12th January 2014
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.
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.
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.
Professional associations 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 connections.
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.
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 career.
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 present.
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 newbie.
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