Morrissey, front man of 1980s band The Smiths, had a point. His gloomy lyrics rarely get quoted in our office – except in early January. “I was looking for a job and then I found a job, and heaven knows I’m miserable now,” he sang, echoing the thoughts of thousands who wake up on January 1 and think. “RIGHT – that’s IT. I’m quitting this job and finding something else to do with my life.”
There is something about the start of a new year that gets people thinking it’s time for a change. On average, people will have 12 different jobs over their lifetime. Most will move jobs within the same industry or career area – such as junior sales executive moves to sales manager, data analyst working in one company moves to a similar job in another company. But what about when you wake up on January 1 and decide you don’t just want a new job in your industry but a complete change of career?
On average we will have four careers. How can you put a plan in place to make your career change happen?
Depending on your skill set, level of qualifications and financial obligations some complete career changes can take a considerable amount of investment in retraining and may be a step too far at this point in your career. Maybe a change of job rather than a complete career change will work? Assess what your catalyst is for wanting to change. Maybe you enjoy the content of your job but your toxic work environment or your unreasonable manager or unmotivated colleagues are making you want to get out of there? Would doing a similar job in a different company or work environment solve the problem? It’s worth thinking about this first rather than opting for a total career reboot.
To get a better understanding of how feasible the transition will be for you, speak to people you know already working in your targeted industry or role. Arrange a meeting or call where you can ask them specific questions about what it is like to work in this area and what key skills you need to have to get a job there. Find out if they know anyone who has successfully made a career change into their industry and ask for their permission to follow up with them. To get the most from the meeting send them your questions in advance. You need to get information from someone who knows your target area well – 30 minutes with them will likely give you more information than hours spent trawling the internet for inspiration (usually late at night after a particularly bad day at work – sound familiar?). If you are unsure of what other roles or jobs you could do given your experience and skills set, identify two or three different potential areas and follow up with contacts in each.
Don’t talk yourself out of starting by telling yourself they are probably too busy or not interested in helping you. People love talking about themselves and your request for a 30-minute informational interview gives them the opportunity to do just that. Win-Win.
The majority of jobs are found through networking and word of mouth. People are not mind readers. They won’t know you are looking to change career unless you tell them. They may have heard of an opportunity that is perfect for you and would be happy to recommend you or introduce you to the relevant decision makers – but you need to let them know that you are looking.
A basic business model lesson: Recruitment agencies get paid by employers to find suitable employees. They do not get paid by you. They will not be interested in why you don’t want to be put forward for finance roles when you have 15 years of great finance experience. They can place you in a finance role all day long and easily earn their fee. Are they going to work with you and explain to their clients why they should interview you even though you have little, if any, experience in the role? Not likely.
The tool used to get a new job becomes less useful when you are planning a total career change. Your CV demonstrates you have diligently spent the last 15 years working your way up the ranks in your company or industry. Responding to job adverts for a job in a completely new career using your existing CV will have employers thinking they have the wrong CV. Why is this person applying for this job when their CV shows they have no relevant experience? While enrolling in a course to upskill in that industry will definitely add to how relevant your CV looks, you are still a “story candidate”. You need to be explaining why you want to change rather than leading with your CV. Looking for a job by uploading your CV doesn’t allow you to do that.
One of the pandemic’s many lessons is that life is unpredictable. You shouldn’t have to stay in a job that is making you miserable. Make 2022 the year of finding your career happiness.
Sinead English is a career consultant and founder of Hilt Career Consulting. Her book, CV and Interview 101, is now in its 2nd edition.