Updated: Jun 7, 2019
It’s sometimes easier to be sure of what we don’t want and difficult to grasp what we do want. That’s particularly the case when it comes to careers. Perhaps you spend a lot of time thinking about the concept of changing career, but you’re struggling to move forward.
If you don’t want to be in the career you’re in now but you’re not sure what to do next, here are some practical tips and exercises that’ll help you gain clarity about your new direction.
‘Find your passion’ is a phrase that’s often thrown into the career advice mix, but it’s a problematic one. It can be misleading and unrealistic in suggesting that everyone has a passion for which they can be paid and fulfilled by.
Find Your Passion
More reasonable is to tap into your curious brain, because everyone has curiosities, even if they’re not immediately apparent. So, what interests you? Do certain topics of conversation attract your attention? Is there something you’ve always wanted to try, like an evening class or specific voluntary work? What gets you excited outside of work? Can you draw parallels between the different things in your work and home life which keep you engaged? Perhaps it’s something as broad as using your creativity or working with people. Maybe it’s more specific than that; such as particular creative tasks like writing, or improving the lives of disadvantaged communities.
Give yourself permission to explore, play, experiment and try out new things. Being curious in your career change journey is about letting yourself be open to possibilities, expanding your horizons and taking small action steps. So sign up to that evening class, or arrange a coffee with that person who’s working in a job that intrigues you.
From there, you can narrow down your options by thinking about practical criteria. First off, can you make a living from this interest: is there a market available for it and will an employer or customer be willing to pay you in return? Second, what would this curiosity feel like if it were something you did every day? Sometimes diving into a completely new career can feel like a huge leap, so testing the waters can reduce the risk factor. Check out ViewVo for inspiration – a home to work shadowing experiences for professionals.
What’s Your Value
Not only are organisations interested in hiring someone because they fulfil the requirements of the job and make a good cultural fit, but also because they recognise the potential value of that candidate. They want to know that you can make a real contribution to their company, be that through simplifying processes, solving tricky problems or increasing margins, to give a few examples.
If you want to change career, it’s important to recognise and articulate your demonstrable value – particularly if you don’t have experience in the field you end up pursuing. From a potential employer’s perspective, your value means how you used your skills and strengths in a way that made a positive difference to an organisation. Value is the specific evidence you have that shows your impact.
Spend time reflecting on the roles you’ve done within the last few years. It’s a good idea to keep a written record of your accomplishments from each job, which you can easily update. When can you demonstrate examples of going over and beyond what was expected of you? How did you meet the core responsibilities in each role and what happened as a result? Be as specific as you can and use metrics where possible.
For example, if you delivered a project, what was the resulting outcome? Did unique visits to a website increase, sales shoot up or was there a reduction in the number of errors? Include the figures and timings within your work record and integrate these points into your tailored CV and LinkedIn profile.
Set aside the particulars of your previous roles and think about the transferable, relevant experience and skills you can bring to a new career. Make it as easy as possible for an employer to see why it makes sense to hire you over someone who’s already working in that field.
How long do you spend each month scrolling through job boards hoping that inspiration will strike and your dream job will jump out at you? If that’s your career change strategy, you could be in it for the long haul. It’s been said that 70-80% of jobs are never advertised, which means the ones you’re seeing are a small proportion of all the jobs available.
Instead of following traditional job search methods by waiting for jobs to come to you, try taking a different approach. How could you be more proactive? Perhaps there’s an organisation you’ve dreamt of working for but they don’t have any relevant live vacancies. Why not convince them that they need to hire you? How about sending a speculative application with an accompanying ideal job description you’ve created? Or you could start a project to build up experience in a certain area, like a blog in which you share learnings about one of your curiosities. Maybe you can organise a Meetup group to discuss your interest with like-minded and knowledgeable people.
Whatever approach you take, the aim is to stand out – an employer is more likely to notice you if you’re a little different to the masses and are clearly demonstrating how invested you are in changing career.
Making a career change is a significant decision and the journey to get there can take time, hard work and be emotional along the way. Concentrate on moving forwards by continually taking small, achievable steps. Relieve some of the pressure by sharing your experiences with people who support you, and have faith that you can have a career which better fits you.
A guest blog post by Roz Jackson.
Roz works as a career coach, writer, copy editor and proofreader. She is also the founder of More From My Career – a home to information and guidance for people looking to change career.