(Plus 1 common career myth debunked)
Thinking about a career change? Jumping from one career to the next can be a scary prospect but it doesn’t need to be. You may be asking yourself questions like:
- Is a whole new industry going to work out for me?
- Am I too old to change career?
- What about the risk of losing all the experience I’ve gained to date?
- Would it be a waste if I quit now?
- How do I even go about making a career change?
Rest assured, you are not alone in your thinking. There are many people around the world asking themselves similar questions – especially in recent months.
But while the challenges might seem significant; you have a key responsibility to put one thing first – and that’s yourself –
Your future, Your life, Your happiness.
You only get one crack at it – and your career is a massive part of your life.
Happiness and career are proven to be very much intertwined, partly because we spend so much of our adult life working. Of course there are different circumstances and practicalities for each person to consider – you may have a lot of financial responsibilities and feel you can’t walk away from a secure income; but is it worth giving up a happy life? And is it really secure in the long-term?
Before we dive into our advice for changing career, there is a common question and myth we must debunk first.
Is age a factor in career change?
Is 40 too old for a career change?
Do you think it is? Because if you think it is, then you are probably right. However, if you have a critical mind capable of abstract thinking, then of course not!
As our friend Confucius once said
“He who says he can and he who says he can’t are both usually right”
You are as capable now – and more capable in many respects – to learn new skills then when you were 22. You have the gift of experience. And you have real commitment. However, the bigger question with career change after a certain age is typically a question of practicality. Usually the 40-year-old has more responsibilities to consider than the 28 year old – maybe it’s family, a mortgage etc.
Of course, this is very much contextual and will depend on each individual case. However while it may more practical for one person to switch careers quickly – just because it takes a little more planning and time, doesn’t mean to say that it’s not feasible. You just have to be strategic in your approach.
With that said, let’s look at the important things to consider when changing career.
How to Change Career: 6 tips to consider
#Tip 1 Get Chatting
If a specific industry takes your fancy, then by all means read up on it and do your due diligence. But one of the best ways to know if a different career is for you is by getting to know some more people working in the trenches. Let’s say you’re thinking about computer science. If you know someone in that industry, sit down and have a chat. Maybe you know someone who knows someone. With tools like LinkedIn, it’s very easy to find & connect with people in nearly any industry.
Either way you must reach out to get the ball rolling to get a better picture. Put your soft skills to use.
We would recommend talking with someone who is currently working in this field as
- Technology & industry changes fast so it’s important to know what it’s like TODAY
- If someone worked in one role years ago, they might be looking back with rose tinted glasses and it might not be an accurate reflection of the industry now.
#Tip 2 Is it your job or is it your Career?
Seth Godin in his book “The Dip” says the following:
“Quitting a job is not quitting your quest to make a living or a difference or an impact. Quitting a job doesn’t have to mean giving up. A job is just a tactic, a way to get what you really want. As soon as your job hits a dead end, it makes sense to quit and take your quest to a bigger marketplace – because every day you wait puts your goal further away”
In other words quit tactics, not markets. Are you sure this job you are currently doing is representative of the wider career field in your current sector? You might already know the answer to that question.
Moving company could be the solution with a different workplace culture & objectives… or it might just be the same old issues you are having in a different location.
Think carefully about your definition of a career change and don’t let current circumstances be the sole factor in your rationale.
#Tip 3 Test the Waters
Remember we suggested talking and connecting to people working in the career you’re interested in? Consider shadowing those people in their roles, if that’s possible or maybe doing a little pro-bono work alongside them? Anything that can help get you in the door. The purpose of this is not monetary gain or expanding your CV, instead it’s an opportunity to get to know how people in these roles really function on a day-today basis. By getting a feeling for different roles, you can quickly rule things in and out.
#Tip 4 Upskilling
Ok so you have a career sector in mind. But of course there are other practicalities to consider. It might not be feasible to quit your job and start the new job hunt. It is here where up skilling is vitally important. Learning is a lifetime commitment and if you are going to move into a new industry you will have to look at taking on some new skills.
That may mean balancing work and study in the short term. Do your research and see what your options are. For example, if you are considering a career in tech, then take a look at the CISCO Networking Academy, which is completely free and has a variety of different courses (you just need to put aside some time!).
#Tip 5 Self-Awareness
Know thyself. Wise Words. It’s important to be clued into your natural strengths and weaknesses. Maybe the career you are in is not naturally tapping into your strengths? One way to hone in on your assets, is psychometric tests.
While it’s not the definitive answer to the career conundrum – it can give you insights into potential career paths that would suit your skillsets and that you may not have previously considered. That and Tip 3 of testing the waters of trying different things will all lead to a much-improved understanding of YOU.
