• Stride

5 Top tips on changing careers

Sometimes you can get to a point where it's time for a change. Maybe the Sunday dread is too real - or maybe you just can't see yourself progressing any further in your role.

If you're thinking about changing careers, we've got five top tips to get you in the right mindset.

1. Nothing is forever

If you decide to change career and it works out, great! If it doesn’t, remember you can always move back to your previous sector.

The key thing to remember is that it takes guts to change your career path. If you can give good reasons for why you chose to make the move you did, and show self-awareness by reflecting on how things panned out, your decision will be respected, regardless of the outcome.

Go into your career change with confidence, knowing that - however it turns out - you are demonstrating your courage and ambition simply by taking the chance.

2. Think laterally

It might not be immediately obvious where you’re bringing transferable skills from your old career. Don’t be afraid to point out your strengths!

For example, an administrator moving to set up their own gardening business is likely to have a strong sense of organisation, prioritisation and business strategy. In terms of her new business this could mean that she is great at deciding when to promote certain services.

Do you prune in June or deadhead in December? When do you start stocking Christmas trees, or roses? A former administrator can figure it out by collating key dates and setting reminders for those essential tasks!

Fundamental skills like this underpin a person’s ability to work well. Once you layer specialist knowledge on top of that, you’re able to hit the ground running.

Thinking laterally about where your transferable skills lie will help you identify which jobs to apply for and will be valuable when it comes to interviews. The trick is to emphasise that specialist knowledge can be acquired on the job, but that you are already bringing the framework for success with you.

3. Network

Networking is one of those words that makes some people light up... and others groan.

Don’t just think of networking as awkwardly mingling after a corporate event. Instead, try asking a senior colleague if they’d like to talk about an idea you’ve had over coffee, or sending someone a DM on Twitter or Instagram saying how much you love their work, and ask if they know of any training opportunities in their field.

Try to be strategic about who you reach out to - people who are geographically close to you, whose work you have genuinely encountered and admire are likely to be easier to meet in person, and may be happier to reply. Going after a rising star in their sector whose inbox is flooded with requests will probably be less productive - but it’s still worth a try!

If you're approaching a sector where you don't know anyone at all, you can still be strategic. If you want to find out what kind of roles are available or how companies in the industry work, try approaching HR managers at companies you like the look of. Be open about your position, and why you've come to them. People are usually proud to explain what they do, and to refer you to employees who can help. If the thought of contacting strangers is too daunting, consider contacting your local branch of the National Careers Service as a first step.

Most of all, be selective and safe when networking. Don’t give away personal details to strangers and, if you’re meeting someone new, take sensible precautions like meeting in busy public places.

4. Ask for help when you get there

This applies at every stage of your career! When applying for jobs, call whoever is in charge of the hiring decision: explain why you’re interested, what skills you’ve got, and if there’s anything you can do to make sure your application aligns with their needs.

When you start a new job: don’t feel you have to over-promise on what you can deliver. They hired you with full sight of your CV and skills. It takes time to settle into any new job and more time still if you’re learning new things. Consider asking your line manager if someone can mentor you, and if there are any training opportunities you can take advantage of. It's also worth doing a quick google for any training or mentoring opportunities outside your company, and subscribing to updates from training providers if you can.

If you find you’re struggling to adjust, don’t keep your worries to yourself. Being frank and open with your boss means you are managing their expectations about what you can deliver, and it is an opportunity for you to request support - and them to offer it. No-one went into a job with all the knowledge and skill they needed on the first day; remember it’s a journey, and you don’t have to go it alone.

5. Don’t sell yourself short

If you find you’re asking for help a lot, or if you’re less confident in your abilities, it’s easy to start underselling yourself. Phrases like ‘could I just?’ and ‘I’m sorry but’ might start creeping into your vocabulary - try not to let them take root.

Everyone starts somewhere, and your rate of professional development depends on a number of factors, many of which will be beyond your control. Take responsibility for what you can, be proactive and play to your strengths while you’re building up your new skills. It’s likely that you were selected over dozens - maybe hundreds! - of people for this opportunity. You deserve to be there, and as a career changer, you were likely hired based on your potential as much as your current abilities.

Try to find opportunities to let your strengths shine, while also getting to grips with your new role. If you’re great at giving presentations, why not offer to do a lunch-and-learn session on a key project for your new colleagues? If events management is what you love, think about getting involved with your company’s social calendar - or setting one up if needed!

There are always challenges with a career change. Thinking about the skills you have acquired in your previous role, building a community of support through networking that you can call on for help, and sharing your strengths with your new colleagues can help you overcome these challenges.

Remember, your career is a journey: you choose where you’re going, and how you want to get there.

If you've got any questions you want to send us, you can submit them here! We'll work through them in an episode of Stride Talks, sharing our experiences and advice with you.

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