Back in the day a college education or other apprenticeships were enough to set someone on a career path that would last them a lifetime, ending with a sustainable pension at the end of a 40-year career. But nowadays this seems to be more the exception than the norm, with rapid changes in technology, social trends and our own increasing self-expectations.
Many in the workforce start off by doing a series of odd or less favorable jobs well into their 30s before securing a satisfactory position in a field of their choosing.
But what about the ones that decided on a career early on and now feel a dire need for change? Perhaps they feel they’ve reached a dead end, or they realize the job is not as exciting as it seemed initially. Maybe the financial opportunities are scarce or the market for that particular domain has significantly shrunk. Whatever the reason, if you feel it’s time to drastically change gears and reinvent yourself, here are a few tips to help you on your new career path:
To avoid trading one hamster wheel for another, take the time to do a little soul-searching. What exactly is the driving force behind your decision? Is it the boss? The toxic environment? The long commute? The non-flexible schedule? Are you looking for more mobility across the corporate ladder?
It is important to make a list of pros and cons for your current job and pin it next to a list of career assets you are looking for: maybe you want to work in an environmentally aware medium. Maybe you want less (or more) responsibility. Or to finally turn your artistic flair into a full-time job. Keep in mind, simply switching from one tech support company to another does not represent a career change and once the novelty wears off you might find yourself singing “workingman’s blues” once again.
If after laying your thoughts down on paper you are still determined to set off for new opportunities, then here we go!
Focus on a preliminary comparative evaluation of several domains, then select a few targets to conduct more thorough research about the job that interests you. In other words, always remain grounded in reality. Is your dream career a gardener? Make sure there is a buyer’s market for that like online garden stores. Many gardeners now own big organic farms and are making millions. Most new businesses close shop within the first year simply because their owners ignored the basic “offer and demand” principle.
Consider a lucrative medium for your business expansion. For example, construction managers are by definition in high demand, but even more so in Australia’s booming construction industry. Requiring a unique blend of organisational skills and artistique finesse, this is one of the jobs that is both spiritually and financially rewarding. This happening because people now want the luxury of a garden, an underground room, or just an enclosed patio for winters.
Even if you’ve finished college a few years ago, technological progress and emerging trends might have rendered your knowledge close to obsolete. Rehoning your skills and getting in touch with what’s new on the market will be a big plus.
And of course, if you decided to attack a domain that you’ve only enthusiastically observed from outside, it is certainly time to go back to school, especially since most courses are nowadays available on-line.
Skills such as marketing, entrepreneurship, financial education or time management are worth gold in any domain, and they are especially recommended if you decide to start a business of your own.
During the COVID crisis many laid off employees saw this as the ideal opportunity to finally launch their dream business – small bio food farms, specialty coffee shops, bike rentals, home-catering, interior design, just to name a few. So don’t hesitate to enforce your vision with the proper know-how.
But if you are looking to put your skill to use in an already thriving company, remember the three magic words for success: “NETWORKING, NETWORKING, NETWORKING”. You heard it a million times: “it’s not about what you know, but who you know”. That is only half true. If you are not worth your salt in the domain, chances are you will be side-lined pretty quickly. But to get your foot in the door in the first place, you will need those personal recommendations.
Take the time to understand the culture of the company you are trying to work your way in. Use your free time to volunteer. That way you will both demonstrate your skills, while learning how things work from the inside.
One important, often left out, rule is learning to draw a line in the sand. It is essential to define a clear set of walkway points before entering negotiation. The negotiation is not only with the employer, but also with yourself in regards to what should and shouldn’t be acceptable to you for a healthy work-personal life balance. Can you afford long extra hours or late night phone calls? Can you go on for the first year without a vacation? The company will always try to get as much out of you as possible (often using guilt-trip maneuvers such as “maybe you don’t want this job hard enough”), but it is important that in the end your efforts are rewarded.
Take the time to scout the market and decide on the best available opportunities before filing in your resignation. When you’re ready to start applying for jobs in your new industry, take the extra time to tinker on your resume and cover letter. Make sure they reflect your new goals, aspirations and who you are at this point in your life.