The secret to successful career change

Good – and bad – experiences can help you progress your career
Don’t worry about making the wrong decision – your skills are your currency
It’s the time of the year when, once again, employers are investing in a range of programmes to attract and recruit a diverse range of young people. UK university leavers have more job opportunities available to them than at any other time over the past decade. And yet, even for this group, the choice is often a hard and agonising one, which feels like a “make or break” moment in their lives.
For school leavers, the same doubts are just as prevalent, as I found out recently when I spoke to a group of 16-18 year old girls at a South London school. About to embark on a new and exciting phase in their lives, these young women were rightly excited by the possibilities ahead of them, but also deeply anxious about making the right decisions.
While trying to reassure them and allay their fears, I realised that career anxiety isn’t unique to students. Throughout our lives, we experience moments of doubt about whether we’ve made the right choices, or if we could perhaps do better in a different job, sector – or in another career altogether.
In my role, I talk to people of all ages about their careers, and I’m frequently asked about how best to embark on a career change, or explore new opportunities. I find that many people, regardless of whether they have been working for 10 months or 10 years, fail to recognise the skills they have developed along the way, and that the opportunities they have had – good and bad – have played a role in shaping their careers. Whether it’s colleagues, friends or the young people I meet through our company’s volunteering programmes, almost all worry about making the wrong decision, or have concerns about trying something different.

STAYING ATTRACTIVE

In a world where so-called millennials “don’t expect to work anywhere for more than five years”, it is essential that businesses present themselves as attractive places of work. At Bank of America Merrill Lynch, for example, we have many employees who have taken breaks or secondments, transitioned between departments or relocated to different locations.
We recognise that a healthy and happy workforce is a diverse one and, as such, recruit our people from a variety of backgrounds, with varying academic and career histories – and we do our best to promote from within our company. For an increasing number of companies like ours, embracing and encouraging a whole variety of skills and personalities is crucial. From returning mums to ex-military personnel, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds or university graduates with qualifications spanning archaeology to science, we ensure that we have opportunities to suit a wide range of skill sets.

PLAYING TO YOUR STRENGTHS

So my advice for someone considering a career change is to view your experience as currency, understanding how to match your knowledge and transferable skills to new or potential opportunities. And be ready to demonstrate this to a would-be employer. In today’s fast-paced world, companies place huge importance on recruiting talented individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds, who bring fresh ideas and perspectives and aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo.
There is a real opportunity for organisations to get the best out of their workforce by supporting employees’ career development, and offering them internal opportunities that span remits, departments and regions.
Neeha Khurana is international talent executive at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

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