If you’re trapped in a career that doesn't inspire you, it can sometimes feel like there’s no way out. However, there is always a solution. Exploring a new career can let you achieve your professional dreams, harness your natural talents or be a means of enjoying more flexible working conditions. It can even be the start of something new and exciting if you’re returning to the workforce after taking time off. Whatever the case, while it may seem like a daunting prospect, switching career paths can reap meaningful rewards.
Plan your career change
Any major life change is worth planning for. Once you’ve decided a switch to a new career direction is right for you, it’s important to map out how you’ll go about it.
With so many career options available, a sensible first step is to narrow down the industries you think you would love to work in.
Don’t hold back at this stage. It doesn't matter if you are not qualified to work in your dream industry - just focus on your aspirations. Think back to the types of jobs you thought about pursuing when you were younger – these can possibly highlight where your true passions lie.
Importantly, consider how enthusiastic you are about working in a particular industry. As well as being a guide to personal fulfilment, your passion can also carry tremendous weight with prospective employers.
Define your skills and talents
A career change can work best when you play to your strengths and tap into your natural skills and abilities.
Write a list of the practical skills you have such as familiarity with certain software programs, or the ability to use particular online tools. Don’t overlook human or “soft skills” such as leadership and communication skills. Even basic competencies like typing are worth adding to your list.
Next, consider which of these skills you most enjoy using and how you can harness them in the workplace. If you’re unsure, speak with friends, family and colleagues for opinions about your strengths and weaknesses. Gathering these observations can help you firm up your blueprint for your new career.
Be realistic about market demand
Swapping careers calls for a combination of ambition and practicality, and it pays to do some homework at this stage to be sure your new career is viable over the long term. You need to be sure you’re not heading towards a career that could be short-lived.
Spend time researching the marketplace to be confident there is enough demand for the job of your dreams. Speak to leaders in the field to gain a sense of how things could change in the future or consult the Robert Half Salary Guide which has information on market trends.
Bridge the skills gap
If your career change is drastic, such as going from finance to IT, you will most likely need to invest in new skills or qualifications. Whether this means enrolling in evening classes or attending a weekly internship, it’s an investment that can pay off.
It also helps to note the attributes companies most frequently call for in job advertisements and compare them to your current skills. If there are gaps, can you fill them?
Talk to someone already working in your preferred industry for a clear idea of the skills that are essential for a successful career change. Or speak with a specialist recruitment consultant for expert advice on the must-have skills needed to succeed in your preferred industry.
Is a different career financially viable?
While work can be personally rewarding it should also satisfy your financial needs. Be realistic about what you new career is likely to pay, on average. Is the pay comparable to your current wage? If not, are there non-monetary benefits that could compensate for this?
The Robert Half Salary Guide can help you learn more about salary levels and other types of remuneration for a range of roles.
Write your resume and apply for your new career
You’ve planned a new career path, worked hard to get yourself up to speed with new qualifications and skills, and networked and spoken to the right people. Now you’re ready to apply for a job.
Think about how you can showcase your individual experiences, skills, and personality in a way that will convince hiring managers you are up for a fresh start. 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.
Changing career paths is not always easy but plenty of people have gone on to reinvent their career, with a new role they relish. With some planning, you too can set your career soaring in a whole new direction.
Take a look at our 'find a job hub' for more job search tips and advice.