Changing profession could inject life into your career

A RECENT survey of 1,500 professionals by the recruitment firm Marks Sattin found that 52 per cent anticipate changing jobs within the next year. And some want to go further. A complete change in career at some point in a professional life is increasingly normal.

Of course, people switch for a variety of reasons: they have children, want more money, or need better opportunities to progress. But changing what you do is rarely straightforward, and there is no fixed route. The current employment climate could also make life difficult, with competition for desirable jobs high. These tips should help you set off on the right foot.

First consider your reasons. Ask yourself if you genuinely want something more out of your career, or whether you are just having a bad day. It could be a better option to remain where you are and to negotiate better terms with your employer. Alternatively, switching jobs within your sector may be an option.

A large change like this is only likely to work well if you are making the decision for positive reasons, perhaps to find new skills, intellectual challenges, or a higher calling. Pinpointing exactly what is missing is the key. And according to Jenny Ungless of City Life Coaching, this means questioning your values. “What do you want from your job? How do you define success? How will work fit in with the rest of your life?”

Approach the situation as if you are writing a business plan. Colin Monk of Michael Page, formerly a Royal Navy pilot until an accident forced him into recruiting, suggests you “write down exactly that you want. Similarly, list the skills you have that could enable a transition, and ones that you may need to develop further.” Play to your strengths: it is crucial to understand how your current career can help you, in terms of knowledge and skills.

Planning also highlights potential hindrances. These could be economic, locational, and realistically the change might just be beyond your ability. Nick Teige of Ashton Hendricks gives an example: “Currently, there is an exodus of professionals into teaching, which requires a year’s training. But could you afford to take the unpaid time out to study?”

The more dramatic the career change that you seek, the more likely it is that your break will come via the hidden job market, such as through unadvertised jobs and networking. But ensure you treat networking opportunities in an effective way. Try to gain information and contacts, rather than directly ask for work opportunities.

Marks Sattin’s survey also found that 53 per cent of candidates used a recruiter or headhunter to find their current role. Professional social networks are a useful tool to find niche recruiters, but there is no substitute for real networking. Take the time to actually meet the people who could help you find a new career, and understand the needs of their clients or organisations.

The biggest obstacle that career switchers face – particularly for City workers – is scepticism from recruiters and employers, who believe they are just looking for a stopgap position until the market picks up, and the financial sector begins rehiring. “You need a compelling reason why you want a position with a particular company, and you should convincingly articulate what your long-term objectives are,” says Teige.

There is bound to be some disappointment along the way, so you need to stay resilient. “Rejection is inevitable,” says Monk. It is important to learn from mistakes and, where possible, you should request feedback. It is unlikely that you will be given your break on your first attempt.

You may have a clear idea of what you want, but may have no idea of how to get there. So get advice from the right people. This is where good networking kicks in. Monks says that you will need to “find a trustworthy sounding board who can tell you if you are being realistic or not”. Though it may be hard to come to terms with, sometimes a new career could be unrealistic.

You should also consider the practical challenges. Your dream job may not pay as much as you’d like. Similarly, you may have to take a pay cut to break into a new industry, potentially in a more junior role.

Switching job isn’t as easy as the self-help books suggest. A great deal of planning and consideration is needed. Balancing realism and emotions can be difficult but, for those who make the switch, it could extremely be rewarding.