Updated: Jun 7, 2019
When people talk about changing careers, they often get this deer in the headlights look that says – “You can’t do that” – but I’m an example of just that.
I never knew what I wanted to do when I ‘grew up’, and my education consisted of picking random qualifications just for the simple joy of the subject. I took A-Level Philosophy, Art Drama and Media studies, and then when I still didn’t know what to do with my life at the ripe age of eighteen, I decided to do a fashion diploma.
My trouble was, I just liked to do things I enjoyed, which at the time infuriated both my teachers and my parents.
After college, I secured a job with a fashion brand in their PR and marketing department, and then after being made redundant fell into the same role but for a beauty brand.
I stayed with the company for five years, learning everything there was to know about the nail industry – which is actually far more dynamic than anyone outside the industry will know. For example, there are real competitions for who can paint the best French manicure. And my useless knowledge now extends to that fact I can tell you every nail shape style and where they originated from, and tell you a story or two about the weird and wonderful origins of nail polish names.
But while the beauty industry was fun, I yearned to learn more again and expand my knowledge.
As I had been responsible for bringing the brand online in the UK, I got a taste for digital marketing and wanted some more. But I had zero qualifications in marketing.
So just how did I end up switching careers and climbing the digital marketing ladder to become the companies Head of People and Operations and go on to write a book about it?
Well, that’s what I want to share with you in this piece. Because while formal qualifications can perhaps open doors, they are not the golden ticket to the dream job.
If you’ve been toying with the idea of changing your career path but feel held back because you don’t have the paper work, then I hope my guidance on what I’ve done, will help you realise that it’s you as a person that matters and not what it says on your CV.
Let’s face it. You may love the idea of working in that job role, but the reality may be very different.
Gaining any type of work experience within the industry you want to go into will not only help you to have some practical skills to add to your CV, but will also give you the opportunity to see what it’s really like in the day-to-day running of the business and whether it’s for you.
Ask around and secure a day, or a week, anything to help you understand what each role involves and which department you feel you would prefer to work in.
An example that shows just what experience can achieve is a driven young woman who approached me for work experience at our agency. She did work experience with us for a month and was then able to secure a position in a London agency where she had wanted to work.
Start Something Of Your Own
I didn’t even realise I was in ‘digital marketing’ when I started my blog after college. It was just a website of my own where I could continue my passion while finding a job.
It wasn’t until I started looking into how to grow and develop it, that I realised I was doing all the practical parts of digital marketing.
My blog has by far been the most important asset in helping me secure my job. Now that I help to manage the business and hire for digital roles I know exactly why this is – because it show’s a can-do attitude and an eagerness to learn – and those are soft skills that will take you far not only in your career change but in all walks of life.
Whether it’s setting up your own blog, volunteering, or getting hands-on and creative. Start doing and creating because it will be your strongest feature when it comes to an interview.
Attend Free Courses
If you lack a little confidence as I did in the beginning, free courses can help guide you through the unknown and help to clarify some areas of the industry that you’re perhaps not used to.
I not only attended a course on Future Learn for free, but I also attended a number of Guardian Masterclasses.
Just because you don’t have hundreds or thousands of pounds to invest in training, doesn’t mean you’re held back.
There are now many free online courses that can help you to expand your knowledge in all areas. From forensic science to nutrition. Whether you’re looking to just learn the basics or even start your own business.
Go To Local Meet-ups
I actually discovered Datify through a local meet-up called Digital People in Peterborough.
Back then I was just looking to build my portfolio, but interested in what I could learn.
Since then I’ve not only climbed the digital ladder in my role but made some incredible friends that have continued to support my professional development.
Have a look on Meet-up or Eventbrite for any local networking events that you can go along to. You never know who you might meet, what you might learn or where it will take you.
I know everyone says this no matter the industry you’re looking to go into to, but it couldn’t be more important.
Reading holds many benefits, such as; increasing intelligence, expanding vocabulary, boosting creativity and making you more empathetic. These are just a few; I could write a book about them all.
But all of this is key in helping you to develop your soft skills and understanding before you take a leap into a new role.
No matter the industry you’re looking to step into, you will need to look at ways that you can develop yourself and expand your skills. You don’t even need to read specific industry-related books; you just need to read.
Personally, I read every night before bed, and try to read one book every month.
Now I don’t mean your usual Zoella’s or social media influencers, what I mean here is people who are well-known within the industry you would like to go into and are leading the changes.
To find these, read some of the most popular industry related websites and blogs and start following the authors. This can help to give you a fresh insight and make you aware of exactly what topics everyone is discussing in the industry.
Get following as many of these influencers on Twitter as possible, and try out their ideas.
Not only will this allow you to keep up-to-date with the ever-changing landscape of the industry you would like to do into, but it will help you to hone those skills.
No matter the new career you’re looking to go into, most sectors are made-up of many different roles. But no matter where you see yourself fitting in there is always an element of practice.
And I don’t mean practice in just the way that you do that one thing. For example, being a content writer isn’t just about writing – that’s the performance part.
In order to practice before you perform, break down the elements that make you better at what you do.
If it is writing, then look at improving your performance by learning new words, reading to expand your vocabulary, getting feedback, being more conversational and learning about others. After all, aren’t the greatest writers simply just storytellers?
The same can be broken down for many other roles. For example, gardening. It’s not just about digging holes and pretty plants. Learn about the different flowers, the science behind the soil, the impact of seasons, the layout and design of a garden.
By working on the parts that make you great at that role, you will then become great at it no matter what.
I’m now on a new journey to change my career, as I’ve found something that I’m really passionate about that I want to pursue. Which just goes to show, anything you do does not have to be forever.
Just like we change as people, we are allowed to change our careers.
Believe in yourself, take action and, you will get there.
By Guest Blogger - Lizzie Benton