For a professional in the early part of the 20th century, a “lifelong job” was the ultimate dream. People graduated from school or university, gained work experience, and then through years of dedication would remain with that same company until retirement. People didn’t change careers and thankfully, those days are in the past.
The fact is that many professionals selected their current career path while they were still only teenagers. This youthful decision influenced which university they attended, which degree they pursued, and which industry they sought work in. With time, people change, their interests shift or even just naturally outgrow their initial path. As a result, the career they find themselves in during their late 20’s or early 30’s may no longer be in sync with their maturing life goals and could now be offering little in the way of personal fulfilment and work-life balance. Fortunately, this situation can be resolved with a strategic career change.
How You Know It’s Time to Make A Change
How does one know when it’s time to make a change? Honest self-evaluation will be useful in determining whether this is just a momentary slump or something more serious. Questions to consider include:
- How often do I experience negative feelings about my career? Everyone experiences bad days, but a continuous feeling of negativity is a sign that change may be beneficial. Constantly fixating on what isn’t working can lead to an overall feeling of hopelessness, which in turn can lead to poor performance and diminished mental health.
- Does working hard feel like hard work? Professionals who love their careers will often state that, despite the long hours, it doesn’t feel like “work”. The sense of joy and satisfaction that comes with accomplishing tasks, closing deals or seeing campaigns succeed provides sufficient compensation for any need to go “above and beyond” in the name of the job. But once this feeling diminishes or fades completely, the extra work can start to feel like hard work.
- Do you feel indifferent about the work you do? It can be very difficult to maintain the enthusiasm necessary to achieve full potential if a person feels indifferent towards the work they are doing. Indifference doesn’t necessarily imply feelings of negativity, but it certainly doesn’t suggest any passion or zeal.
- Do you feel like you’re not making any valuable contributions? Career satisfaction can often hinge on how valued a person may feel his or her contributions are to the business. This doesn’t mean a person needs to always be the star player, but if there is no sense of appreciation for the work being completed then it becomes difficult to stay fully engaged in the tasks at hand.
Once a professional has determined that they are ready to embrace a career change, it’s worth considering the timing of such a move. If an employee is in line for a bonus or has a period of paid leave lined up, then it may be worth delaying a career change. Additionally, although the idea of immediately giving notice may seem tempting once a decision has been made, this is usually not the wisest course of action. Generally, the longer a person spends unemployed, the less appealing they will be to future employers. A far more sensible approach is to line up a new job before terminating an existing one.
Switching Jobs Within the Same Industry
When considering a career change, many professionals choose to stay within their current industry as they already possess a reputation and extensive knowledge. While this can make the transition smoother, it’s always worth evaluating what specifically you disliked about your current role. Was it the role itself or the company? If it was the role, you can potentially try and pivot yourself within your current company to something that you’d like to be doing. If it’s the company, then have a look at companies within your industry that align with your values and address the shortcomings of your current employer.
When someone has already established a reputation within a particular industry it can make the process somewhat simpler. Reaching out to existing industry contacts can be an effective place to start. This networking strategy can assist in determining which career path someone might like to pursue in the future, while also discreetly enquiring about available positions that may be of interest.
When it comes to applying for a new role within the same industry, a person can focus on the years of experience and specialist skills they have acquired over time. Employers are often willing to overlook a lack of experience in a specific role if the candidate demonstrates how their industry experience and skill set would be of great value.
Changing to a New Industry
Often, switching jobs can be an exciting opportunity to embrace working in a completely new industry, however, transitioning to a new industry will require additional effort. The key to successfully switching industries is to be well prepared, forward-thinking and figuring out how one can leverage their existing experience within that industry.
- Identify industries of interest: While it’s true switching industries presents a world of employment possibilities, it’s useful to identify one or two areas of interest and focus on these. This approach will enable the ability to thoroughly research these industries and then speak passionately and intelligently about them during interviews. An applicant that demonstrates an ability to speak the industry language and who shows real enthusiasm will be well received.
- Focus on transferable skills: Many skills gained in one industry will carry over to several other industries, especially hard skills. A crucial step is ascertaining what these skills are and how they would relate to the new role. This is something advocated by Cynthia Saunders-Cheatham, assistant dean of the Career Management Center at Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business: “when preparing for the interview, identify your transferable skills that would be related to your target industry, and be able to talk about how you used those skills.”
- Demonstrate a forward-thinking attitude: Most professionals that decide to switch careers would be well placed to articulate the many things that they hated about their previous role. However, this kind of negativity won’t be well received by potential employers. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging a decision to change careers/industries, but it’s best to present this decision in a positive way that focuses on an exciting new future.
Different Options to Make the Leap
There are several different ways that professionals change or shift their careers today, for example:
- Networking is still one of the most popular ways for professionals to shift careers. It’s also a great way to learn about other industries from first-hand experiences.
- Social networking and online career sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, or Hiperpool itself provide insight on current roles that are looking to be filled and are great places to learn about various companies. LinkedIn also allows you to see the backgrounds and different journeys individuals have had that led to the role they’re currently in.
- Further education, depending on what your ideal industry is, sometimes going back to further your education is the best option. Management consulting or finance can be trickier industries to enter without the right experience, which is why MBAs remain to be popular degrees. However, there are several shorter and cheaper Masters alternatives that are popping up at renowned universities everywhere.
- Online classes from e-learning sites such as Reforge or Springboard allow you to complete online courses and curricula so you can learn new skills and develop your current skill-set. And it’s a great way to change roles by signalling potential employers you are motivated to get the right skillset.
- Reading role-specific content, such as What is BizOps, What is Product Management, What is Business Development, Management Consulting vs Investment Banking, is an excellent way to do background research before making a big change professionally.
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