You can make a career change at any age. What common excuses have you heard given by people who would really like to make a change in their work lives but are afraid to take that initial step towards a new career? Things like, "I’m too old; I’m too young; I’ve worked here forever...’ Could these very people start a new path in life, maybe their own business, a new study program or an exciting new job? The good news is that in today’s flexible job market it is never too late, or too soon to shift direction.
5 ways to kick start your next (or first!) career
Modern employers are interested in people who are willing to show initiative, excellent work ethics and a flair for innovation. If you make commitments towards your new career, these will be recognised on your resume and make a difference to your success. Skillstalk looks at five ways in which you can kick-start your career change at any age.
#1: Understand your motivation
There are a myriad of reasons for wanting a career change but some of them may be more relevant to your decisions than others. By understanding your own career-move motivation you can make sure that your next step is the right one for you. Some reasons, for example, ‘I want a more people-centric career,’ are easy to unpick but you should still make sure that meeting this aim is top of your decision-making list of questions when you decide your next step.
Other reasons for a career change can be trickier to pin down. ‘I'm not motivated by my boss,’ may just be a personality clash that can be solved by a job or department change or it might be a sign that you are keen to step out on your own and take on some individual challenges. Once you understand your motivation you can take clear and decisive steps to ensure that your next career satisfies your needs for some time to come.
#2: Understanding your skillset
Whoever you are, whatever your level of experience and however old you are, you will already have a set of skills that will be useful to a new employer or to yourself if you are thinking of starting your own business or undertaking study. You will have four main areas of existing skills and you should take all of them into account when considering your next step (particularly if you need a bit of encouragement to take it) they are:
- Personal qualities
- Skills developed through work
- Skills developed through study
- Skills developed through other areas of your life
Make careful note of these existing work skills and use them to give yourself the encouragement to take your next career step. One way that you can do this is to look at yourself 1, 5 and even 10 years ago and note how many new skills you have gained over those time-spans. If you can learn that much in your existing job, think how much more you will learn in a new job or program of study that you are really motivated to undertake.
Analysing existing skills can be done on a professional as well as a personal level. Some careers consultants offer analysis interviews and even psychometric testing, which can help you pin down your key areas of strength and consider all the available options.
#3: Maintain contact
Whether you are planning a new field of study, a career change or taking the first steps towards running your own business, the most important asset that you can have is contacts. The great news is that you can start building up contacts way before you take your big step. You will find that most people will be happy to offer advice or the benefit of their own experience and that this advice will help you to expand your own ideas about your future.
You will already have contacts and this is the time to start acknowledging them. Be as open about your plans as you can without saying or doing anything that will offend your current employer.
Talk to your friends and find out if they have contacts in your field of interest, ask them to arrange meetings if necessary. You can also use social media to make initial contact, be aware though that some social media are better devices for this than others. Linkedin in a specific business network but another great way to get to ‘know’ someone online is to build up a relationship by commenting on their blog or website.
Once you have a key list of people you would like to contact it is important to make sure that they know your reason for contacting them. Without this it would be impossible for them to make a helpful response. You might want to be direct and indicate that you think your skills would be useful to a company or you might want to take a more general approach and ask for a speculative interview during which you find out more about the job in general and vacancies that might be about to come up.
Making and maintaining contact isn’t as scary as it first sounds. Most people have had to do it themselves at some point and will recognise that it takes a bit of courage. You will make a good impression just by trying. Getting to know new people is a key step towards your career change; make sure you start as soon as possible.
#4: Ask for help
Even in the most cut throat of career sectors, nobody expects a beginner to achieve everything on their own. Help is out there for the taking and it would be an unwise move on anybody’s part to ignore this. Once you have considered your strengths and weaknesses through examining your skillset, you will be in a great position from which to understand where you need help.
If you are considering a program of study to start you on your new career path then talk to the experts, they will be more aware of study options and levels of qualifications than you are and they will also be able to point you in the direct of study advice from industry professionals.
If you are starting a new business then you will need advice from a range of people including experienced small business managers, financial experts and potential customers. Ask for this advice before you start, it will inform your planning and help you to avoid costly mistakes.
#5: Have the courage of your convictions
Once you have gone through the 4 steps above you will have a really clear idea of why you want to make a change, how you plan to do it and who is going to help you. The rest will be up to you. Any career change, at any time in your life, is a big step that may involve location and social upheaval as well.
It is going to take courage to take that step but courage is usually rewarded and never wasted. Australia boasts a plenitude of satisfied workers who are pleased that they made a change. After all, as Benjamin Franklin said, ‘When you're finished changing, you're finished.’
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