Changing Careers: How to discover the skills I need for my new career

This article is the second in our “Changing Careers” series. Discover the other articles in the series below: 

Okay, so you’ve decided you need a career change. But how do you practically go about making the switch?

Rather than just jumping straight onto a different career path, it’s smart to do some planning around which career you should choose and how to approach the change.

The Changing Career Writing Exercise is a self-assessment tool designed to help you discover more about yourself, your current abilities and desires, and the skills you’ll need to develop in order to succeed in a career change.

The writing exercise will encourage you to examine your long-term preferences plus your current situation. Putting all the information down in one spot can help you to achieve more clarity.

Take your time to go through the questions. Consider where you are in life now, but also where you want to get to. What is your ideal working day? What would be your best-case scenario? Think big, rather than limiting yourself.

Changing Career Writing Exercise

1. Write out the industries you think you would love to work in
Don’t hold back. If you are not qualified to work in your dream industry, it doesn’t matter. These are aspirations. Keep in mind the types of jobs you thought about pursuing when you were a child – these are often a great indicator of your true passions.

2. Write out your skills and talents
Everybody has a skill. What's yours? Include a list of practical skills such as the ability to use certain tools or software, as well as the human skills around leadership, communication and languages. Don’t discount basic skills like ‘typing’. Which of these skills do you most enjoy using and which gives you the most satisfaction? Is there a skill you have that is not work related? How can you make that skill a job?

3. Write down all the things you do and don't want in a career
This list will clarify some of the factors that are motivating your career switch. Compare these two lists to work out what is really important in your new career.

4. Write out a list of all the jobs you would do if money was not an issue
One of the biggest reasons people put off making a career change is their fear of losing money. But for this list, forget that factor. What would you do if you could do it for free?

5. Make a list of contacts
By now you should have a pretty good idea of what you are good at, what you are passionate about and what your new career will look like. It’s time to speak to people in that profession to find out what it’s really like. Network on LinkedIn, Twitter, email or phone and ask for half an hour of their time. This will give you insight into the realities of the job, and could potentially open a door to a mentorship or even a job.

6. Browse jobs in the industry
Make a list of the common things companies are looking for in new candidates and compare them to your current skills. Where are the gaps and how can you fill them? Likewise, visit the industry body sites to get up to speed on any legislation or happenings in the industry.

7. Consider your financial situation
Now it’s time to look at the financial issues around the career change. What does the new career pay, on average? Is the pay weekly, monthly or job by job? What qualifications do you need and how much do they cost? Is the pay comparable to your current wage? If not, how can you move your funds around to make the dream a reality?

8. Create goals and a calendar
With all things considered, how long will it take you to achieve your goal of switching your career? It’s good to set yourself some small goals with dates by which they need to be achieved. As you tick them off, you will be another step closer to your goal.

9. Write your resume and apply for your new career
All your goals are ticked, you’ve worked hard to get yourself up to speed with new qualifications and skills, you’ve networked and spoken to the right people, you’ve read up on the latest industry news and aligned your personal budget to fit in with your new career. You’re ready to apply for a job.

To make yourself more appealing to recruiters, be aware of your intrinsic assets and know how to present them. Your individual combination of assets (this includes your experiences, skills, personality type and more) can be harnessed in a new career. However, you need to be able to showcase this to potential employers.

Explain and organise your best traits and skills in a clear manner that recruiters will be able to pick up on quickly. Plenty of the abilities you’ve developed over the years will be transferable to a new type of role, so make sure this is evident in your resume and other documents. For more help on this, watch our video on how to apply for a new career.

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