Changing careers can be overwhelming at the best of times but it is particularly so when you are changing careers after being well-established in one career for over a decade. Unfortunately, many people did not have the luxury of extensive career counseling at school or university, and as a result, we fell into career paths that were popular at the time or were based on the ill-informed advice of well-meaning parents and relatives. Those that did receive some form of career counseling very often followed paths based on aptitude or ATAR scores rather than considering other key areas such as personality and interests.
Career change is possible and usually very rewarding for those who are prepared to put in the hard work, but it generally doesn’t happen overnight. To make a successful career change it is important to go on a journey of self-awareness and discovery. You need to understand and be able to articulate what you are interested in, what you are good at, and what you can offer potential employers.
Here are my top 8 tips to get you thinking about what is required to make a successful career change:
1. OVERCOME YOUR FEARS
For many people stuck in jobs they dislike, it is fear that is preventing you from taking action. There are many fears associated with career change – the fear of the unknown, the fear of rejection, the fear of a financial hit, the fear of loss of status, the fear of making a mistake, the fear of what others will think etc. These are real fears, but they need to be overcome before you can take the necessary steps to make a career change. Speaking to a career coach, life coach, mentor or experienced career changer can help you both acknowledge and address these fears so you can start moving in the right direction.
2. COMPLETE A SKILLS & STRENGTHS ASSESSMENT
Before you go out to market you need to be able to identify, understand and articulate your key transferable skills and how you can apply them to your ideal role or industry. Likewise, you need to be able to articulate your strengths bearing in mind that these are two separate things. Skills are things that you have learnt whilst strengths are things that you are naturally good at. This is a really important exercise to complete before you start talking to people in your new industry and most definitely before you attend any formal interviews.
Just because you are starting out with a new career doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch. Very often we have skills that we have gained in our previous jobs and from life itself that will stand us in good stead in a new career. Brainstorm with a career coach or friend to get a list of your transferable skills as well as a list of what skills you may need to develop further before you start applying for a different role. Also, get really clear on what comes naturally to you. What do you get feedback about and when do you feel that you are doing work that comes easily.
3. COMPLETE A VALUES ASSESSMENT
Another crucial step is to get clear on what is most important to you at this particular time. Our values often change as we get older and particularly after we have a family. What was so important in your 20’s may be vastly different from what is important in your 40’s. By completing a values assessment you can then map out what factors are critical to your next role whether that be a high income, meaningful work, status, work/life balance, creativity, flexibility or managing people to name a few.
4. MAP OUT THE KEY CRITERIA FOR YOUR IDEAL ROLE
Prior to commencing your job search, I believe that it is really beneficial to map out what you want from your next role including all of the following:
• Skills that you want to use
• Strengths that you want to use
• Values that are most important to you
• Ideal location and/or travel time
• The culture of the organisation
• What type of people you will be working with
• Salary range
• Preferred industries or interest areas
• Indoor or outdoor job
• How much work travel or out-of-office commitments
• What will you be wearing – formal or casual clothes?
If you map out these criteria before you start job searching then you will know what you might be compromising on if you do get a job offer. Try doing this as a mind map or even writing yourself your ideal position description or job advertisement. What tasks will you be responsible for? What will be the values of the organisation? What type of people will you be working with? What will you be wearing? Will you be inside or outside? Will you have to travel?
Too many people accept a job purely for the money, the location or the flexibility without really thinking through whether the other criteria meets their needs. The danger of this is that six months down the track you may be back to square one.
5. PREPARE A MODERN AND COMPELLING RESUME
Recruiters spend an average of 8 seconds reviewing each resume when shortlisting. Your resume needs to be formatted in a current style and highlight your key transferable skills, strengths, experience and most importantly your achievements. It should be tailored for each role and should include keywords that would match the selection criteria in case the first screening is completed by an automated Applicant Tracking System (ATS).
6. DEVELOP A LINKEDIN PROFILE
LinkedIn is one of the most powerful professional online networks and is used by 90% of recruiters and employers to identify suitable talent. In my opinion, LinkedIn is an absolute must-have if you are planning on relaunching or changing your career. Most importantly LinkedIn provides a powerful platform to identify people doing work of interest to you and allows you to reach out to people to find out more about what they do.
Not only is LinkedIn a fabulous research tool but it is also a great way to re-connecting with ex-colleagues, old friends and anyone else who may be a likely advocate should you need some assistance.
7. MASTER YOUR INTERVIEW SKILLS
Interviews these days are typically a competitive process and there is no room for “just winging it”. You need to master your interview skills by understanding the key competencies of the role and being able to provide examples of how you have demonstrated those competencies and how effective you have been. You need to research the company thoroughly, understand the position descriptions and key competencies required, know how to answer general and behavioural interview questions, anticipate likely questions, prepare detailed responses and practice, practice, practice!
Interviewing can be a daunting process, especially if you haven’t interviewed for a long time. If you take the time to prepare well then you will be far more confident on the day and will have a much higher chance of getting across the value you can add to potential employers.
8. GET BUSY NETWORKING AND ORGANISING INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS
Research suggests that over 80% of jobs are filled through relationships and referrals rather than being advertised. This rate is even higher for those who are returning to work on a part-time basis or after an extended career break. Networking doesn’t mean hitting every industry event in town. What it does mean is organising a series of conversations that will provide you with additional information and the opportunity to explore potential new career areas.
You need to brainstorm your networks and tap into them long before you start preparing to return to work. Make a list of your contacts and use LinkedIn or the phone to reach out to them for a coffee. Also, think about the power of your 2nd connections. Think of all the people you know and all the people they know. You know they say that most people know about 150 contacts. So, by tapping into your 2nd-degree network you suddenly contacts equal to 150 squared or 22,500 people in your network.
Get out of the house and talk to people about what they do and what you are interested in and good at doing. This will build your networks and your confidence as you get into the habit of talking about yourself again in a business sense.
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