A career change in the year ahead may be easier than you think. Here are a few simple steps for taking your ambitions from “someday” to reality.
If you spent most of 2015 feeling unhappy in your job, now is the time to plan your next move. A new year represents a fresh start – out with the bad habits and in with the new goals that will lead to a healthier and happier life. But as New Year’s resolutions are prone to failure, how can you successfully plan a new career for the New Year?
Take a look at yourself
While a career decision often depends on your stage of life, there are some considerations that are universal. Will the career suit your personality? Will it help you meet your financial goals and life plans, such as travel or time to spend with your family? Will it bring a sense of purpose? Your work environment can also have an impact of your career satisfaction. Even your daily commute time can be a consideration.
Jane Lowder, general manager and career coach at Max Coaching in Sydney, says career changes generally follow a pattern. “I’ve noticed that once people have achieved their practical goals, such as dealing with the travel bug or getting a mortgage under control, they then begin to think about a career that’s more meaningful to them. I’d say 98 per cent of my clients have a goal to make a difference. The question is, what kind of difference and to whom or to what?”
Making the right move
A new career represents a serious investment of your time and emotions, so it’s essential to get it right. David Lang, trainer human resources and management at Open Colleges, says it can take years to plan. “You need to make sure that you’re financially stable. Any career change is something to work towards – you need to do a lot of research. Also, think about whether there will be job opportunities for you in your chosen career and whether you are a good match for it. I know a student who wanted to be a nurse and then fainted at the first sight of blood.”
It’s important to define what you want from a career, but you should also consider what you can bring to it. Peter Noblet, senior regional director of recruitment firm Hays, recommends questioning what makes you a strong candidate. “Think about your unique skills – not just the practical skills, but the soft skills, too. Then think honestly about what additional skills you can gain to increase your options.”
Noblet also recommends speaking to a recruiter or finding a mentor who can help guide you toward your new career. “This can be a difficult step for a lot of people because they’re asking for genuine feedback about their capabilities,” he says. “But it’s really important.”
Avoiding the mistakes
It’s easy to make a few mistakes when changing your career. Lowder says careful planning is often underestimated. “People often say they want to see me for a one-hour session to figure out their new career direction. We tell them they need more time planning their new career than they do planning their next holiday.”
Mistakes can also be made if you choose the wrong time to make your next move. “You see people take a knee-jerk response,” says Lowder. “They stay in a job they don’t like for too long, get to breaking point and then just jump into the first thing that comes along. Sometimes it’s like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.”
Deferring the move can also be a mistake. “This can damage your self-confidence and wellbeing, so it becomes harder to put yourself forward for other roles,” adds Lowder. “The middle ground is ideal, where you take the time to reflect on the detail of what you want and then, before you jump, do your research so you know which career option will tick the boxes for you.”
Another error is assuming that the grass will be greener in a new role. “We see this kind of thinking all the time,” says Noblet. “You end up doing almost exactly the same job in a different organisation with almost exactly the same kind of people, all because it looked better from afar. There might be other opportunities with your current employer that could suit you more.”
It’s easy to stumble along your way to a new career path. Like any new year’s resolution, the key is to keep your balance. “Too many people put a career ahead of everything else,” says Noblet. “We should work to live, not live to work.”
How to plan your career goals
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