9 Essential Steps For Changing Careers

by Elizabeth Harmon
Posted: February 09, 2016

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Ready for a new challenge? Want to follow your childhood dreams? Looking to get into an industry with more job security? There can be lots of good reasons for changing careers and in fact, more people are considering career changes now than ever before.

Whatever the reason, starting a new career path can be a daunting prospect. There’s also a lot to think about to make sure your career change is a success.

To help you start off on the right foot, follow this step-by-step guide to put your plans for a successful career change into motion:

1. Find your purpose

Starting a new career path and finding passion in aged care facility

During our lifetimes, it’s likely that we’ll go through a number of career changes. This could be because your interests and circumstances have changed, or you just want something different.

Before you make the change, it's worth taking the time to think about what you want to get out of your next career. This will help you ensure that your next move is the right move. Some common things that people look for in a new career include:

  • More flexibility
  • Finding more passion 
  • Higher salary
  • Career progression opportunities
  • Extra stability
  • Better work-life balance
  • New challenges

2. Research the industry


Get prepared. Spend some time researching the ins-and-outs of the particular industry you're considering changing to. The bigger your career move, the more research you should do to make sure you know what to expect. Some important areas to investigate include:

  • Starting salaries
  • Salary range
  • Job market trends
  • Minimum skills/qualifications required

Some good places to start are the Australian Government’s Job Outlook site and Pay Scale, which has lots of salary data and career research. Don’t forget that as well as researching online, you can get invaluable information from talking to people who already have first-hand experience of the industry.

3. Take stock of your transferable skills

The good news is that you’ll have lots of skills from your previous career that you’ll be able to transfer to your new career! Don’t be surprised if there is more emphasis placed on these transferable skills than on your work experience, simply because these will be more relevant to your new role.

So make sure you know what your transferable skills are. Not only will it be important to highlight these in your applications and on your resume, but also on your LinkedIn profile and during interviews.

Struggling to think of what your transferable skills are? Here are some suggestions to help you get started:
 

  • Communication
  • Team work
  • Leadership
  • Problem solving
  • Organisation
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Negotiating
  • Decision making
  • Listening
  • Creativity
  • Learn quickly
  • Efficient
  • Reliable
  • Listening
  • Punctuality 

4. Fill the skills gap

When changing careers, it might be necessary to update your skills or broaden your knowledge, so you can be ‘work ready’ for your new industry. Consider these 3 key options:

Work experience/volunteering

To help you get a foot in the door, consider getting some experience in your new industry. Look for work experience or volunteering opportunities in your local area. This will help you understand the industry more and allow you to develop your skills. It’s great to put on your CV too and may even get you one step ahead of other applicants. 

Building on existing skills

Although you are considering a new industry, there may be business skills you’ve developed in your existing role that will be relevant to your new career. Work on these and improve them in your existing job, to help you stand out when you make your move. 

Further education

There are lots of different ways to develop new skills, such as part-time classes and online learning. If you’re still working in your current job, online learning may be a good solution, as you can easily learn in your own time around your everyday commitments.

5. Update your resume


Now’s the time to dust off your CV and make sure it’s up-to-date. However, according to Australia-based Career Coach, Trainer and expert resume writer, Martin Darke, “a big challenge you may face is persuading recruiters that your career change is relevant”.

It’s therefore important to include all your latest roles and experience, but highlight skills that will be applicable to your new industry. Include any new skills you have recently obtained too, or any relevant volunteering work you have done. If you need help, take a look our comprehensive guide on how to create a resume.

Some key points to consider include:

  • Is it longer than two pages of A4?
  • Is it concise?
  • Is it easy to read?
  • Have you included your contact details?
  • Does it sell your skills and experience?
  • Are there any spelling or grammar mistakes?

6. Update your social media

Social media is increasingly important in employment, with 51% of hiring managers using it to screen potential candidates, according to CareerBuilder. For employees “sites like Facebook and Twitter can be really useful, or they can be the ‘kiss of death’” says counsellor, Rich Grant.

So it's important that you check your social media presence isn’t going to get your application placed in the trash. Follow these simple tips to get started:

1. Check

Take a look at your social media accounts and check whether there is anything that your employer shouldn’t see, from inappropriate images, to negative comments and possibly even remarks about your previous employers. These are all reasons they may find not to hire you. If you’re not sure, get a family member or friend to take a look for you.

2. Privacy

Social media can be a very public place and so if you don’t want an employer seeing what you’ve been up to at the weekend, or what you did for your latest birthday, make sure you check and update your privacy settings ASAP.

Don’t forget that social media isn’t just a tool that employers or recruitment agencies will use to look at you. It’s also an invaluable tool that you can use to promote yourself in the job market and proactively look out for career opportunities

3. Update your accounts

Ensure all your accounts are up-to-date. LinkedIn, for example, should include all your latest jobs, skills and experience.

4. Make connections

Don’t just follow people you know. Find relevant people within your industry that you can connect with, to help you get more exposure. Did you know that LinkedIn alone has 6 million potential connections in Australia and 330 million across over 200 countries?

