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Looking for a career change? Advice and tips from the experts

Looking for a career change? Advice and tips from the experts

Looking for something new? A change of career could be just what you’re after – but be prepared to put the work in.

Words by Christine Toner


In these uncertain times there’s a lot to be said for security and stability. Yet while there are many people who’ll enjoy the peace of mind that comes with a stable career, there are others who decide, despite achieving success in their current role, they’re after a change – a pretty seismic one.

These daring individuals choose to exchange the safety of their comfortable career for a brand new one. And according to research it’s largely a successful move.

The 2015 New Careers for Older Workers study, conducted by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), found that 82% of the survey participants who made a career change after the age of 45 were successful in their transition.

But what inspires someone to jump ship and start over?

Jaqui Temperley is a director at executive coaching firm Veritas and Associates. She suggests the decision is often inspired by life events.

“In my experience, career changes later in life tend to be a result of a significant event happening in their life, for example, redundancy, a health reason or a company relocation,” she says. “This is called ‘the catalyst to change’ and forces a re-evaluation of their career choices and, quite often, presents different opportunities to pursue. For example, one of my clients was made redundant from a senior position in a corporate company after nearly 20 years’ employment with the same company and she received a generous redundancy pay-out.

“This was the catalyst to pursue her dream to set up a dog grooming business. She is now super happy and wishes she had made the changes years ago.”

That said, of course, the move does not come without doubt.

“People can be fearful of change – any change as it’s the unknown – and this fear can hold people back from making career changes especially in later life,” she says. “Doubts such as ‘am I too old?’ or ‘what if I fail?’ will cause people to stay in their current career even if they are unhappy.”

Indeed, a recent study by the human resources specialist Investors in People found one in four people are unhappy in their current role. While this figure is an improvement on the one in three reported when the same study was conducted last year, it still paints a somewhat bleak picture.

“A career change won’t always be a linear path so staying positive, being patient and persistent is extremely important.”

Natalie Pearson, marketing co-ordinator at recruitment firm Kingsley says there are a number of challenges involved in switching career, with gaps in training and experience being one.

“Some of your skills will be transferable but if you’re moving from sales to building surveying you’ll need to complete an accredited degree course,” she says.

“Any new employee is a risk to an employer – candidates might impress at interview but don’t deliver on the job. You’ll have to demonstrate that you’re an asset and not a risk.

“Demonstrate to an employer how passionate you are, your willingness to learn and the things you’ve achieved throughout your career so far and how these skills will benefit your employer.

“Are you a great public speaker? Have you successfully managed a team or project? Think about your own hobbies and interests, if you regularly volunteer then a company which shares the same values as you could help you land a new role.”

And whilst meeting these challenges, staying in the right mindset is a task in itself.

“There will be rejection, self-doubt and fear,” says Pearson. “You will have to prepare yourself for these obstacles whilst staying focused on your long-term goals.

“A career change won’t always be a linear path so staying positive, being patient and persistent is extremely important.”

Of course there are also practical concerns to consider. Starting over could have a big impact on your financial situation and those considering the move need to make sure they do their sums.

“Realistically a career change can be expensive, and this is something you need to prepare for,” says Pearson. “You might need to obtain new qualifications and trade memberships.

“Some employers might be able to help you with the financial costs but this is where you’d need to do your research beforehand. It’s never a bad idea to start saving as soon as possible to have that extra safety net.”

A good starting point, says Pearson, is to do your research.

“Identify what interests you, your current skill set, your long-term goals and your values,” she says. “This is important as you want your next move to be fulfilling. Research different career options and talk to recruiters in the sector you’re looking to break into – they’re well versed in knowing exactly what employers are looking for and what holds candidates back.”

So, given the doubts, the challenges and the work involved – is taking the plunge and swapping careers worth the effort?

“To answer this, ask yourself ‘how do I want to feel this time next year?’,” says Temperley. “Then you’ll find your answer.”

Top tips for changing career

Build new relationships

“LinkedIn is a great tool to utilise when changing career,” says Pearson. “Reach out to your own alumni in similar fields, connect with people who have the job you want and ask them a few questions. You might even find a mentor to help you.

“Join professional networks and get involved in events.”


Research the sector, find out what skills and qualifications you need to have in order to successfully change career.

Be persistent

“If you’re passionate about changing career, it won’t happen overnight so stay focused and prepare yourself for inevitable knock backs,” adds Pearson.

Check your finances

You might need to take a pay cut to land an entry level role and you might need to invest in retraining.