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Time For a Change of Career? Remember to Look Before You Leap...

Jun 27, 2008
The beginning of a new year prompts people to evaluate and improve their lives; whether it's giving up smoking, starting a diet or evaluating a relationship, the new year is a time of change. One of the elements that people often scrutinise is their job. While some will want to change the work/life balance or work towards a promotion, others will be considering a career change.

People often come to me saying that they want to change their career but haven't identified what it is they want to do. This can be quite a daunting prospect and can leave you feeling rather helpless if you are in a job you want to get out of but don't know what to do next. Others have a dream that is currently out of reach, and some people have an abundance of skills but don't appreciate the opportunities available to them.

A career change means much more than a new job and can have a massive impact on your lifestyle; the hope is that this impact will be for the better. Before making any rash decisions about career change, ask yourself the following questions:

- Why do you want to change your career?
- What do you really want to do - do you know what this involves?
- What can you bring to the table - what relevant skills do you have?
- What do you want / need to earn?

If you're uncertain of the answers to the above you may need some help. Below is a series of questions which should provide a starting point and some food for thought. Work out which questions are of particular relevance and importance to you and list them. Next, establish who can answer them. All of these areas interlink and once you get going one leads to another, so just start somewhere.

The Profession

1. What are the various roles within this profession?
2. What exactly do they do?
3. What are the best / worst parts of the work?
4. What qualities and talents does someone who excels in the field have?

Training

1. What are the training requirements?
2. Which are the reputed training bodies?
3. How long does it take? How much does it cost?
4. Are there opportunities for part-time training while learning on the job? Apprenticeships?
5. Which courses offer the best contacts into the industry?

Employment

1. What are the job opportunities that exist in the field? Who are the employers?
2. How easy is it to get a job/start your own business in this field after completing your training?
3. How large is the demand/market? What is the future of the profession?
4. What is the average earning potential?

Career changers have a number of options when it comes to sources of help and advice. My recommendation would be to start with the following and see where it takes you...

1. People in the profession...

They will have the benefit of experience and hindsight as well as current and future trends so this is a valuable port of call. Since your plan may be to work for yourself, be sure to talk to both those who have done that successfully as well as to people employed by companies. Although you may feel uncomfortable about asking for information (British reserve and not wanting to be a bother!) you'll find that generally people like to help. Besides it's flattering to be asked! You can find people in the profession to talk to by

a. Using your network of friends and family
b. Contacting companies/professionals in the field whose work you admire
c. Contacting educational institutions and asking them to put you in touch with their graduates

2. Potential Employers

Find out about the best ones from people in the profession, career guides, associations etc. Search the internet for top 100 company listings etc.

3. Re-training

Approach employers and ask for advice, again, search the Web, check out schools and colleges etc.

4. Career guides

You can get these in public libraries. They give you a valuable starting point including profiles, earning, training, associations and sources of further information. Also take advantage of career guidance websites like Connexions and Learn Direct.5, Industry Associations and Regulatory bodies.

5. And of course (where would we be without it!) Google and the internet

Research can be quite overwhelming to begin with, especially when you find yourself flooded with information. Keep clear in your mind what you're trying to find out and after the initial glut you'll find yourself getting much more clarity. I would recommend '360' research - in other words getting your information from as many different angles and people as described above so you get a truer picture of the reality, requirements and opportunities of the profession. You can also ask some of these sources to suggest other similar related fields for ideas you may not have considered.

It's helpful to do some initial basic research about the profession yourself before talking to people so you are more informed, feel more confident about asking questions and can target your research intelligently. That said, ignorance is a privileged position, so maximize it by being unafraid to ask all the questions you need.

Also, manage it. Give yourself targets and stick to them. Always remain clear about what you are trying to find out and what you need to learn to decide whether it's for you, so that you can commit and get started. Research can very quickly become unwieldy, it's easy to head off on endless tangents, so reign it in with clear aims both in terms of vital information needed and achievable deadlines. Set yourself daily and weekly targets and build a portfolio of information.

Lastly, train your brain. Starting now, think of yourself not as what ever you do now - but as if you are already in the role you want to be in. This will transform the way you communicate, you will exude confidence and a can-do attitude, and who knows you may be the first person people think of when that peachy job appears on the horizon.
About the Author
MaryAnne Clayton, Head of recruitment and careers, Computeach - With over 40 years of experience in the IT Training Industry, Computeach provides innovative and truly blended learning solutions to a wide range of customers looking to obtain IT skills. For interviews, images or comments contact: Rosie Gallagher Marketing Communications Executive Computeach International Ltd Email: rosie.gallagher@computeach.co.uk
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