Navigating your career ch-ch-ch-changes

Although career change has become the new normal, taking the step to leave your job for something different can feel stressful. In this blog post Isabel Frazer-Veli is offering some practical steps you can take to help navigate your career change. 

Craving handmade sushi at your desk? Order a Deliveroo! Want to find out about 16th century renaissance literature? Google it! Need a last-minute birthday present at your friend’s door in 12 hours? One click on Amazon! Fancy a career change? Erm…

In today’s technology-driven society, we’re used to getting what we want fairly instantaneously. And with countless websites and social media posts telling us to Follow Our Passion and Do The Work We Love, it can feel alienating when we’re feeling stuck in a rut or doing work we certainly don’t love, and can’t see a quick, easy way forwards.

So hopefully this post can help you to cut through some of the noise and nonsense, and focus on the tangible and practical steps you can take to help you navigate a career change.

Reflect on why you want a career change

First of all, think about why you want to change career. Is your role or sector changing, and you need to upskill and shift your focus? Are you bored in your current job? Do you feel you never gave yourself the chance to pursue your ideal career? Are you desperate to escape a nightmare boss? Has a change in circumstances opened up the opportunity to move in a different direction?

By evaluating why you want to change your career, you can start to determine what a positive career change would look like for you. Does everything need to change, or just something? The outcome could be a different role in the same sector, the same role in a different sector, or even just the chance to work on new projects and develop new skills in your current role.

If you’ve taken the time to reflect on your motivations for changing career, this can help you to evaluate potential options later on. Will they genuinely enable you to find fulfilment, or do they risk you ending up in the same situation in a different setting?

Take some action

In many of our jobs, we know where our work is heading. We have strategies, objectives, plans, projects…so surely we need a plan for how to change our career? Well, this is where many people get stuck. A plan may help you if you know your destination. But what if you’re not quite sure, and you want to explore your options?

Start somewhere. Chances are, if you’re considering a career change, you’re probably quite busy already. You may be working part-time or full-time, alongside your studies. You may have family commitments, freelance work, financial pressures. So an explorative three-month internship perhaps isn’t ideal. But could you ask to meet a contact for a coffee, to find out more about their area of work? Could you fit in a couple of hours of work shadowing? Could you go along to an industry event to learn what’s happening in that sector, and where the opportunities might be?

All of these activities will expose you to new insights and potentially new networks. And networks often lead to opportunities that wouldn’t have emerged from hours scrolling through jobs sites. Consider carefully how you present your skills and experience, and let others know what you’re looking for – if you’ve made a good impression, they may recommend another contact for you to get in touch with.

Maximise the opportunities in your current job

Sometimes a career change will require additional experience or skills, which you may not have the luxury of learning in your spare time or during a career break. Could you start to gain some of this expertise in your current role? Perhaps there is a committee you could join, a project you could lead, or some training you could access. Or if there’s nothing, why not initiate something? Spot opportunities or risks for your current team, and propose a piece of work that could maximise or mitigate these.

If you have a supportive manager, talk to them about areas you would like to develop. They could help you to access opportunities in your own organisation, such as finding a mentor, shadowing your counterpart in another departments, or exploring a professional qualification.

Another way of gaining additional skills and experience is through volunteering. It could be as little as a couple of hours a week, but could give you an insight into a new area of work.

Don’t rely on job adverts and recruiters

Whether an organisation is recruiting directly or via a recruitment agent, it is often quicker and easier for them to shortlist candidates with experience in that role or that sector. This doesn’t necessarily mean that those candidates are better, as often someone from outside the sector can bring a fresh perspective and a different set of skills. However, when faced with a stack of impersonal CVs and a recruitment deadline, the easiest option may win.

However if one of those CVs comes with the memory of a good impression made at a networking event or informational interview, the odds may change. You’re no longer an anonymous set of qualifications and experiences on a piece of paper, but someone they could see fitting into their team. So don’t just apply blindly to job adverts – think about how you can talk to people and sell your story in a compelling narrative.

Take your time

Exploring what you want, reviewing your skills, building networks and making transitions all takes time. When you do make a change, it’s not necessarily from your current role to your dream role – many people take incremental steps. Reflect on what you’ve gained at each stage, and celebrate your successes.

For further guidance on how to present your experience as a career changer, take a look at this resource on our King’s Career Kit. And if you need some inspiration, have a read of these career change stories.

Big thanks to Izzy for writing this great blog post about career change.