Casting our minds back to nineties and even the noughties, there was a stigma surrounding career change, with many fearing that they could tarnish their career by changing paths. Today, the prospect of career change can still be challenging, however, the stigma is no longer - personal development and fulfilment are now the main priority. While any change can be unnerving to begin with, with the right research and preparation, a career change can be the best decision you’ll ever make.
Career change can come in many forms, such as a change in job function or industry, or a complete shift into entrepreneurship or small business ownership. Regardless of the form it takes for you, stretching your comfort zone is the first step towards playing bigger in your career and finding professional fulfilment.
Passion, purpose and fulfilment
As you progress in your career and acquire more knowledge, experience and skills, it’s not uncommon for what engages and excites you to change. A potential shift in your professional interest may see you want to specialise in a particular field, extend your current abilities or change course completely.
When you spend the majority of your week in a role, company or industry that is unfulfilling, unmanageable or particularly stressful, it can greatly affect your overall happiness. If this is the case, it could be time to step back and reevaluate. When you are already established in your career, this can be a bold move to make, however, it is definitely possible with the right skills and approach. Whether you choose to reconsider job function, seniority, employer or industry, it’s worth the risk if your current career situation comes at the expense of your health or happiness. Take the time to find out what you’re passionate about and consider the endeavours and organisations that will support your path.
Other common reasons for career change can include a restricted job outlook in your chosen field, financial motives, a change in personal circumstances, a lack of learning opportunities, stress or monotony. If one or more of these reasons rings true for you, why not start researching options and weighing up whether a change could be the right move for you?
Education can help forge the path
Having placed all their eggs in one career basket to date, those craving a career change often find themselves underskilled for the job function or industry they wish to break into. This is where education regularly plays a role, with many opting to gain a qualification to assist their change in direction. For those who know the direction they want their new career to take, a qualification in that field is a no-brainer. However, for those who are not sure of the field they want to work in, a holistic degree such as an MBA can help as it exposes students to new possibilities. For a large portion of AIB MBA graduates, this was certainly the case – an alumni survey found that 22.4% of MBA graduate respondents changed industry, plus a huge 40.1% changed job function since starting their MBA.
Preparing for a change
Consider the following actions in anticipation of a career transition:
- Make an effort to connect and network with people in your desired industry or organisation.
- Harness your transferable skills and relate your past achievements to your new field through strong personal branding.
- Engage with career specialists, a mentor, or a contact that has changed careers and can provide guidance.
- If your ‘second career’ is quite different to your first, be flexible in terms of seniority and salary – you may need to re-establish yourself.
- Take small steps towards your new career- it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. For example, if you’re considering a move from finance to marketing, seek opportunities for a temporary secondment within your company. If you’re passionate about the non-for profit sector, volunteer some time on your weekends to immerse yourself in the on-ground activities. And if you want to start your own business, build it on the side while you continue to work in your current job. Then, armed with real-world experience, you’ll have more clarity around the correct next steps for you.
Also read: Taking a Career Risk
Share your career experience
There’s no doubt that the stigma surrounding career change has changed over the years, with many professionals making a switch later in life. We’d love to hear from those who have changed career paths, both early and late into their working lives. Comment to your experience: the highs and the lows.