Best Practices for Onboarding Career Changers

Written by Nicola Wylie
Last updated May 28, 2023

Starting a new career is always nerve-wracking, but career changers face unique challenges during the process. Navigating a new industry, company, and team can be overwhelming, leading to a slower learning curve and higher staff turnover. Fortunately, there’s a lot employers can do to help career changers settle in smoothly. We explore some best practices for onboarding career changers to ensure they transition successfully into their new roles.

Our employer’s guide covers everything you need to know to provide career changers with a seamless onboarding process, including:

  • What is onboarding?
  • Why is it important for career changers?
  • Common challenges career changers experience during the process
  • How to onboard career changers effectively


What Is Onboarding?

Onboarding is the process of incorporating new hires into a company and introducing them to the company’s vision, culture, processes, and procedures. The end goal is to empower new starts to become productive team members as quickly as possible, equipping them with the tools and know-how to excel in their new roles.

Onboarding programmes usually include orientation, compliance training, on-the-job mentoring, and ongoing support from HR and management.


Why Is Onboarding Important For Career Changers?

Onboarding is crucial for career changers because it gives them the support to navigate a completely new role and industry. In addition, since they come from different fields, career changers may be used to different practices, cultures, and expectations. As such, onboarding is the ideal opportunity to help them adapt to their new sector and learn how things are done. 

In addition, onboarding can support career changers as they learn how their current skills transfer to their new roles. This will boost their confidence as they embark on a new career.

Finally, while they may have had a vast professional network in their previous career, they’re likely starting from scratch. Onboarding allows career changers to meet new team members and start growing their network in their new sector. 


Challenges Career Changers Face During Onboarding

As an employer, it’s important to acknowledge the particular set of challenges and obstacles career changers face. That way, you can adapt your onboarding approach to address these challenges and empower career changers to excel in their new career journey.

Here are some of the main challenges career changes face during onboarding:

  • Adapting to a new work environment: Everything from the company culture to the timetable could be different for career changers. This can be a source of stress, so it’s essential to set clear expectations and allow time for new hires to adapt.
  • Navigating a new industry: Every industry is different, so career changers have the added pressure of familiarising themselves with industry practices and expectations on top of settling into a new company.

  • Transferring and building skills: Career changers may lack some industry-specific technical skills that they will need to learn on the job. Therefore, they may need some extra training and support. Moreover, they may also need to learn how to transfer their current soft skills to their new roles. This can take time.

  • Pressure: Changing careers is a huge life decision, which can cause some to put too much pressure on themselves to succeed right away. As such, career changers may need help learning how to be patient and manage their expectations.

  • Fitting in: Coming from a different background can make it harder for career changers to integrate into the company. So, creating an inclusive work environment and opportunities for them to connect with their colleagues is crucial.


Now that we know the main challenges, here are some tips on onboarding career changers successfully.


Best Practices For Onboarding Career Changers

Providing an effective and supportive onboarding experience will set career changers up for success in your organisation. As a result, you’ll reap the benefits of enhanced productivity, higher engagement, and reduced staff turnover.

Here are some actionable career changers onboarding tips to help you nail the onboarding process.


1. Start strong with a pre-onboarding programme

Career changers tend to be (understandably) nervous when starting a new role. So, implementing a pre-onboarding programme can go a long way to ease these nerves before they even begin. Moreover, it will prepare them for their new position and make the transition as seamless as possible. A pre-onboarding programme helps career changers acclimate to a new industry and meet their colleagues before their first day.

Some best practices when designing a pre-onboarding programme include:

  • Assigning new hires a buddy that will act as their main point of contact
  • Sharing resources and training materials that give an overview of the company, industry, and role
  • Giving them a chance to connect with current team members to ask questions or get to know them in advance


Additional reading: 5 career change interview questions that work


2. Tailor the onboarding process

Onboarding career changers differs slightly from the standard process. While the end goal is the same, you will need to customise the experience to address the specific challenges career changers face.

You can achieve this by tailoring training materials to suit career changers’ level of experience and professional background (while they may be new to the role and industry, they have a wealth of professional experience. 

In addition, setting clear expectations and performance goals can help career changers understand what is expected of them. Finally, providing regular feedback will ensure they stay on the right track and understand how they are performing.

Finally, providing additional training to help them transfer their existing skills and life experience into a new role will benefit both them and the company. So will providing an open dialogue where they can ask questions and get to know how the industry operates.


Bonus read: A complete guide to recruiting a career changer


3. Offer mentoring

Providing career changers with a mentor during onboarding will ensure they have the necessary support to transition smoothly into their new career. As well as providing support and guidance, a mentor can help career changers network, build their confidence, and develop new skills. 

When selecting a mentor, opting for someone with experience in the new recruit’s role is best. What’s more, they should be a good communicator, approachable, and adept at setting clear expectations. Bonus points if they have experience changing careers or roles.


You may also be interested in: Inclusive hiring: An employer’s guide


4. Provide ongoing support

Onboarding doesn’t end after the first day, week, or even month. It can take months for new hires to settle in properly and become productive members of the business. As a result, it’s offering ongoing support for career changers is vital.

Here are some ways to offer ongoing support:

  • Provide continuous learning and development opportunities
  • Check in with new employees regularly to see how they’re doing and gather their feedback
  • Offer regular team-building initiatives and opportunities for employees to connect with peers outside of their teams
  • Celebrate every milestone and success along their onboarding journey 


A Final Word On Onboarding Career Changers

Career changers can add a lot of value to your organisation, including life experience and a strong set of transferable skills. However, employers must tailor their onboarding process to accommodate career changers and help them hit the ground running. Doing so ensures you get the most out of your new recruits, and they feel confident in their decision to join your team.

Providing the right onboarding experience will significantly impact performance, productivity, engagement, and retention rates, so it’s an investment worth making. We hope our best practices for onboarding career changers empower you to optimise your current process and get the results you’re looking for.


How We Can Support Your Business

Are you a career-changer employer? Our experts can help you attract (and retain) talented career changers to your organisation. Here are just some of the services we offer:

Call 03458724501 or email to learn more about our bespoke packages. 

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Last Updated: Tuesday March 21 2023
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