PAUL DI MICHIEL, CAREER COACH
Have you been in a role or profession for years? Is it perhaps no longer giving you the satisfaction it once did, and has become boring, mundane or irritating? Or is your profession shrinking, with fewer jobs available and more redundancies?
Thinking about doing something else, but not sure what that ‘something else’ is? You’re not alone. Having worked in the career coaching space for several years, this is quite a common dynamic, especially among over 40s. We know we need to keep working for the foreseeable future but don’t see a lot of security or pleasure with our current situation.
So, what should you consider when changing careers? Firstly, you don’t know what you don’t know. Most people who want to change careers have no idea what else is out there in the market. You could go online and search for jobs or trawl job sites like SEEK, but I guarantee this will drive you progressively mad with a low guarantee of success.
A far better option is to get out into the market and talk to people. Yes, actually sit down and talk to people.
Draw up a list of family, friends and acquaintances who work across a range of industries and professions as a starting point, and set up discussions with them. It doesn’t have to be formal. Treat them as relaxed and informal discovery sessions. In preparing for these conversations however, it’s important to understand three key things about yourself:
- What can you do? What skills do you have that are transferable (that is, that can be done between different jobs)? For example, you may have good writing skills, work with various stakeholders, run projects and so on…It’s important that you’re aware and able to convey your skills to people you meet.
- What do you like doing? There are aspects of all our jobs that we enjoy and those we don’t. Clearly, it’s about increasing the former and reducing the latter. For example, if you like working as part of team rather than individually, ensure that this is on your list of ‘likes’. Similarly, if you don’t want to travel more than 20% of the time for a job, specify that as well.
- What are your values? What’s important to you? If it’s work-life balance, you’ll want flexibility in your work hours, or a short commute to and from work. If you crave financial rewards, you’ll want a high-paying job with a significant variable component. These values must be in place for you to consider alternative careers.
Even if you don’t know what you want to do next, having some clarity around these three areas will help in your discussions with others. Rather than awkwardly saying ‘I don’t know what I want to do next’, you can say something like, ‘I’m exploring new opportunities and while I’m not exactly sure what these are, this is what I can do (skills), this is what I like doing and this is what’s important to me in terms of my values.’ This is a far better way to get insight about other potential careers.
Another aspect of your research is to understand what’s happening in the market. For example, what industries are growing? Think aged care (growing) versus manufacturing (not growing and possibly contracting). What skills are in demand? What ones do you have and perhaps what are those you need to develop? This can ensure you have further information to ensure any career switch is well-researched with enhanced chances of success.
As you meet with others, this will give them some context and in return they will be able to provide further information on other careers in the market that may suit. Once you obtain more information, you are better able to then do some ‘desk research’ to see what’s needed to qualify and ultimately apply for available jobs.
As a career coach, I’m constantly amazed to discover the jobs ‘out there’ in the market that I’ve never heard of. Did you know, for example, that finance companies employ engineers, or that major airlines employ people to design the seating configuration in different aircraft? I only learned about such roles by speaking with people.
In changing careers, it won’t always be as simple as having a conversation and receiving some options and direction about alternative careers. You may have to undertake some further training or education to build your skills base and therefore be able to move into a new profession.
It takes some courage to change careers and move out of our comfort zone. Starting in something new can be daunting, but ultimately, if you move into something you love doing, it’s worth it.
Hopefully this article has given you some insight if you’re considering changing careers. As the famous American soprano Beverly Sills once said, “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”
________________________________________________________________________Wahroonga-based Paul Di Michiel is the author of Fired to Hired, The Guide to Effective Job Search for the Over 40s. Find out more about his career coaching business, The Career Medic, at: www.thecareermedic.com