Guest Blogger, Evelyn Utterson: “Evelyn is a Software Developer and Coding Coach based in Edinburgh. With a background in Career Guidance, and as a career changer herself, she is passionate about supporting others considering a move into tech or exploring other career ideas.”
Changing careers can be an exciting yet overwhelming time. Individual circumstances may affect how you approach making the switch, but it’s important to take as much time as you can and need to think your ideas through entirely and make sure you’re investing your time and energy in a path that really is right for you. And be realistic: Your dream job is out there, it just might take time to find it, and to achieve it! Here are five steps that could help you along the way:
1. Know Your Motivations
Perhaps the most important things to consider are WHY you’re looking to change, and WHAT you want to get back from your work. We all need to earn a living, but what else matters to you? Maybe you’re switching career because your current industry is changing or your role is no longer
required, and you’re looking for something with long-term stability. Perhaps you need a flexible role to fit around family or caring responsibilities, or you want to be able to take time off to travel. You might want to be your own boss, to be working for a cause that matters to you, or to be able to
switch off from work the minute you leave the office. It’s likely to be a combination of factors, and knowing what these are can be incredibly powerful in identifying potential careers. Work out what your personal values and motivations are and look for work that will align with those motivations.
It might also help to consider the aspects of your current role that you enjoy the most and the least. Is your day better when you are working with customers or teammates, or do you tend to be more productive working alone? Are you energised by writing reports and filing paperwork, or
would you rather be outside working on more practical tasks? Make a note of each of these things, and refer back to them throughout the rest of the process.
2. Identify Your Skills
One of the most significant selling points you have as a career changer is that you bring a fresh perspective to your new industry. Alongside that, you’ll also be bringing a number of transferable skills, i.e. skills that are useful across a variety of careers. Think about the tasks that you do best in your current or previous roles. You might even see some overlap with the tasks you most enjoyed from the last section. As a nation, we’re not always great at identifying our own strengths, so you might want to enlist the help of friends, family members or colleagues for this bit! There are also online tools you can use to help pinpoint these skills, listed in the resources section at the end. You could even gain some new skills through a course, for example, if you had a digital skills gap in your knowledge, you could improve this by attending digital training courses.
Some of the key skills across a range of industries include:
• Problem Solving
• Communication (written and verbal)
• Team Work
It’s worth remembering that transferable skills aren’t just those that you’ve learned or used in the workplace, so think about the things you excel at outside of work and whether these are skills you’d like to use in your new career. Many can come from your home life, hobbies, and so on, and
it’s perfectly acceptable to use examples from non-work scenarios to showcase these skills in applications and interviews.
3. Consider Your Options
Now that you know what motivates you and what you have to offer, it’s time to explore the market and find out what opportunities there might be. Each of the UK Careers Services have websites offering information and resources for those looking at their career options, for example, Job
profiles which give overviews of a vast range of careers, including basic info on salary, conditions, training, and general duties. You can search by specific job titles, or browse by industry, and there are tools that can help generate ideas. The format is different for each service, so feel free to explore them all to find the format that suits your learning style. Be aware that the information provided can be a little basic, so while these are a great starting point, don’t be afraid to dig deeper once you’ve got your shortlist of ideas. To do that; look for courses or job adverts to check out the current market and find real-life examples of the skills employers are looking for, speak to people in the industry, and research related companies and roles. Depending on the job or line of business, there might be volunteer opportunities to gain experience or taster courses online – often for free – that will give you a chance to test out whether you genuinely can see yourself in that line of work. Mooc-list.com is a handy site for discovering online courses across a vast range of topics.
This is also the ideal opportunity to assess the realities of your potential career path – do you need to train, and if so, for how long and at what cost? Will it involve a pay cut, even just initially, and can you afford that short- or long-term? If you’ve got a couple of ideas in mind at this stage, these kinds of questions can help you weigh up the pros and cons of each to reach a measured conclusion.
4. Build and Utilise Your Network
Finding out more online is great, but nothing beats the personal touch. Reach out to those around you and you might be surprised at the extent to which people are willing to help. If you already have contacts in the industry, get in touch and ask them if they can spare some time to talk through their role; what they do, their typical working day, the realities of the job. There might not be anyone in your network with knowledge of the area you’re planning a move into, but it can still help to talk through your ideas with another person. You might even find they can put you in touch
with relevant contacts, but to do that they first need to know that you’re looking, and what you’re interested in!
As well as your current contacts, think about how you can grow your network; look out for open days or information sessions, and make use of social media, e.g. LinkedIn, to learn about companies and contact individuals. Be sure to personalise your requests wherever possible to
maximise your chances of people responding to you. Let them know who you are and why you’re contacting them – the personal touch can make all the difference! When you’re speaking to someone and finding out more about the role you’re interested in, don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. To make the best decision, you need to be able to consider all the information – good and bad – so ask about the downsides and challenges of the role or the industry as a whole. Remember a lot of the responses can be subjective, so where possible speak to a few people, ideally from different companies, and try to take into account your own personality and strengths when you think about what they’ve said. Consider finding an industry mentor too – someone who can support you throughout your journey and help you set and achieve goals along the way.
5. Go For It!
So, you’ve found a career that interests you, and you’re ready to get started – congrats! Your research so far should stand you in good stead, and you’ll have already begun forging new relationships as you explore your options. Letting others know what your goals are can help them to support you and give you extra motivation to succeed. There will be challenges ahead so do surround yourself with a strong network and ask for help whenever you need it.