Most people will find
themselves at a career crossroads at some point in their lives. Perhaps they have
outgrown their current job or it's a reaction to redundancy. Or it could be
down to personal pressures or the arrival of a new boss. If you are in this
situation and contemplating either a slight career redirection or a more
radical change, here are some tips to help you onto your new career path.
Be clear about what you want
What do you want different
in the future, and what elements of your work need to remain the same. It's
important to think carefully about this, otherwise there is a danger that you
could replicate your situation. Make a list of your priorities, including any
practical considerations, such as pay and commute time, the type of work you
want to focus on and the environment.
Sometimes this process can
remind you about the things you like about your current job, so it may be worth
exploring whether you can improve things where you are, rather than moving on.
Perhaps asking for flexible working hours or more responsibilities to reignite
your job interest could work. Or maybe you need to be assertive to restore some
balance where boundaries have been overstepped.
Think about whether a
complete career change is needed. Maybe a similar job in a different
environment, or a slightly tweaked version of what you do now would work just
as well. It can be difficult to view this objectively on your own. If you can,
talk your options over with someone else to make sure your decision is well
thought-through, rather than an emotional response to difficulty.
Close the gaps
A new career path is
usually built on stepping stones rather than one huge leap. Be realistic about
the gaps that separate you from those who are already working in the roles you
are interested in. Close as many of them as you can by acquiring the relevant
skills, knowledge and qualifications.
Find some way to acquire
relevant work experience to put on your new CV. For example, if you decide that
you want to work in the charity sector, then your occasional donation to a good
cause won't be enough. Look for opportunities that will give you some exposure
to the operational challenges of the sector, such as joining a charity
committee or actively lobbying for a cause.
are also helpful for those who are new to the field. Many offer training,
speaker events and publications to keep you up to date with industry issues and
encourage networking. Find something which is appropriate for your new career,
offer your help and use the experience to boost your CV and to build
Opportunities close to home
Don't forget to leverage
any opportunities with your current organisation that could act as useful
stepping stones towards your new career path. You might suggest research
projects that are relevant to your future career, such as looking at best
practice in your industry, exploring new technologies or working with a
particular customer group. Or you could volunteer to be a mentor, or get
involved with employee communications and organise social events.
Keep an eye on internal
vacancy bulletins and if anything suitable comes up, go and have a chat to the
manager. You may not have everything they need, but unlike an external
candidate, you know how the organisation works. They may be willing to train
you up or give you some work experience until the new employee is appointed.
Career progression, not change
Prospective employers tend
to be wary about career changers. They may be concerned about your lack of
experience, your motives for career change or your commitment to your new
Avoid getting into lengthy
personal justifications for your career change as these often raise more
questions for the employer than they answer. Instead, position your career to
date as one of natural progression as you discovered more about the things you
were good at and enjoyed. Focus on your transferable skills and try to show
how, even in unrelated roles, the seeds of your new career were already
A functional CV format tends to work better for career changers as they enable
you to use the first page to highlight relevant skills and experience drawn
from your entire career history.
Bring yourself up to speed
with the trends and challenges relevant to your new career. Pay attention to
the trade press and join relevant online groups so that you can learn the buzz
words and prevailing concerns in your industry. When it comes to talking to
prospective employers, aim to come across as someone in the know rather than a
Focus on networking,
getting introductions to individuals who work in the field and contacting
employers directly to offer your services. This more proactive approach takes
effort, some luck and a convincing sales pitch to work. But it enables you to
be considered on your own terms rather than direct comparison with lots of
other candidates. It's also worth considering temporary work as another route
into organisations you are interested in.
Source: Corinne Mills, via theguardian.com Published 8th January 2014