Changing Careers: Not for the Faint Hearted

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.


  1. Debra Wheatman

    Great article Gayle. Really points out the importance of having not just “wish bone”, but also “back bone”. Making a career transition is challenging and it is critical that candidates who do so, invest themselves in it completely in order to achieve success.

    Debra Wheatman, Careers Done Write,,

    • Gayle Howard

      I love that phrase Debra! Not a wish bone, but a back bone! Very relevant to this topic!

  2. Martin Buckland

    Clear, concise and telling it like it is! My favourite point regarding the success of a career change; it’s “as much about being pragmatic, optimistic and determined as it is being prepared, realistic and qualified.” How true!

  3. Anonymous

    Excellent post, Gayle,

    Love this closing comment, and it is so true!

    Some say it’s not a ride for the fainthearted; others say “I did it!”

  4. ed han

    Gayle, excellent steps for helping candidates navigate these tricky waters, and it’s all laid out so clearly!

  5. Megan Fitzgerald


    Fantastic post – so important to go into a change with a sense of what is really ahead, yet start with the knowledge with the right combination of persistance, strategy, tools and optimism it is possible.

    Having a support system is also very critical given the nature of the journey.


  6. Meg Montford

    Good job of holding up the mirror for career change wannabees to reflect on why they want to change. The career change process is not simple. It takes commitment and a lot of hard work. As those of us in the careers profession know, trying to accomplish career change as a solo journey can set one up to fail. Hiring a career coach to help is the best way to improve the odds to succeed!

  7. WalterAkana

    Outstanding post, Gayle!

    You’ve hit head on all the reasons that career change shouldn’t succeed at all! Yet, you show very clearly what it takes to succeed!

    I love the key point you make about the challenge: “ …the inevitable mood-crushing rejections and longer-than-normal job searches….” As well, you raise an important truth: “It’s not good enough to simply hate your job, or want change.”

    Courage is definitely a requirement. As you know, I’m a big fan of making one’s own game, and often challenge people to do just that! Still, there is so much to it! Reading your post has been a fresh reminder for me that making your own game requires way more than courage. Just a few qualities that come to mind are focus, perseverance, dedication, inquisitiveness, tolerance, and risk taking. As well, one needs to have a willingness to engage others in the kinds of conversations that can support credibility and raise visibility for new opportunities!

    I think successful career changers are a special breed, yet it also occurs to me that the attributes and competencies that help them will increasingly be needed by others to just maintain career success in a changing world!

    So, your advice has broad and ongoing relevance!

  8. John Thorr

    Thank you for the advice. About 7 months ago I was laid off
    from my job and I have been doing little bits of work here and there to get by,
    but I’m starting to get financially unstable and I need to do something to
    improve my situation fast. In my opinion, and based on feedback from
    recruiters, my resume needs to be written by a professional to really bring out
    my skills. So I’ve spent the past few weeks reading about resume services
    and trying to pick the best one. I’ve found a few resume
    service review
    sites, which are helpful, but most of them say the
    same thing and have similar prices and guarantees. Can anyone please recommend
    a resume writing service to me, or maybe somewhere I can search for jobs?
    Thanks in advance. 

    • Gayle Howard

      Hi John. If you visit my website at I think you’ll find what you’re looking for! I don’t just give job search advice, I am actually a Master Resume Writer and happy to help.


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About Gayle Howard

If you are interested in working with Gayle Howard—an executive resume writer, Certified Master Resume Writer, multi-award-winning resume writer, and Master LinkedIn profile writer, drop her a line now using the contact form at the link above. Gayle can help you get interviews for your dream job and bring the world of business to you by maximizing your exposure and connections on LinkedIn.