compared to those who earned more.

What are the risks of changing careers?

Despite the obvious benefits, a career change is a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Certain career paths might be paved with risks, so it’s important to keep the following in mind before you make the first step.

Financial uncertainty: Moving into a field you’ve no experience in might mean starting from the bottom. Be prepared for periods of unemployment, forking out for extra education, or starting on a lower salary you might be used to.

Likewise, if you’re starting your own business, you’ll need to consider the financial investments needed to keep things afloat.

Potential for stress: Landing a job in an unfamiliar industry can be tough, especially when you’re up against more experienced candidates. Keeping an eye on your stress levels throughout the process is important.

Time intensive: When it comes to finding a job you truly enjoy, expect some trial and error. It may take more time than you first realised.

Worried businesswoman looking at computer screen

Top tips for making a successful career change

1.Evaluate your current job satisfaction

Note down how you feel at the end of each working day. Are there any recurring themes or feelings? Ask yourself what you like and dislike about your current role and consider whether the reasons for your lack of fulfilment are due to your duties, the company culture, or your colleagues.

Try thinking about where you want to go next. Do you want to work for someone else or would you rather do it alone? Answering these questions will narrow things down and give your next job hunt more direction.

2. Assess your own skills

Reflect on your previous roles and projects to see what skills and abilities you have and which you might need to learn more about in the future. Which transferable skills do you already have that you can apply to potential job specifications? When it’s time to fire off some CVs, be sure to emphasise these in your applications through hard numbers and facts.

And remember, soft skills are just as important as hard skills. Before you apply anywhere, take a look at these six crucial soft skills that can make the job search a little easier.

Student hands comparing notes on notebook with laptop

3. Upgrade your skillset

Now that you have a better of idea of your current skillset and what you’d like to do, think about any new skills you may need to learn to land a job in your desired sector. There are all sorts of courses, seminars and lectures out there that can help spruce up your skills. Whether it’s coding, web development, graphic design, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.

4. Make an action plan

Rather than rushing into things, creating an action plan will serve to strengthen the job search. From setting goals and deadlines to keeping things on track with a proper schedule, an action plan helps to keep you focused and motivated – allowing you to explore options, research potential employers and work on your branding in a more routine, structured way.

5. Find a mentor

When you’ve a mentor to learn from and lean on, you’re privy to all sorts of insights, advice and support. Mentors can guide you through making tough decisions, share their mistakes with you and offer constructive feedback. They might even be able to open a door or two to some new opportunities.

For more information on how a mentor can help with your job search, as well as how to seek one out, check out our guide here.

Business professionals attending business conference, networking, busy, discussion, collaboration

6. Increase your network

In the world of job hunting, there is no greater truth than the old saying “it’s not what you know but who you know”. Expanding your network with colleagues, employers and connections, and attending functions and events, can put you in front of all kinds of valuable contacts.

Be vocal about your desire to change careers. Let these connections know you’re looking for a new job and that you’re taking steps by learning new skills to prepare for the switch. While you shouldn’t expect results straight away, the relationships you foster through networking could well lead to your next opportunity.

Don’t forget to straighten out your online presence either. Check out our guide to improving your LinkedIn profile so you can start standing out from others gunning for the same positions.

7. Set up some job shadowing

Through your networking, you should be able to set up some informational interviews to pick the brains of those working in an industry you’re interested in, along with some job shadowing.

Shadowing professionals lets you observe their role first hand. Whether it’s a few hours or a few days, a shadowing opportunity will let you get a taste of where you might like to go in the future to see if it’s right for you. Plus, it’s another way of making more valuable contacts too!

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