Let’s not sugar coat it. Changing careers is not for the fainthearted.
You are always competing against people who have strong, progressive experience in your desired job or industry, and often, your competitors will have an established network of influencers at the ready to verify reputations and credentials, and recall praiseworthy career moments.
Compounding the problem, is the issue of job search consultants who fail to acknowledge you as anything other than the role you last performed. Convincing recruiters that you have the transferable skills to transition successfully to a new role or industry sector has been likened by some as bashing your head against a brick wall; only twice as painful.
Assuming you manage to convince a recruiter of your potential, you have to make a case to an employer who no doubt would be nervous taking on a novice in favour of a proven performer. The obvious concerns such as the cost and time needed to train the new person and taking on an unknown entity, seem, at least initially, to vastly outweigh the benefits.
Why would anyone want a mature age, career changer? Why would you want to put yourself through the inevitable mood-crushing rejections and longer-than-normal job searches?
The answers to those questions are as diverse as people themselves, but one thing is true.
People do it everyday.
What’s more, against all odds, they actually succeed.
One of those people could be you.
A while back, I wrote about Sharyn, an over 50s job seeker, who gave up a stressful executive lifestyle for one as a Legal Assistant. Two things stood out in Sharyn’s story: she had a plan for what she wanted and she had the determination and perseverance to never give up.
Don’t dismiss these important attributes as simplistic as they are at the core of any job hunt and in particular, they are vital in a successful campaign for change.
It’s not good enough to simply hate your job, or want change.
- You need to have real direction. You need to know exactly what type of job you want.
- You need to be prepared to be in it for the long haul. Patience is a virtue in changing careers.
- You have to want this for something other than money. The old adage is true, money can’t buy happiness.
- You need to visualise yourself doing that job, being in that role and interacting with others. It needs to fit your personality, your values, your preferences for how you like to work and interact with others. If you can’t see it, you need to learn more. How can you find out about the mission, values and environment of companies or people in this line of work?
- You need to have conducted research into what it means to be in this type of role. Is it the type of engagement that requires you to work long hours and be available at the end of a mobile phone seven days a week? A job like this may be exciting, may give you an international reputation and a jet-setting lifestyle, and it may give you the type of remuneration that you can only dream about now, but it could be incompatible with family life or a pre-existing health issue. If you’re pulled in different directions, you may fail to give both sides what they need.
Once you have done your homework on the personal side, you need to be qualified for the job you want.
It’s not enough to say
“Trust me. I can do this.”
With the average investment of a new employee costing up to 130% of the first year’s salary before you get started, the employer needs more than personal assurances and a gift of the gab. (Costs span recruitment (interviews, tests, induction training), plus payroll tax, workers’ compensation, paid sick leave, vacations, superannuation and more).
If technical qualifications such as IT certifications are important, then you need to have them if you want to be considered. If business management degrees are mandatory in this line of work, then you better start studying if you’re serious.
You also need to look into all areas of the job.
For instance a Business Development Manager needs more than just the ability to influence and build relationships. If you can do that, but you have never used a spreadsheet, don’t have a driver’s licence and can’t read maps, then you will only know how to do half the job. (And the employer is not going to teach you things that should be second nature).
Finally, the practical side. You can read more about this here. Going through the traditional channels of job boards and classified advertisements is rarely a successful strategy for a career changer. Changing careers means networking with people you know, using social media as a way to raise your profile, perhaps creating a blog or website, and leveraging the talents of a professional resume writer to rewrite your career in a way that places emphasis on the right skills that make you stand out in a sea of more qualified candidates.
Changing careers can lead to a resurgence of your energy, it can transform your attitude, your financial well-being, and your life. The emotional process can be simultaneously soul-destroying, ego crushing, frustrating, exhilarating and exciting. How well you cope and whether you reach your goal is as much about being pragmatic, optimistic and determined as it is being prepared, realistic and qualified.
Some say it’s not a ride for the fainthearted; others say “I did it!”
What do you say?
I am a proud member of the Career Collective, a group of career bloggers who unite once a month to discuss a common topic. This month’s topic is “Best Advice for Career Changers”. Please see links to other articles by these talented professionals below and follow the hashtag #CareerCollective on Twitter.
- Are You Ready for a Career Change? @Debra Wheatman
- Changing Careers? Ask yourself these questions. @erinkennedycprw
- Changing Careers: Not for the Fainthearted, @GayleHoward
- Career Change Isn’t An Exact Science, @careersherpa
- The 10-Step Plan to Career Change, @KatCareerGal
- When it’s Time to Recycle Your Career, @WalterAkana
- Best Career Change Advice: Target & Plan, @JobHuntOrg
- How social media can help you change careers, @keppie_careers
- Expat Careers: You Are Not Your Job Title, @expatcoachmegan
- Changing The Direction Of Your Career, @EliteResumes @MartinBuckland
- Career Changer: Can You Quell Bottom-line Ache? @ValueIntoWords
- Top 3 + 1 Tips for Making a Successful Career Change, @KCCareerCoach
- Changing Careers: Look Before You Leap, @barbarasafani
- 10 Commandments for Career Changers, @LaurieBerenson
- Is Career Change for You? @WorkWithIllness