The 3 principles of a successful career change

'If you're thinking about a career change, don't follow conventional career advice,' writes the founder of Careershifters

Richard Alderson
Friday 06 November 2015 14:35
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Life's too short to be unfulfilled at work, according to career change organisation, Careershifters. The company adds how we've each made shifts to work ‘we're passionate about’, as staff work to extend their mission to help people do the same.

It may seem like a daunting task to switch jobs, but it can be done. So, here are the three counter-intuitive principles to get you on your way towards successful career change:

1) Act it out, don’t figure it out

When you don't know what else you want to do, it's easy to get stuck in analysis paralysis. Making more lists, searching more job sites and doing more psychometric tests isn't likely to help. If the answer lay in your head or through more analysis, you would have found it by now. Instead of thinking it out, take action in the real world.

Join a new class, hang out in different places or shadow someone who’s job you find interesting. When you find an area of interest, run small experiments without leaving your current job to test whether it could work for you. Not only does this give you quick feedback, it also helps you to reduce the risk of you making your shift.

Mark - a Careershifters coaching client and marketing manager for a publishing company - felt stuck in a job he no longer enjoyed. So, he started to test a number of different options. These included attending a coach training course, meeting a friend to learn more about the fundraising field, and doing some work shadowing in a charity.

It became quickly clear to him that he had a passion for fundraising. He went on to secure volunteering work, which, in turn, led to offers of paid work. This finally allowed him to quit his job and he now happily works as a fundraising officer for a local charity.

2) Look for people, not for jobs

If you want to make a big shift, you’ll be at an immediate disadvantage in the job market. Your CV won’t stack up well against others with experience in the field you’re interested in; recruitment consultants are likely to want to place you in similar roles, and job sites are likely to leave you wondering how you’re ever going to be qualified for what’s advertised.

Instead of looking for jobs, look for people. Not only is there is a huge hidden job market (it’d been suggested that an estimated 75 per cent of jobs are never advertised), but connecting with people allows you to present yourself in a way that you can never do on paper.

Sophie - a senior marketing manager - had been unfulfilled in her work for a number of years. Through a Careershifters course, she discovered a strong interest in behaviour change. When a role was advertised in a leading consultancy in this field, she sent in her CV and cover letter. But she was rejected. Instead, she reached out to connect with one of the employees for a coffee. In that meeting, she came across as knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the area of work - even though she’d had no experience in it - that she got through to final interview stage for the role.

3) Do it with others, not alone

Career change is scary. Your fears (particularly about failure and money) and your lack of knowledge about what else is out there are likely to be your biggest obstacles. The best way to overcome this is to put yourself around others that can help. Seek out your peers who are also looking to make a change. Find mentors who have shifted careers themselves.

Also, approach people in fields you’re interested in for help. Start hanging out with the people in fields you’re interested in, which will lead you to more ideas and more connections. And find accountability buddies who can keep you on track. Avoid the naysayers (of which there will be many) and choose the people you can genuinely count on for support.

Richard Alderson is the founder of Careershifters, an organisation that specialises in helping people move into more fulfilling work

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