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So You're Serious About Switching Careers?

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Whether you started down the wrong path years ago and never turned back, or have been longing for a change of scenery lately, you can rest assured that you’re far from the only person who thinks they’re in the wrong job. Our own research for our Q4 2016 Employment Monitor, out today, shows that half of people surveyed feel that they are in the wrong career.

So, what steps can you take to make sure you stick to your promise of finding a new career?

Figure Out What You Want To Do

While some people feel as though they have a destiny to fulfil and know exactly what they were put on this Earth to do, many others feel lost and unsure of what path they want to take. It goes without saying that this can be a major obstacle in finding your dream job, but not just because you’re unsure where to go. It’s hard to risk everything you’ve built over the past few years for a chance to find something you can’t even identify. But if you stick with your current job, all you’re really doing is slowly working your way up the ladder and further into a hole.

If you really want to switch careers, then you need to figure out what it is you want to do. This may be as simple as thinking about what it is you excel at or enjoy. Or it could take a little more effort, such as taking on new responsibilities in your current role, or experimenting with part-time or freelance work. However you choose to figure it out, the only way to get that elusive dream job is to figure out where it is you want to go. 

Identify Your Transferable Skills

Even if you have been working the wrong job for years, you’ve still managed to rack up some experience. Regardless of how far removed your dream job is from your current job, the likelihood is that at least some of these skills will transfer over. You can get an idea of the skills you need to focus on by searching through existing job ads, which will help you identify the skills you already have, as well as those you need to develop.

Unfortunately, these skills alone are rarely enough to land you your dream role, but they can be enough to get your foot in the door. While you may not be able to switch directly into your ideal position, finding a job in the same sector that is similar to your existing role can help you bridge the gap in your experience, and take you one step closer to your dream job.

Build Your Network

As we have discussed previously, there is some truth to the phrase “It’s who you know”. A study conducted by sociologist Mark Granovetter found that 56% of people first heard about their current job through an acquaintance. In short, the study concluded that our outer social circles are one of the richest sources of new information. The reason for this is that those in our inner circles have so much in common with us that they expose us to very little new information, be that knowledge or opportunities.

I have personally gotten three jobs through acquaintances: one from a guy I went to college with, and two more from people I used to work with. I’ve also passed on work to 3 people, one of whom I knew for about a week, so the strength of weak ties cannot be underestimated. Furthermore, whether you’re attending events or taking part in online discussions, getting actively involved will give you a much better feel for and understanding of the industry. This will make it much easier to transition when the time comes, as you’ll be aware of what everyone is talking about and join in, rather than constantly asking for explanations or definitions.

Start Working Towards It Now

Regardless of whether you have all the necessary skills or none of them, working on related projects is one of the best ways to prepare yourself for a career switch. Apart from the obvious practical experience you would gain by actually working in that area, side-projects go a long way to showing employers that you are serious about switching careers. This is especially beneficial if your dream job is nothing like your current job, as it reassures employers that you are passionate about the work, rather than making an arbitrary career change for no apparent reason.

Another thing anyone considering a career change should bear in mind is that you will almost definitely have to start off with a lower position and salary than you have now. This is a major deterrent for many people, and can cause problems for people who did not save or change their spending habits to adjust for the loss of wages. It might be disheartening to say goodbye to a salary you’ve gotten used to, especially if you’ve spent years building it up. But with proper planning, preparation, and budgeting, it can be done. If you really are passionate about your new line of work, then you’ll probably work your way up the ladder a lot faster than before too. Even if you don’t, you’ll soon realise that you’re happier with the job you love than the extra cash.

Taking that leap of faith can be daunting, especially since we only have ourselves to blame if we fail. But as scary as the unknown can be, one thing you can be sure of is that you’ll never get your dream job by sticking in the wrong job. You may not think you can compete against people who have been in that field for years, but our Q3 2015 Employment Monitor found that 96% of employers would choose an applicant with a good attitude over one with more experience. So once you know what you really want to do, and that you really want to do it, you may find that a lack of experience was never holding you back at all. 

See what else we found

Learn why two-thirds of people would be willing to take a pay cut, which employee perks are the most popular, and how many people are expecting a pay rise this year in our Q4 2016 Employment Monitor.

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