The past year has impacted everyone. Businesses that were previously thought stable and resilient have been proven wrong, resources have been overstretched, and people have suffered from a loss of financial stability.
However, with any negative situation, there is always a silver lining. And as the workforce swapped out their office desks for the dining room table and their hour-long team meetings in the conference room for a quick video call, many people have gained flexibility and a better work-life balance.
The extra time that was once taken up by lengthy and stressful commutes is now being used for personal growth and reflection (or just another hour in bed), with many people reconsidering their career choices and priorities. As such, 2021 and the years following will see a huge section of the workforce changing direction and taking on an entirely new career. This might be down to a change in priorities, while others may have been forced to switch due to a shrinking industry.
If you find yourself rethinking your career or needing to find a new profession, taking the plunge can be pretty daunting. With more financial responsibility, changing careers in later life can feel irresponsible and risky. But swapping a career doesn’t have to be the massive gamble it feels like. You can remove a lot of the uncertainty by doing your research and preparing yourself properly.
You’ll likely find that you’re already equipped with an abundance of transferrable skills, but to help you feel that more certain about changing your career in later life, we’ve laid out a few other tips to help you get started.
Do plenty of research
Perhaps you already know what role you’d like to take on as a second career, or maybe you just know you want to do something new. Either way, it’s important to do your research – both into the profession and yourself.
First, map out what it is you like about your current job and what you dislike. This is the first step to finding a more suited and fulfilling role for the future. You might already know the types of responsibilities you’d like in your new career, which can help you understand the level or progression route you need to take.
The next step is to think about what skills you already have. You could even do a career quiz to see which types of roles you’re suited to based on your personality, values, and skillset.
If you find a job that interests you, research into whether there are additional skills and qualifications you might need. You might also want to look into salary predictions, requirements, and what other people in the role think of the work.
Changing career needs to be well thought out: You need to consider the longer-term benefits of the switch, rather than simply being drawn in by the short-term opportunities and excitement.
LinkedIn and job sites are a great place to start your research into any new positions or roles that appeal to you. It might even lead you to different careers you’d never thought of. When researching job sites, key factors to remember are to take their descriptions with a pinch of salt: job ads are there to entice you, and the day-to-day work will likely be a less glamorous version of the description. Use job sites to mainly look at the responsibilities and the requirements for the job. Comparing a number of similar ads might give you a better taste of the role and what types of experience, skills, and qualifications you’ll need to give you the best chance of being hired.
One of the biggest setbacks for a career change is education. Having to go back to school, spend a fortune on student loans and take time out of work is simply an impossibility for most adults – especially if you have financial dependents like children or elderly parents.
However, if you’re serious about changing your career, getting a new qualification can open a whole lot of doors. And, it could lead to a positive, fulfilling career that you enjoy for the rest of your life. New qualifications should be seen as an investment into yourself.
What’s also helpful is that most people who already have a degree can change careers without starting from scratch. The first year of any degree is all about learning the basics of academic studying, which means most people can take a postgraduate qualification to pursue a new career. Postgraduate courses are usually much shorter – meaning you’ll be spending much less time out of the workforce than you thought.
What’s more, there are now plenty of ways to manage to study while also having a full-time or part-time job. You might even be able to study for your new career while still benefitting from the financial stability your current role offers. An online masters in education, for example, can be studied entirely online at your own pace. So as long as you have the discipline needed to study when you get home from work, you can retrain while also keeping your job.
The pandemic opened up a world of opportunity for students, with more and more universities offering online courses permanently. Online courses offer new and mature students alike the flexibility and freedom to study, where, when, and how they like.
Plus, if you can show your new employer that you managed to take on a degree while working full time, they’ll be seriously impressed. You’ll already have shown time management, self-motivation, discipline, and organization skills without even lifting a finger.
Cut yourself some slack
While you need to be organized and determined when pursuing a second career, you also need to ensure you don’t pressure yourself or have too high expectations.
If you currently have quite a senior role, there needs to be a level of acceptance that your new role may be a step-down. However, you’ll quickly be able to build yourself back up. It’s also worth trying to avoid the mindset that you’ve wasted your time in a different career. All knowledge of the work environment is useful, and you can lean on your experiences to better yourself in new situations.
Finally, you should also keep in mind that change doesn’t happen overnight. Give yourself time to breathe, adapt and enjoy the journey into your new career, rather than rushing to the finish line.