10 steps to a painless career change
Career changes are much more common than they used to be. With over 70% of people unhappy in their current jobs, and the pensionable age rising, people are increasingly having two or three careers during their working lives.
Career breaks are becoming more common earlier in life, with flexible working hours, sabbaticals and shared parental leave growing in popularity. Sometimes, a career move is forced upon us with downsizing, redundancy and restructuring/closure affecting the private and public sectors alike. Often, these occurrences are a blessing in disguise, and an ideal time to totally change what you do, go back to college or start your own business.
Here are 10 steps to make this transition as painless as possible:
1. Are you onboard?
Why are you in your current career? What choices did you make or not make? Did you fall into your current/previous job? Do you hate what you are doing now? Understand the factors driving your desire for a career change or business start-up, and ensure that you actually want to take the step. If you aren’t committed, chances are the transition will be painful and not a great success.
2. Get motivated
What is motivating you to make a change? Often, an unexpected circumstance, such as redundancy can be a gift; maybe you are unfulfilled in your job, and want to enjoy the 80,000+ hours the average person works in their lifetime; or perhaps you have always dreamed of being your own boss. Whatever it is, keep this motivation in mind at all times – it will be a great driving force for change. Keeping a picture nearby (in the office/on fridge/screensaver etc.) that represents this motivating force will remind you to think of it often, and will help you to be courageous.
3. Decisions, decisions
For some, this will be a no-brainer: they knew what they wanted to do at school, they just haven’t got around to it yet. Others may have no idea, others will have inklings, while some still find fear is stopping them accepting they could be good at something new, or allowing themselves to dream. A career coach can help you overcome these fears, assessing your values and strengths to determine what career possibilities are out there for you. For those starting their own businesses, now is the time to contact a business coach to support you through the process of business strategy and planning.
4. Research, research and more research
Now you have your options, go out there and find out about them. Search the internet, find people who do something similar already, seek out useful connections via LinkedIn and go out there and interview people. What qualifications or experience will you need? If possible, volunteer to find out what the day-to-day of your potential career is really like. Once you are much more informed about your future career/business choice, think seriously about whether this transition is for you. Is it realistic for you to go from primary-school teacher to surgeon? Can you find someone else who has already made a similar transition?
Can you afford it? If you are planning a transition ahead of time, could you put some money away for a few years to finance your training/start-up? How long will the transition take? Put a plan together and see how much you will need to live on while you may not be earning. You may want to rearrange some of your finances – e.g. fix the mortgage, take some equity from your property, cash in some premium bonds – or maybe your partner can take more of the responsibility for a while. This step is really important; it will aid your confidence about the transition and make you feel more certain during a period of uncertainty. Maybe you could go part-time in your current role, to ease the transition.
6. Get support
Let all your family and friends know about your career plans and ask for their support. When you are making a major change, you need positive, possibility-minded people on your side, and to keep the fear-mongerers at bay - the ones who will never choose to live their dream lives. What’s really important is that your partner is onboard. If they are, you will have someone readily available to refocus you when your doubts creep in. The best person to join you through this transition is a mentor (someone who has already followed the path you are about to embark upon), or a coach, who can keep you focused and accountable for the steps forward, and act as a sounding board.
Humans are naturally resistant to change, as it brings uncertainty and insecurity. People often think it’s a case of ‘better the devil you know’. But if we all thought like this, we wouldn’t grow as people or as a society. Change best occurs when it is just outside our comfort zone, and not so fast that we struggle to keep up with it or accept it. Be kind to yourself, and find the pace of change that won’t overwhelm you and your significant others, but keeps the momentum going.
If you can, find others on a similar journey. You will have someone to talk to who knows exactly what you are feeling, and you can provide each other with ideas/motivation/support. This will be easy if you have to go back to study, or you are starting a business, as there are plenty of business networking groups out there. If not, join a general networking group, find a meet-up group that’s a good fit or search for a fellow ‘transitioner’ on the Internet.
9. Be Prepared
At some point, you will almost certainly doubt your decision - you will feel unmotivated, and you will wonder why on earth you are putting yourself through this. Find ways that work for you to keep yourself focused and motivated. Have a vision in your head of what it will be like when you are running your business/in your new career. How does it feel? What is the experience like? Get excited about it, and utilise this vision often. Revisit the reasons you decided to make the change in the first place. Know that fear is natural, and turn to your supporters.
Build a network in your new career/business as soon as you can. Look for connections on social media, join societies or networking groups. Find out which circles you will need to operate in. Most people are flattered and interested when someone wants to talk to them about what they do. Build relationships that could stand you in good stead for the future.
When you are in transition, you will attract others who want to take the brave leap that you are. Pay forwards the generosity other people showed you, and be there for them, too. It never ceases to amaze me that the right people show up just when they are needed. Nurture your old network too - they may need your services in your new profession, so take them to lunch or a coffee, and leave them with a happy lasting memory of you.
Career change takes resilience and persistence, but if you dream big and keep positive, the transition will be much more likely to be painless. So go after the career the you have always wanted and you will never look back.