The days of a linear career path or a life-time job are long behind us. It is now more common to have 2 - 3 - 4 or more careers or, at the least, different versions of a career. People are more agile in how they view their careers and their employment options. And, it is not just millennials (as is often cited throughout the myriad of different articles surrounding this). In fact, if you look at the stats, the majority of entrepreneurs, SME owners, start-up founders, etc are in their late 40's, early 50's. Look at the amount of mature students going back to university or doing masters and doctorate level programmes in their 40s and 50s. In addition to how careers are evolving and the speed they are changing as a result of new technologies, people very often have no choice but to pivot, adapt, and seek out new ways to apply or grow their skills.
It’s never too late to try a new career and forge a new path. It doesn't mean it will be easy and it could be a significant challenge, depending on your career of choice. Sometimes, there may not be a choice for you in the matter and you must consider new options and new careers, which makes the whole situation much more daunting, especially where you have family and financial responsibilities. However, if you’ are committed, there is no reason you can’t find a new line of work or career that can be both fulfilling and pay the bills. The main keys to successfully transitioning careers are: • to take control of your career development • having a plan, and • to really spend time figuring out your strengths, values, purpose and future vision for yourself
It is important to think and plan before you take the leap, if you can (and this is coming from someone who has changed career more than once - some planned, some which I either fell into or was enforced into - the ones I had a plan for and had ownership of were certainly an easier and more stress free transition, and because I was prepared and sought out the change myself success felt quicker coming). Even with planning you will have quite a bit of work ahead of you. Even getting to the planning stage and knowing where you are going or what you want can take a bit of work (which is often why it is good to get a coach on board to help you figure things out). Here are some things that you can do in order to start yourself off on the path of taking back control of your career path, figuring out where you want to go / be, and to, hopefully, doing the kind of work you are meant to do.
1. Pros and cons - make a list of what you do and don’t like about your current position. Why is it that you are considering a change now? Is it the company, the people, or the actual job itself? What do you enjoy about your job? What do you absolutely hate about your job? Do you feel competent? Do you feel valued? Are you bored? Have you realised that you just really hate the role that you have fallen into?
It might be that you are not a fit for your company's values or working culture, or it may be the actual job. It is important to figure out what exactly the issue is so that you are making the right change for the right reason, i.e. it may be that you like the actual career path you have chosen in general but not the company you work for (for whatever reason). Consider the things you don’t want to see in your next job / career. 2. Get to know your strengths and your values. Knowing your strengths is vital. Working on developing and enhancing your strengths is more productive than trying to develop areas of weakness. Once you know your strengths you can search for careers or positions that allows you to draw from, work and play to your strengths. This is likely to make you be & feel more confident, competent and happy in what you do.
Knowing your values will help you to figure out what is important for you when you are looking for a career / job and assess whether the company you are considering applying to aligns with your values. Or, if you are considering starting out with your own venture, knowing your values will help you to prepare for potential challenges (e.g. if being part of a team is important to you then you may need to prepare for the challenge that working on your own may be for you).
(Jack Canfield has a good guide on finding your life purpose here, a good free test for figuring out your top 5 strengths can be found here and here, and the Barrett’s Value Assessment can be found here)
3. Brainstorm a list of career possibilities that consider your likes, dislikes, strengths, and values. Now that you have taken the time to reflect on and get to know your likes, dislikes, strengths and values, think of careers that can satisfy all those requirements. Research, talk to recruiters / head-hunters, reach out to your network in that career / field to find out more. Draw up a list of questions to find out what is needed to transition into that new career. What skills do you need to develop? Do you need to up-skill, retrain or get additional qualifications?
4. Set your goals, milestones and targets. If you are planning a significant change it might need a longer term view—point and hard work but with the right mindset, knowing what you want and what you need to get there will help you be motivated to follow-through. Whether a big change or a smaller one it helps to have a vision and write down you goal, with a timeline and targets. By writing it down and having it in front of you every day you are more likely to maintain motivation and follow-through with what you need to do to make the change happen. 5. What are you willing to do to make the change? This is an important question to ask yourself. It is influenced, not only by your values, strengths, vision for yourself, your purpose, but also by your responsibilities (financial or otherwise) and what is ultimately feasible for you. It may be possible that in order to make the change you must take a step backwards which may mean lower salaries and benefits. Only you can decide if this change is worth it. However, if it is not possible right now, that doesn’t mean you need to shelve your ambition, it may just mean adjusting your timeline, ramping up your savings for a while so that you can sustain a salary drop for a while, or to pay for necessary qualifications, for example. Ultimately, if It is something you really want to do, you will find a way to do it, just perhaps in a direct straight-forward way. You may need to get innovative and creative in your thinking as to how you can approach the challenge.
As mentioned, changing career or finding a new role can challenging, especially if the change you wish to embark on is a significant one. Obviously smaller step changes are easier – and may be the approach you are able to take to begin with – setting smaller goals and step by step changes to achieve a longer-term goal. Or you may decide to bite the bullet and go all out to achieve your dream. Neither approach is necessarily wrong – you need to choose the right approach that works best for your level of risk acceptance and your individual circumstances. Whichever path you choose the steps remain the same – figure out what it is you want to be, where you want to be, and what steps you need to take to get there. Be patient with yourself. Making a change is challenging and finding a new career in a new field will be even more so. is usually challenging. Expect that it will take some time, but patiently and persistently keep working hard toward realising your dream. It will be worth the effort – you spend at least a third of your life in your career – it may as well be something that you enjoy doing.