Is Your Job Getting You Down? Here’s How to Start Again and Change Careers
Significant birthdays can make us do funny things.
Two months before turning 50, my mum decided to buy a caravan and my dad decided to shave off his hair. Three months before turning 30, I quit my job as an Assistant Head Teacher.
Where-as in previous years I may have shrugged off that niggling voice that said something within my working life needed to shift, the turning of a decade actually forced me into action. So I walked away from a “job for life”, a role I’d slogged for six years to achieve, and decided to start again at the bottom of a new ladder, pursuing a career as a writer instead.
If you, too, are contemplating a new start, here’s some advice on how to control the process and actually change careers:
Before you make a big career change it’s worth taking the time to reflect on what it is you don’t enjoy about your current job. Is it the work itself or the workplace? Are the things you don’t like about your job things you have the power to change? I left teaching having worked in three different schools and realising that the parts of the job I didn’t enjoy were not things I could change simply by making a sideways move within the same profession.
By the same token, ask yourself if you are you being realistic about what your new career will offer you. What I wanted from freelance writing was flexible working hours and the opportunity to write – and that is what my new career has provided so far. I’ll be honest, though: before I started I’d pictured spending my days wearing oversized shirts and knitted hats and sipping flat whites whilst tapping out my views on the latest political scandal. The reality is that I spend a lot of time writing copy for the back of matchboxes and articles on gardening tools – although I do get to drink a lot of coffee, and my time is my own.
Once you’ve made the decision to start a completely new career, you need to make a plan. As tempting as it may be to resign on the spot and storm out to an Aretha Franklin song you can hear playing in your head, you do need to strategise your next steps. For about a year my husband and I talked about our “managed retreat” from teaching. We put away money each month and started building up contacts long before we’d even written our resignations. Research the routes in to your next career – do you need to retrain or pick up some relevant experience?
And whatever industry you’re hoping to enter, I recommend having some savings. Starting at the bottom of a new career ladder may mean a cut in pay, so whether it is money for training or a safety net so you know you’ll be able to eat during those first few weeks, start putting a small amount away each month. Future you will thank you.
Ask for advice
Once I’d decided to pursue freelance writing, my first step was to email other bloggers, journalists, and freelancers asking how they got into the field. Most were more than happy to share their story and offer some advice. A couple have maintained regular contact and even adopted a sort of mentoring role. In fact, it was through emailing for advice that I secured my first paid job. So get trawling Facebook (yes, this is official permission to stalk!) as there will be someone already working in the industry you want to break into. Then invite them out for lunch or coffee and start building up that group of contacts.
Make social media your friend
Got a dormant LinkedIn account that could do with some attention? Now’s the time to get that up-to-date. Not only does it ensure your skills and details are permanently available to potential employers, but also it’ll send you relevant vacancies and put you in contact with a whole host of industry experts. Start following relevant Twitter accounts, too, and using industry hashtags to build up your followers.
NB: Before you start using social media in a professional capacity, check your previous tweets for anything you wouldn’t want a future employer reading. Apparently my “eating naan bread and mango chutney in bath = winning” tweet didn’t do much for my career prospects…
Believe in yourself
Whilst this sounds like something you might see written on those magnets your mum’s friend Linda collects, it is true. It takes guts to change careers and you should feel proud that you’ve taken the step. There will be times when it feels slightly overwhelming, so make sure you have a supportive network of people around you. Research carried out in 2010 found that nine out of ten Britons regret rushing their career choice, so congratulate yourself for being bold enough to break away from a job that you didn’t enjoy.
It took turning 30 to force me into action, but you don’t have to wait for a milestone birthday to make a change – you can start now. Nearly all this advice can be acted on before you’ve even got as far as deciding what sort of font you’ll write your resignation letter in. So, the next time that little niggling voice pops into your head, listen to it. Unless of course the niggling voice is telling you to share the details of your bath snacks on Twitter, in which case you can go right ahead and ignore it.