How to Change Career

Reviewing The Past To Guide You Forward

You may know you need a change and want to get moving, but often the best way to work on how to change career is to start by slowing down and taking stock.

Think about how you got where you are today in your career. You may find that, like many other people, you are doing a job that has just evolved out of a series of ‘accidents’ rather than as a result of a grand plan. Somehow it has just happened and you have never really stopped to thinkit all through.

But something has jolted you out of your rut.

  • Maybe there has been a restructuring at work that means you have new responsibilities you don’t really want.
  • Maybe there are things going on in your life outside the 9-5 that mean your work-life balance needs to be addressed.
  • Maybe you have just reached a milestone birthday and you are thinking that if you are going to do something with your life you had better get on with it sooner rather than later.

You just know that the time has come when you really must work out how to change career.

Where do I start?

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Well, here’s how to take the first step towards making the career change needed. You start by just catching your breath and then taking a long look back over your shoulder to work out how you got to where you are today.

There are lots of exercises you can try to help you take stock. Here are three so you can start discovering how to change career and to understand more about what has brought you to where you are now.

Exercise 1 – Your Career Story

Before you make a mid career change, take a bird’s eye view of the journey so far. Don’t just look at your current job, but review your career as a whole. How did it all begin? What was behind your initial career choice? What has triggered your move from job to job?

Try drawing a timeline of your work to date. Stick a few sheets of A4 together horizontally so you get a long strip and draw a line to represent your career path. Mark on the line the high and low points, the significant changes that have occurred along the way.

If you prefer writing, present it as a story about yourself. Just let the story flow off the end of your pen or from your fingers to the keyboard. This is for your eyes only, so grammar and spelling don’t matter! Don’t just state the facts – write about what was important for you on the journey.

If you are very visual, try drawing or painting a picture that represents how your career has unfolded. Use whatever images and colours feel right to you. It could be a single image or a storyboard representing your career path.

Once you have done this, stop to think about what this exercise tells you about what is important to you in your work.

What made the highs high and the lows low?

What was going on when things were going well?

What happened when your career faltered?

When you are thinking about how to change career, a clear understanding of what you have learned from the journey so far is really important.

Jot down your answers to these questions together with any other ideas that have come up for you and keep them in your Career Change Project File.

Why not share your story to help and inspire others?

Your career may have been through many twists and turns, but I bet you are older and wiser as a result. Maybe when you look back there are many things you wish you had known which would have helped you to make better career decisions.

So why not tell others about your story here on this site? You could encourage someone who is trying to work out how to change career and help them to take that bold step to transform their working lives.

Exercise 2 – Your Career Beliefs

We all hold underlying assumptions about what work is all about. These come from our family, from friends and from society at large.

Very often, they are held unconsciously and yet they still shape the way we think about our career development.

To help you work out how to change career, take a few minutes to ask what your assumptions are.

  • What did your parents expect of you in terms of career?
  • Is there a family tradition you have ended up following?
  • What has your education led you to believe is the ‘right’ kind for work for you?
  • How has your social/cultural background influenced your career choice?
  • Are there any barriers or limits you have unconsciously adopted because of your gender?
  • Are there types of work where you just think ‘that’s not my kind of thing’? Where has that assumption come from?

Make a note of your answers and take a few minutes to stop and question them. Do they have to apply to you, now? What if you decided to think or believe the opposite? What difference would that make to the job or career change options you might consider?

Make a note of any assumptions that you realise are holding you back in your Career Change Project File.

Exercise 3 – Evaluate Your Jobs

No job is 100% bad! When you are thinking about how to change career it is worth taking a bit of time to tease out both sides of the picture.

Start with your current job and then do the same exercise for previous jobs you have had. Use a separate sheet of paper for each job and jot the pros and cons down in two columns. Try and cover as many angles as you can. For example:

  • Location
  • General work environment
  • Commute to work
  • Colleagues
  • Management
  • Clients or customers
  • Workload
  • Level of responsibility
  • Variety in the work
  • Hours
  • Pay
  • Promotion prospects
  • Company culture
  • Company size

Reflecting on the jobs you have done…

What has given you the greatest enjoyment or fulfillment at work so far? What does that say about the aspects of your work that are most important to you? What has made the difference between the good jobs and the difficult ones? Is there one overriding factor that you just have to get right for you to get job satisfaction?Again, tuck these insights into your Career Change Project File so you can refer back to them as you continue to explore.

So looking back over your employment so far can be a great jumping off point in working out how to change career. You will have had good and bad experiences, some of which may have knocked you back. But the important thing is to reflect on and learn from these experiences so you don’t find yourself in the same career black hole again. Remember…

‘It’s not what happens to you in life that counts,
it’s what you do with it.’

About the author

Amy Thomas

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