Have you ever had one of those days when you just wanted to get up and walk away from your job and into something completely different? Have you ever started your working day thinking – “why am I still doing this when I know I want something else?!”.
Perhaps you know you’re in the wrong job but you don’t know what else to do or are fearful of moving on. Either way, if you’re feeling frustrated or dissatisfied with work, that’s a signal that something has to change.
It’s natural to think that changing careers may mean giving up a lot, especially if you’ve worked with the same company or in the same industry for many years. Fear of failure or the unknown often holds us back from change but imagine yourself in exactly the same place and role in five years’ time – what’s that like?
It is increasingly common to hear stories of people who have changed direction in their working lives.
Often, we follow a path from education into a related profession in our twenties and as time progresses and we mature and develop, we may find that our chosen job isn’t quite the right fit for us after all or no longer aligns with our aspirations and values. For example, my husband has been a geologist, an engineer and is now enjoying working life as a lawyer. I had a career in international HR on the oil and gas sector and I’m now enjoying my new career as a Coach. And here are a few, even more famous, examples:
- Andrea Bocelli was a lawyer until he decided in his mid-thirties to become a full-time opera singer
- Elvis Costello was a computer programmer before turning to song writing and music
- Julia Child was an advertising manager, then worked for the CIA before becoming a famous cook
There are many more examples out there and no doubt you know people who have changed careers or given up work completely to start something new. Perhaps you are thinking about it too. Whatever your reason for changing direction, changing your job or just changing your mind, it’s never too late.
So, where do you start?
Identify your goal. It’s vital that you begin with being very clear on what you want and where you want to go; knowing what you’re aiming for will give you focus and motivation. It will also buoy you up on those days when your search for a new role is feeling a bit tough – remind yourself of the prize ahead!
Assess which skills are transferable to a new role. Make a list of all your skills – technical skills, soft skills (communication, teamwork, collaboration, adaptability, problem solving…) hobby related skills – and get to know which are transferable across different sectors or roles.
Know your strengths and understand your experience. Revisit your career history to date and be confident about what you have to offer. Ask people whom you trust to give you an honest account and feedback on where your strengths lie and what they think of your goals for change; feedback can provide you with valuable new perspectives on yourself which you may not have considered.
Talk to others who have changed careers or are in the type of role you want. Seek advice from people who have done what you want to do. Ask questions of people in your current network and look to other groups, online resources and career advice to support your preparation and search.
Be open to learning new skills, acquiring knowledge and trying something different. Presumably you are or you wouldn’t be looking for something new! Look at what new skills you may need to acquire – will you need to embark on new training or education courses? Actively notice every opportunity to learn. We are life-long learners, whether we realise it or not. Each new role we take in life – be that a paid job, hobby or voluntary work – teaches us new skills, or opportunities to expand our networks, or ways to contribute.
Assume you’ll succeed and reach your goal. Every change comes with some uncertainty, self-doubt and challenge – that’s normal. Adopt a positive, “I will do this” approach each step of the way and get support from others to help you. You will get there.
Be patient with yourself. Your path to a new career may not be a linear one and you may find yourself taking an interim step along the way. You may feel frustrated or overwhelmed at times and that’s fine – just go back to your goal and know that you’re heading in the right direction.
Changing direction in life or work can be both scary and exciting but if it’s what you truly want, then go for it – don’t look back and regret that you didn’t even try. And to prove that it’s never too late to do anything, be inspired by the story of a Thai woman who obtained her first degree at the age of 91[i] and who said:
“It’s never too late. My mind is always awake and sharp for learning.”