The shock and disruption the Coronavirus pandemic has caused, is prompting many to rethink their careers. But as a recent article in the Harvard Business Review mused “is this really the right time?” Before you go too far in your pursuit of new opportunities, it’s worth taking time to reflect on why you are really wanting the change. What is really driving your decision to seek other options? Factors such as a poor relationship with your boss, a long commute and unhappy working environment are common reasons for seeking a new direction.
I have made a career change myself; I spent 20 years as a secondary school science teacher and have experienced first-hand, the highs and lows of knowing you want a change and working through how to make it happen. In this article I will cover some of the things to consider before making a drastic (or not so drastic) decision to completely change career.
How big a change?
I mentioned some issues above that could be resolved with a relatively small change to your circumstances. For example, if you had a poor relationship with your boss, could you work for another team in your organisation or move to another company and keep the same role? If the commute is getting you down, are there roles being advertised nearer to where you live? Does your company have offices in different locations, and you could transfer there? It’s worth trying to pinpoint exactly where your unhappiness lies with your current job situation.
What are you seeking?
If you have established that it IS the job or career path that is the problem, the next step is to establish what is missing from your current work and what you want from a career that you’re not getting. Have you ever taken the time to think about your skills, strengths, and ideal working environment? Do you know what you value in a job and an employer? Has that changed since the last time you considered it? What would you like to be doing during your working day?
A word of caution here, beware the draw of unfinished business, the job you always thought you wanted. As a teacher I helped train numerous mature entries to the profession who “Always wanted to be a teacher”. Many of them found the reality of day to day life in a large modern comprehensive school to be very different from the dream they had of the role. Also, you may now have to consider factors about your situation such as relationship ties, paying the bills and what’s available where you live unless you are willing to relocate.
In the Guide to Finding a Graduate Job you will see a section about searching for work in a particular location. In some towns and cities certain industries dominate, while others are under-represented. Needing or wanting to work in a specific area may not match with your career choices so do your research. Work out how you will get to work, the costs and how far you are prepared to travel so you can look beyond the immediate locality.
Once you have settled on the direction you want to take, it's now time to start making connections, yes - the dreaded NETWORKING! You are maybe wondering how that is possible whilst working from home under lockdown? Back again to the Harvard Review article
“The golden rule of networking for career change has always been to mobilize your weak ties — that is, the relationships you have with people you don’t know so well or don’t see very often, in order to maximize your chances of learning things you don’t know already.”
There is a valuable tool available to you that can help you to do this: Bath Connection. Bath Connection is an e-mentoring site with over 1,500 alumni. You could use this to find out about different career paths along with this careers resource which talks you through online networking through Bath Connection and LinkedIn. All easily done from the comfort of home.
Next on your list is getting job experience. Remember back to those trainee teachers I told you about? They found out the hard way, how working in a school is very different to being a pupil in one. You will be expected to train in a variety of settings that may be very different to the one you attended yourself. By shadowing someone for the day, volunteering or doing internships, you will have a much clearer understanding of the career you are considering and can go ahead with your plans with your eyes open to all that it involves.
Covid-19 and career change
What if you are considering a career change now, because of Covid-19? Are you a student giving up a career in the hotel management sector as there are hardly any jobs? Maybe you had plans to work in aerospace engineering. Seeing the news stories about Airbus and the impact on the airline industry as a whole is maybe causing you to reconsider. If this is you I recommend that you take a look at our Get Started: Career Options guide.
You do not have to give up on your Plan A, but instead have a think of what plan B or C could be. It may be possible to achieve your career goal albeit by a more winding and indirect route. There’s no need to "give up" on what you want to do, because of the situation we are currently in. It does pay to be realistic though and realise that there may not be many jobs in those sectors for a while. Think back to your reasons for wanting a career in that sector in the first place, if those reasons still hold true for you then it’s time to consider a more squiggly career path!
Sarah Ellis and Helen Tupper present a podcast called “Squiggly Careers” which covers a variety of useful career related topics. They point out that many people believe that to be successful at work you need to climb the corporate ladder, but argue the world of work is less traditional than it was and there are other ways to achieve career success.
Manage your expectations
Finally, career change takes time. It could realistically take 6-12 months to make the transition and even longer if it involves extra studying and training. It’s important to manage your expectations with regards to your job title and very likely a lower salary, at least to begin with. Take your time to test out your ideas based on facts and getting experience in the “real world” of that job and sector. Work out the small positive steps that move you closer and closer to your goal and don’t forget the Careers Service can support you in a 1:1 careers appointment.