A step-by-step guide to making the leap from one career to a new one, with advice and tips on how to manage it successfully.

Making the decision to refresh your career

Various studies over the years have concluded that over 50% of workers end up in the wrong career. That can be due to a number of different decisions and circumstances, and while it is very common for people to change career at any age, it shouldn’t be seen merely as correcting a mistake. Often people are comfortable in their career but simply need a change, or you are at an age where you want to chase the dream that you had in your late-teens?

Take Joe, for example, when he was 20 he wanted to work in healthcare. He had an elderly relative at the time who needed care, and he enjoyed looking after them. He had the personal characteristics for it, he had the patience and empathy and he was amiable and got on with people. But life got in the way, he got married in his early 20s, needed a job and ended up working in manufacturing instead.

Joe progressed to become a department manager in the factory where he worked. He was happy there, was part of the furniture and the business and his colleagues depended on him. He was valued. But having worked there for over 25 years, he was starting to think about moving on. His kids had now grown up and had flown the nest and were now financially independent. Joe had put it off for years now, but his thoughts began to revert back to his love of caring for the elderly.

How to change career

If you are straight out of school or college, training for a new career is quite a straightforward decision, as there are little practical or emotional obstacles. If you are in employment, however, there are a number of considerations.

  • Is it realistic?

    Can you handle the change financially? There may be a period of no income whilst you re-train, you may have to accept a job on lower pay because you are starting a new position perhaps at the bottom of the ladder. You might struggle to walk straight into a well-paid job, so are you prepared for the re-training and the learning of new skills? Is this new career that you crave achievable?

  • Is it what you need?

    Will this new career satisfy the cravings you have for a new start, or solve the unhappiness you feel?

    Having made the decision to change career, you need to formulate your thoughts in to a structured plan. In Joe’s case, he had a long-standing interest in healthcare, and if anything, his age and life experience made him more suitable for entering that industry. But he knew he would have to gain formal qualifications.

  • What are your interests?

    What is the dream job that you want to move to? What is the professional career you think you might be better suited to than your current one?

  • Is this achievable?

    Do you have any contacts in that industry who can help you? What qualifications do you need? Can you become self-employed and enter that industry under your own steam? Do you need money or capital behind you to help you do that?

    Joe did his homework and looked at job adverts for positions similar to what he would like to take on. He believed he had the personal characteristics, but he needed to re-train.

  • Listen to advice

    People will advise you on whether your chosen career path is advisable and achievable. In some respects you need to stick to your guns and follow your dreams, but only if it is realistic.

  • Can you finance it?

    Re-training costs money, but you may be eligible for grants or bursaries, or if it is an apprenticeship or an internship, employers often pay for these. You may even be able to get a student loan for some higher education, Open University or distance learning courses.

    Joe applied for a job within the NHS which included a period of on-the-job training. He updated his CV and was proactive in making connections within the healthcare sector which helped him with his application. He was successful and was taken on as an elderly care assistant in a healthcare centre near his home. Joe was fortunate that he didn’t have to fund a period of re-training to gain a qualification before he was eligible to apply for the position he wanted. But he was prepared to do that, because that is often the route to refreshing your career.

  • Go for it

    Eventually you need to take the leap, but at a time where your work and personal circumstances make it a sensible decision. So can you continue in your current job whilst re-training? Do you have enough spare time out of work to complete the job applications as well as the re-training?

  • Be patient

    Once your decision is made, you might not strike gold straight away, you need to keep in mind that your re-training is for a purpose that will improve your life, and job applications can be a long and frustrating process. But when you land the job you want, you will know.

It is you that wants change, but the biggest obstacle to that change is also you. Joe made his choice and followed his dreams, and now his life is enriched and fulfilled. Making the switch in career can be daunting and definitely not straightforward, but done right, it can be extremely rewarding.