Changing careers can sometimes feel like one is moving houses. I decided to move back to Leeds from Sheffield after 10 months and OMG, packing is the worst thing that can ever happen to a decent person. In as much as I was excited about moving back to Leeds, the thought of packing was unbearable. Looking for the right house and location alone took 3 months. As petite as I am (5 feet), I found that I had a lot of stuff and I mean loads! With 15 boxes packed with a huge luggage, I still had leftovers. Just when I thought I was all set for the big move, I discovered I had 2 drawers and kitchen utensils I haven’t cleared, arghhhhhh…
Does this sound familiar?
Career wise, when changing careers, we tend to overlook so many fundamental things. We come up with a new career path in our heads and fill it with hopes and expectations without fully exploring the risks involved. This usually starts with us enrolling for the necessary courses (if required), get the certifications and BAM!!! We have successful switched. We think we can just make few changes and move on. It’s not that simple. Most times, the knowledge we have about the new career is probably just surface information.
Talking from experience, I thought switching from Law to Human Resources (HR) would be easy peasy. I knew the area of HR I wanted to specialise in; employment law. I enrolled for a postgraduate course in HR to get me started. When I was done, I thought with my 6 years active (Barrister) law experience coupled with my Masters’ certificate, I would be sort after by recruiters. Boy was I wrong. Apparently, I didn’t have enough experience in HR to successfully switch. I went through series of interviews trying to sell myself but it wasn’t enough.
I did not fully comprehend the fact that HR was totally different from law. For me, my extensive knowledge of employment law was an added advantage and I did have a year experience in HR. I was really frustrated given the fact that I was willing to start from the bottom but for some reasons, I couldn’t get past the interview stages. I was determined to breakthrough.
Change as we all know is difficult, intimidating and inevitable. Instead of giving up, I chose to understand what the industry has to offer and if it was the right path for me. I’m finally heading towards the right direction and I clearly understand how to pursue my ultimate goals. Therefore, I will like to share my thoughts and opinions on how to handle a career switch with some personal tips I followed. These are:
Research you proposed industry
Before bagging a Masters or acquiring certificates, you need to first explore the new industry you’re interested in. You need to know and understand what the industry has to offer. Google is your friend! If you’re not in good terms with google or just don’t know how to research online, ask people working in the industry about their experiences. They know better. Ask them the steps they took and if there is a potential career progression within the industry. You don’t want to be stuck in one position for the rest of your life. Align your expectations with the reality of the information gathered. The industry might not be as favourable as you think. From other people’s experiences, it might turn out to be a No No for you.
Another good pointer is to read job descriptions and person’s specification of advertised job vacancies. I love doing because it tells you the job role and the skills required. LinkedIn is also a good place to research. There are a lot of professionals on LinkedIn who are willing to direct you.
I cannot stress this enough. As much as gaining work experience is not a walk in the park, most employers expect you to have experience. A career change usually takes a minimum of six months and it would be best for you to try to gain some experience while actively pursuing the career. This can be done either through an internship or volunteering. This will give you a head start and a deciding factor to determine if this is the right career for you. You definitely don’t want to end up in the job. Workplace dissatisfaction and stress is the number one health problem for working adults.
Volunteering gives you a chance to merge existing skills with the new job while gaining new ones. This adds to your required job experience and some employers are fascinated about people who volunteer. It shows that money isn’t a deciding factor for you and that you are willing to do whatever it takes. You need to know what is important to the hiring managers in this new field and volunteering or interning will help you figure out if you’ve got what it takes.
Also, don’t attach yourself to just one organisation; try a few. One of them might just be your potential employer.
Believe That You Can Successfully Change
When pursuing future goals, we discover that there’s a gap between our current state and where we want to be. As difficult as it maybe, anyone can successfully change career. Change requires a mindful intentional action with hard work and commitment. There is no single method that is perfect when it comes to a career change. You have to understand and accept your need to change. The reasons for your career change are yours alone.
To change your current situation, you need to be fully and deeply present on the steps you need to take to move forward and be conscious about what your priorities are. Identify and self-assess your core values because they will guide you during times of uncertainty.
You can successful switch careers and they are many people who can testify to that. So, do not let anyone discourage you.