Changing careers: time for a new direction?
While many happily choose a linear career path from graduation onwards, others move around successfully working in a diverse range of roles. But economic instability, changing technologies and consumer ethics and habits and are just some of the factors making for an uncertain employment landscape. So is now the time to change career? Or is it better to stay put? We asked our alumni on LinkedIn for their thoughts and experiences of changing careers.
Times are changing
One recurring observation is that changing career is much more commonplace now than it has been in the past. Ian Pawson (CEO, That Consultancy) says: “In todays - and for that matter the emerging - economy you will have to change career a few times in your working life. It’s always better that the decision is in your control. When I started my career in 1968, redundancy and career change were dreaded. Today: get used to it, make the most of it and enjoy.”
Rather than just seeing the turbulent economy as a barrier, Mark Azavedo (Independent Professional Training & Coaching Professional) suggests that it makes career change more likely. He suggests that the pace of technological development plays a huge part: “How many photographic laboratory workers were thrown out of work, in a very short timeframe, by the digital revolution in photography? To survive, those guys needed flexibility.” So while on one hand, changing technologies might bring about job losses, new technologies can also present new opportunities, such as – in this case - the range of new products and services presented by digital photography (photo editing software, growth in photography courses, mobile phones, social media and so on). So perhaps there may be an opportunity for you to use your experience in the development of emerging technologies.
If you are looking to move into a wholly different sector or role, how can you use your experience to illustrate your suitability for it? Jackie Perkins suggests flexibility is key: “With hindsight, I'm clear I'd run my twenties differently, taking a longer term view to build on those transferable skills as well as job-specific skills, but also experiencing different industries”. So what exactly are ‘transferable skills’? Essentially they are skills that can be used in a range of different industries and jobs and at different levels, such as communication, leadership, working in a team and problem solving. The key is identifying your strengths and where they could be used in alternative employment.
Do your research
Mike Buzzing (Group Application Manager at MW Brands) advises conducting some solid research before making the move: “If you are thinking of changing employers, do your research about them and their stability. How many people have done this role before you? Is it going to give you the security that you need long term?” He also stresses the need to ask questions of yourself: “Understand why you are considering ‘jumping’. Is it the job you've had enough of? The employer? Or does this other career simply look more interesting?”
Caution and contingency
While a big move is an exciting prospect, one alumnus recommends a degree of caution is required: “it's easy to high-five someone and say ‘Go for it!’, but reality isn't always as simple as that and fortune doesn't always favour the bold. Get your strategy sorted out in advance, know where you're going, how you're going to get there and if it doesn't work, where will you go instead?”
And what if your plan for change doesn’t work out? Jim Clifford (Manager – Health & Safety, Environ) stresses the need to maintain positive relationships with your current employer: “Don't burn bridges or be afraid to rethink - I left my current company in 2005 to try something new. It didn't suit so nearly two years later I rejoined, bringing new skills and experiences with me.”
Finally, consideration must be given to your finances. How much money do you need to make? Are you prepared to drop your income level? Mark Buzzing noted that his career move wasn’t necessarily about increasing income: “Financially it has not been the most rewarding as, in my former career, I was near the top of what I could achieve with my company.” Thorough research and planning should help you determine whether you are able to manage on a new salary.
Our experienced alumni are largely in agreement that with adequate research and planning and self-awareness, changing career can not only work, but can be a highly successful move.
So what do you think? Why not join the discussion on LinkedIn here and see if anyone can help answer your questions about changing career?