Giles O’Halloran believes that career change is an extremely personal process and encourages us to engage our ‘little grey cells’ before making a decision...
Leaving one career or job and then moving on to something new is a very difficult thing to do. It is not just a physical change, but a mental and emotional change too. Some of us will move into new jobs or careers with ease. They might be the logical next step in what we have been doing in our careers to date.
However, some may be looking to move careers entirely, their skills may now be redundant or they just want a fresh start. Everyone has a very personal story or situation. Whatever the circumstances, you need to think about a number of things if you are going to make that very personal change.
This article will therefore look at things you should consider when moving jobs or careers. These are not golden rules but they are guidelines that you should consider and adapt to your own very personal situation.
What do you want to do next?
It is a simple thing to say but you do need to seriously consider what you want to do next so that you can apply and focus your efforts in the right direction. You don’t need to have an exact idea, but you need to sit down and think about what it is you want to do. You should therefore consider your skills, what you enjoy doing or what genuinely interests you. It is not just about doing something you can, but something you enjoy. If, however, you need to make money to put food on the table, it might be worth considering doing something short term whilst you focus on a longer term plan.
You will need to be realistic about your situation and what you want to do. Some jobs or careers take years to develop the right skills or knowledge, so you need to consider whether you can move into those roles as a direct entrant or whether you need to start at the bottom and work your way up. Think about what you want to do and then start to plan those next steps – this then ensures you focus your efforts in the right direction.
Do you have a specialism?
Are you a specialist in a certain field? Often, this provides you with a starting point that allows you to look for the jobs that may make the transition to a new role easier. Skills and capabilities can be transferred to a new role in a different organisation if you are a specialist. You are also likely to command better rates if you are a specialist and can prove this to a potential employer. However, it is about being able to articulate or demonstrate this, not just in interview, but via your CV, cover letter or application form.
Being a specialist helps, but it is also about knowing where to look for find the right opportunity. You need to look at specialist job sites, trade media or contact professional associations that might be able to assist you. It is all very well having a specialism, but you need to make the connections to allow you access to the right people who can help or influence your career path going forward.
Are you uniquely qualified?
Possessing a unique qualification is not just about being a specialist. It might be having a specialist skill that only a few people possess (and there is no current or recognised qualification for), it might be about possessing a specialist clearance that you can port to your next role, or it could be a specialist knowledge that you possess that very few have because you need to work in a certain environment or sector. If you have any of these or other examples that are relevant, this could offer you a very interesting and lucrative next step in your career path.
Even if you do not possess a unique qualification, we all have a unique combination of skills and capabilities that make us who we are and professionals at what we do. It is therefore worth perhaps sitting down and thinking about what makes you unique and what you can bring to your next role that others may not. Take time to consider your skills, experience, knowledge, the roles you have done, sectors you have worked in and the blend of these that might be attractive to employers.
Do you have transferable skills, knowledge and experience?
The likelihood of getting the perfect job are slim. That is the reality and most employers also accept that they will not get the perfect candidate. This is why they look at levels of skills, knowledge and experience fit. Some employers will look for an 80:20 fit, whereas others may go down to 50:50. It very much depends on the employer and what they are looking for.
This therefore means you need to think about whether you have skills or other capabilities that are transferable and make you a stronger candidate versus the competition. For instance, you may have experience of using some specialist equipment that is not the same as, but is very similar to, that which the employer is looking for. You need to therefore look at your skills, knowledge and experience on your CV and adapt this when applying for roles or when in interview.
Think about how other skills or experience is applicable or can be relevant so that you can use them to your advantage. The fact you have a certain skillset and adaptable skills mean you are far more likely to be able to learn the skills an employer could be looking for very quickly.
Have you leveraged your network?
The people around you often know you better than yourself. You therefore need to tap into that network, not only to help you secure your next opportunity but also to get some good advice. They may see skills and capabilities that you never realise you had, or may offer you insights that are very powerful. Never underestimate the wisdom of those that know you well.
Your friends, family and other connections can provide access to a wider set of networks that can help you secure opportunities. It has been proven that the more loose and weak your connections, the greater the opportunities that can come from those around you. This is because the less deep the relationship between you and members of your network, the more wide reaching it can be and the more likely it is to be able to facilitate realistic and actionable opportunities.
Have the conversation
Do not be scared to ask for help or ask your friends, family, colleagues and wider network what they think. They could open up new ideas and opportunities you have never considered. In the same light, how many times have we all had conversations with someone and then come up with a completely new idea? Discussing ideas and creating new ones could open a completely different opportunity to you that you have never considered. That light bulb moment may also offer you a chance to do something that leverages your unique blend of experience, skills and knowledge that make you a candidate of choice to an employer.
Make an action plan and make it happen
It is good to think about all the things above, but you then need to make something happen. Thinking too much about something may stop you actually creating or taking the opportunities that exists. It is therefore imperative that once you have come up with some good ideas, you need to plan how you are going to make them happen, and then make them happen!
Making it happen means not only doing it yourself but leveraging the influence and contacts you have around you. Think about what you can achieve, how you can get the help of others to do stuff for you or to get their networks and contacts to help you. By doing so, you extend the opportunities and likelihood of making a plan come to fruition.
I sincerely hope this piece has given you some useful food for thought – now it is very much up to you to make it happen!
About The Author
Giles is an experienced HR and Recruitment professional who works as a freelance consultant, strategist, writer and coach. He started his HR career with IBM after first reading Modern Languages at Warwick University and becoming a successful technology recruiter He has since worked in other senior HR roles across Europe, advised at Board level, and implemented both strategic and operational HR business solutions. He also spent 12 years as a reservist with the UK's Reserve Forces, serving first with the TA and later with the RAuxAF.
Giles is a columnist with a leading, MoD sponsored, international career transition publication, and has also written blogs for a number of websites and organisations on employment and the changing nature of work. He is passionate about technology, the value of networks and the future of work. Giles focuses on career transition support for individuals (CVs/Resumes, LinkedIn, Interviews, Networking etc.), and effective people solutions for organisations (HR strategy, Talent, HR Technology, Digital HR, HR Mentoring/Business Partnering and Outplacement services) and has worked across a wider variety of diverse sectors.