#Tip 6 Mindset
A career change can seem dangerous and risky. And in a certain sense it is. You might not like the new career… you might have to start over again socially… there will be no more water-cooler conversations with John from accounting (maybe that’s a good thing too!)
However, there is a much bigger risk.
The cost of inaction.
You want to be able to look back on your career with pride – knowing that you turned up for yourself.
And guess what? Your old career… the one that part of you is afraid to give up….. it will still be there. Yes things are moving on. But for the most part, it takes a few years for things to change radically so you’ll more than likely have the chance to go back if you want to. The world is abundant with opportunities, even during a global pandemic.
Bonus Tip 7: Writing a Career Change CV, Cover Letter and Online Presence
If you’ve followed the tips above – and have reached the point where you are ready to throw yourself into a new job-hunt – it’s a good idea to get your CV, Cover Letter and online presence (especially your Linkedin Profile) up to scratch. Even if you are not looking directly at the tech industry, there are many job hunting tips to keep in mind.
Any upskilling you’ve done with volunteering or shadow work is a great opportunity to demonstrate what you’ve learnt.
Bonus Tip: Immerse yourself in your prospective career. Check out the latest blog posts, magazine, trade journals, podcasts, thought leaders in that industry for more insight and guidance. Depending on your career – there could be an opportunity to create something around your area of interest. For example, set up a personal website around your area of interest (plus when the recruiters and future HR people check you out – they’ll see that you mean business and are hungry to learn). Show them – Don’t just tell.
The Benefits of Career Change
Ok, you’ve done your homework. You’ve identified an area. But you might be feeling some last minute resistance to the change. Let’s review some of the most fundamental and potential benefits to career change.
- A real sense of Purpose and Mission in life. Broadly speaking, choosing a job that has an impact on the things that are important to you is one of the keys to getting this move right. Developing that sense of mission is key.
- Meeting new people. You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with (allegedly). This means there is a fresh opportunity to meet and learn from new people in your field. These connections will not only sharpen and speed up your learning process but might also provide new social opportunities outside of work.
- New Skills. As we said, the biggest investment you can make is in yourself. By mastering a new set of skills – your value in the market can only rise.
- Excitement. Sometimes we just need a new challenge. Something different. Often a complete change of environment can give you the stimulation and the impetus to drive your career on (However as mentioned – just make sure you are doing it for the right reasons!)
- Financial Upside – This is of course contextual according to industry (with some – like tech – being quite financially rewarding). In general, those prepared to move (when necessary) can reap the rewards.
- Generalist Thinking. Often a career changers new perspective and diverse experience is the exact precursor to innovation and forward thinking in a new role. By cultivating different experiences you are opening yourself up to the power of analogical thinking. The world is constantly changing and the ability to tackle abstract and conceptual problems is best suited to people who can see the big picture.
A Common Mistake to Avoid when thinking Career Change
You may be familiar with Malcom Gladwell’s concept of the 10,000 hour rule. It basically states that in order to master a domain, it typically takes 10,000 hours. This has been broadly accepted with people going deeper into niche specialisations and dedicating their careers to one area… And you might be thinking – how can I get ahead in a career (and life) if I change and effectively wipe out all the hours I’ve put into my existing skillset?
A career change in this context might seem counterintuitive to success? While we cannot doubt the value and importance of the mastery of a subject, “specialisation over everything else” just doesn’t unilaterally hold true in many modern work environments.
The truth is…
You need depth and breadth.
In his book Range, David Epstein, illustrates that in changing and uncertain work environments – the ability to think laterally across different domains was the exact reason why people succeed.
In fact, changing careers did not hinder people. It only added to their professional repertoire and critically… their ability to adapt through analogical thinking and diverse experience.
You are better equipped to tackle the “big picture” problems.
The renowned physicist Freeman Dyson put it this way – we need visionary birds and focused frogs.
”Birds fly high in the air and survey broad vistas of mathematics out to the far horizon…They delight in concepts that unify our thinking and bring together diverse problems from different parts of the landscape. Frogs live in the mud below and see only the flowers that grow nearby. They delight in the details of particular objects, and they solve problems one at a time…..It is stupid to claim that birds are better than frogs because they see further, or that frogs are better than birds because they see deeper.” The world, he wrote, is both broad and deep. “We need birds and frogs working together to explore it.”
So don’t worry about a career change from this perspective. A new job can give you more range, breath…. and thus, a better opportunity to succeed in the modern challenging world. It’s good to specialise but also to change when necessary.
Stuck in A Job that’s Not You? Final Words on Career Change
It’s your career, your life and your responsibility. Think it over, start networking, try different things, upskill where possible and as a by-product – get to know yourself and your strengths.
There are many benefits to this, but at the heart of it all is your own personal happiness and fulfilment.
If you are considering a career in an ever expanding and evolving industry such as tech, then please feel free to get in contact with us.
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference”. Robert Frost