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Thinking about a Career Change?

by Tahira Majothi on July 7, 2011

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future”.
John F. Kennedy.

In recent months I have seen numerous people who wished to talk about their career and by association their fears, frustrations and hopes. They had different personal reasons for reaching this pivotal moment, ranging from being stuck in a rut, facing a possible redundancy, being overlooked for a promotion, feeling undervalued and being unsatisfied with their career direction to date. All of them however came to the same conclusion, something had to change.

If you also find yourself in this situation, I hope some of the following tips will help you to move your career plans forward or at least get back on track. Who knows you may come to view this juncture as an opportunity rather than a threat.

1. Will you still feel the same way tomorrow?
What has led you to think about a career change? Is it possible things will be different tomorrow? It may be that your job is fine the majority of the time, but something needs addressing. Take the initiative when it comes to your professional development. Remember Managers are very rarely mind readers! They may think everything is fine if you do not speak up for yourself!!

2. Know your rights!
If you are facing a redundancy or wish to explore options such as a career break, a secondment, or working across areas within your company/Institution, it’s important to know your rights. Check the terms and conditions in your contract and if possible speak with your Manager, HR Department, Union Rep or colleagues in other departments to see what options are available. If you would like impartial advice, contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), your local Law Centre or the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), who can also help if you need to discuss finances, budgets and benefits.

3. Skills Audit
Whether you decide to stay with your current employer or move on, you should undertake a skills audit. A skills audit can clarify how realistic your aspirations are, what you have to offer an employer and identify any gaps in your skills or work experience. The simplest way to do this is by using a visual aid e.g. a Mind Map using headings such as work, academic/qualifications, interests, friends, network etc or a SWOT analysis. You can also look at our handout on Transferable Skills, the Prospects Planner Careers Quiz or alternatively use the Skills Health Check on the Next Step Careers Advice website. In addition, your CV should also be updated on a regular basis to reflect your most recent experience and skills.

4. Research! Research! Research!
Think about the career opportunities open to you. Do you have a career in mind or are you undecided and looking for inspiration? Visit the Graduate Prospects website to look at options with your degree or specific occupations. You can also research job profiles on the Next Step website.

5. Network
When considering a career change it is really important to make time for people in your network. This may be family, friends, colleagues, social media networks etc. You may have heard of the expression six degrees of separation, think about people in your network, who do they know, and who do the people in their networks know and so on. This is a great way to draw moral support but also inspiration in terms of career ideas as well as potential work experience or job opportunities. Fiona and I have previously discussed the benefits of Twitter and LinkedIn on this blog, but there is also a great post by Tristam Hooley on Vitae’s website: Using social media to support your career.

6. Work Experience
Work experience can be of value when looking for work or considering a career change. It is a great way for you to contribute to your local community, extend your network, build up transferable skills and give you a routine when job seeking, which can help your mental and emotional wellbeing. Work experience or voluntary work is also valued by employers, some companies may have an employee volunteering scheme in place. If you want to know more about how to get started, look at our website or the Graduate Prospects website as well as organisations such as Time Bank and Do-it.org.

7. Enterprise or Self Employment
Have you considered working for yourself? If you have an idea and would like to know if it’s feasible as a business venture, check out our website , the Graduate Prospects website or this Guardian article on setting up your own business to help you get started.

The BBC’s Newsnight programme recently ran a show titled ‘Job Market Mentors’ which paired up entreprenuers and business leaders with public sector workers facing redundancy. There were some really useful tips and insights.

8. Visit the Careers Service!
When it comes to making any significant decision in life it is important that you speak to seasoned professionals who can offer you impartial advice to help you navigate the road ahead. Resilience is key, alongside enthusiasm, flexibility and tailored CVs and applications.

I would advise you to take the above points under consideration and follow up by speaking to a Careers Adviser. Contact your University Careers Service, if you are a University of Salford Student or Graduate, our contact details are here or alternatively visit the Next Step Adult Guidance Service.

Photo source: o5com, http://www.flickr.com/photos/o5com/5302862115/, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Chris July 8, 2011 at 7:43 am

Very interesting blog post. The careers service has been invaluable to me over the years! Also agree that in this competitive job market, any work experience you can gain will be useful.

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