5. Find out information

The more you understand the industry and any companies you’re applying to, the better. Social media is a good way to find out more. For example, carry out a few searches via Twitter, to discover a company’s latest news, product/service information, new job vacancies, customer feedback, and upcoming events.

6. Look for jobs

Use social media to carry out your very own job searches. Twitter and LinkedIn are good tools for this and you may even find vacancies that have only just been released, so you could be the first to apply!

7. Network, network, network


People often say “it’s not what you know, but who you know” and although that’s not always true, knowing the right people does often help. Therefore, you should try putting your networking abilities to the test.

Network with people in your new industry, to help you discover all the pros and cons of your new career. You never know, you may start talking to someone who has a job opportunity. 

If not, then it doesn’t hurt to get their advice and expand your network. Make sure you get their business card too, so you can keep in touch in the future. Take a look at these ideas to help you build your network:

Friends and family

Speak to your colleagues, friends and family. They may know people within your industry who they can help you get in touch with, or even put in a good word.

Professional organisations

Look for professional organisations as these may give you a clearer insight into the industry. They may even run events which you can get involved in.

Events

Search for relevant events in your industry. Use these to talk with relevant companies, listen to industry talks and make some valuable contacts.

LinkedIn

Use LinkedIn to connect with people and businesses within your new industry. You could even join some LinkedIn groups, where you can be a simple spectator and learn from some of the conversations, get involved, or even start your own threads.

8. Find a mentor

You may think of a career mentor as someone within your company who has more experience than you, who shows you the ropes and helps you move up the ranks.

However, starting a new career path is a big step. A mentor outside of your company can really help in your transition. A mentor can support you in a number of ways:

  • Share knowledge
  • Give tips on preparing for an interview
  • Provide support
  • Share expert advice
  • Give guidance on improving your resume
  • Suggest contacts
  • Make connections

To find a mentor, visit a professional or industry association. They often have meetings that you can attend, where you can talk with many different levels of people. You’ll often hear names that pop up time and time again, so keep a note and see if you can make contact with them.

Don’t be scared to ask around though too, as you’ll find that many people are happy to give advice, or point you in the direction of someone else who would be happy to take you under their wing and help. Remember to always take the opportunity before it disappears.

Follow up after meetings, to keep you front-of-mind and to see if they’d be happy to provide ongoing guidance. Don’t forget that even if they don’t have time at the moment, be polite and stay in touch and they may be able to help in the future, or think of you first if a new role becomes available.

9. Interview, interview, interview

Now you’ve followed all these steps and submitted your CV, you should hopefully get some interview call-backs.
Open Colleges talked to Brittney Borowicz, who graduated from university with a Broadcast Journalism degree, but changed to a career in Marketing.

She's now a Marketing Manager and a Freelance Social Media Consultant. Brittney recalls that she didn’t have much experience and says “I had to convince my next employer that I could utilise the journalism skills and sales skills from being a waitress and bartender in college to be a good marketer for their team”.

It’s therefore important that you’re prepared to be asked about why you’re changing careers, what you bring to the table and what you’ve done to deserve the role. It also helps if you ace the rest of your interview and so here are 7 useful tips to follow:

1. Make a good first impression

In an interview, people can make their mind up about you within the first few seconds. Therefore, it’s important to present yourself well, from the moment you step foot in the door. Some key things to consider are your appearance and making sure you arrive on time.

2. Research the company

Take some time to do your research. Have a look at their company website, social media accounts and any latest news that involves them. This will help show that you’re interested and have done your homework.

3. Prepare some basic answers

Although you won’t know exactly what an interviewer is going to ask you, you can still think about some of the most basic questions and practice how you would respond.

4. Be prepared for the unexpected

An employer may want to see how you think on the spot. If this happens in your interview, take a deep breath and take a moment to think about how you should answer. Don’t feel pressured into answering with the first thing that pops into your head.

5. Plan questions in advance

Although you may naturally think of questions during the interview itself, you should always try to plan some questions in advance, to ask at the end of your interview.

6. Don’t overshare

Remember that you are in an interview situation with your potential boss and so be careful not to overshare. It’s therefore important to make sure you’re professional at all times and your answers don’t go into too much detail about your private life.

7. Be prepared

Be organised and bring a pen and paper to your interview to take notes. Don’t forget to bring anything else along that you may need, such as a spare CV, or any other information the interviewer may have requested.

We hope you’ve found this guide helpful and good luck with the next stage of your career change. Remember that it may take some time to adjust to a new career and be aware you may be starting again at the bottom of the ladder.

However, if you’ve done your research correctly, a new career can give you a number of personal and professional benefits, improve your quality of life and help you find the career happiness you need.

For some final inspiration, take a look at these 5 people who decided to take a chance and change their career.

 

Elizabeth Harmon

Elizabeth Harmon

is a Social Media Consultant with a number of years of experience in the field. She has worked with a growing list of clients around the world, helping to build successful social media strategies, create effective content and much more. She is a writer and journalist for the Open Colleges Careers Blog.

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