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Making a career change


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How to take a leap in the right direction

A change of career can mean going for that high-powered managerial position, starting your own business or perhaps finally following a vocation to teach.  With the advent of later state pensions, working lives are now likely to last until at least the age of 67, so you can envisage making a career change several times during your working life.    Nevertheless, when you consider the impact your job has on your life, it’s vital to do your homework before taking that leap.

Make some lists…

Perhaps you have a specific job in mind, or perhaps it’s more the case that the only thing you’re sure of is that you don’t want to do the job you have now!  Either way it’s a good idea to get on paper some questions:

  • What do you enjoy doing….. does it correlate with what you’re good at doing?  Are you a “people person” in need of motivation, or a self-starter who is happiest working alone?
  • What do you feel passionate about?
  • How important is money – what is the minimum needed to maintain your family’s desired quality of life?  Are you in a position to finance the changes needed for your new career – training, for example, or an initial period of lower earnings?
  • What about work/life balance – are you prepared to sacrifice time with your children now in order to pursue your dream?
  • Where would you like to see yourself in, say, 10 years’ time?

This process may eliminate some long-held career dreams, throw up some brand new ones, or confirm that, yes, the career you want may just be possible….

Do your research…

If it’s all looking good on paper so far, now’s the time to gather some information:

  • Network – talk to people who work at different levels in the area in which you’re interested. More senior people could be potential mentors.  Another rich source of information and advice, especially if you’re hoping to go self-employed, are blogs – with many bloggers only too happy to help and advise fellow would-be entrepreneurs break into their businesses.
  • Look at the job ads for your chosen area of work to establish what employers are looking for, how much work is available and the levels of pay you can expect.
  • Training:  can you do a distance-learning/online course while still in your current job?  If you need degree-level qualifications the Open University has a range of career-relevant modules, which can be done as stand-alone units or as part of a diploma or degree.  For those without a degree a student loan is available, and don’t be put off by the increase in higher education fees – the way the loan is repaid is not as onerous as you might think!  Also, for the potentially self-employed, there is plenty of free help and advice on doing your own taxes, such as HMRC’s pages on Starting a Business.
  • Volunteer:  Particularly in the more vocational career choices, volunteering can be a useful way of finding out more about a job, as well as providing valuable networking opportunities.  For instance, if you have always fancied teaching, why not offer to help with reading at your child’s school?  You will need to be CRB checked (now called a DBS check) but the school will pay for this and you will get a real feel for what it would be like to work in a school.

Get ready to launch…

career changeYou may be able to test the waters of your new career without taking too daring a leap into the unknown.  If your dream is to work for yourself you could work from home in your spare time while still retaining your day job until you’re up to speed.  Preparation for other jobs can also keep your options open – many public employers such as the NHS offer unpaid career breaks of up to several years’ duration to allow other avenues such as training or volunteer work to be explored.  Ideally you should also ensure that you have a financial safety net in place for when you make that final leap which is large enough to cover the worst-case scenario.  Even if you’re going straight into another paid position there is always the risk that the new venture will not work out so try to save up an emergency fund for this contingency.

Go for it

Make sure your CV is up-to-date and sparkling and start getting those applications in, backed up with all that appropriate volunteer work and training you now have under your belt.  For the self-employed, make sure your brand new website is firing on all cylinders and ready to go and…. launch yourself into your new career!






About Phylly Alexander

About Phylly Alexander

Phylly Alexander is a working parent. She’s been doing it for a long time, with number one son just about to turn 21, and by the time the last child (hopefully!) flies the nest she will have been at it for around 30 years! Apart from the first six years at home with aforementioned number one son, she has worked throughout, mainly in secretarial/admin roles for employers including solicitors, the Employment Service and, for the past 12 years, the NHS. She trained as a student midwife and has written for The Practising Midwife. A middle-aged “techie” she is hoping to improve her work-life balance by getting more internet work she can do from home – she enjoys writing, editing and proofreading. As someone who is interested in (and unfortunately has an opinion on) almost everything, she has a wide-ranging general knowledge – an asset for pub quiz nights. More specific interests include cycling, running, midwifery and Shakespeare! She is also currently completing an unfinished degree via the Open University and is finding the study of sociology a real eye-opener. The job that got away? Teaching. Age (aka tiredness!) and family commitments probably mean she’ll never get to do it now but…. she thinks she would have loved it.

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