Want to change career direction? Here are the five steps you need to take

Have you fallen out of love with your career? Think you want a change but aren’t sure what to do? Here are five steps you need to take.

Changing career can feel hard, or even impossible, especially if you’re not sure what career you would like to change to, or you’re worried about ‘throwing away’ the years you have invested in your current career. 

The first thing to understand is that it’s normal to feel this way. Many people feel guilty about the fact they are unhappy with their chosen career, that they should be grateful for the job they have, or that they are being indulgent for wanting something more fulfilling. 

But it’s okay to want to change. In fact, it’s a good idea to start exploring the idea of changing career instead of ignoring the fact you feel miserable at work. Here are five steps to help you take action.

1) Check that the problem is your career (and not something else)

The first step is to make sure it is definitely your chosen career that you are unhappy with and not something else. Sometimes there are things that can be fixed by a frank conversation at work, or move to the same role in a different company.

The key questions to ask yourself are: Would I start enjoying my career again if:

  • I had a different boss?
  • I did the same job but in a different company?
  • I was putting in more effort to feel part of the team?
  • I had a new project to work on?
  • I could change my hours, so that they are more flexible?
  • I had some additional training to update my skills?

If the answer to all of the questions is, “no”, it’s time to start thinking about which career to change to and move onto step two.

2) Work out your strengths

Your strengths are the skills that energise you and that you find yourself using effortlessly. The fact that they come to you easily means that you may not even know what they are, or that they are skills other people don’t always have.

If you pick a career that allows you to use your strengths on a regular basis, you are far more likely to feel happy at work.

A simple way to work out what your strengths are is to ask friends, family and colleagues to write down the things they think you are particularly good at, and to give you examples of when they’ve seen you using your strengths. 

(The Talented Ladies Club Career Audit takes you through a series of exercises to help you identify your strengths and passions.)

3) Explore career ideas

Now that you’ve worked out what your strengths are, you will realise they can be used in a wide range of careers.

If you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed about which new career to choose, there are some easy ways to start coming up with ideas.

Try not to get hung up on the idea that there is one ‘perfect’ career out there just waiting for you to find it. The key thing at this point is to be open-minded. Some easy ways to begin exploring career ideas:

  • The Prospects site is aimed at graduates but has a job match quiz that is a useful way of generating career ideas based on your skills, values and interests, no matter what stage of life you are at.
  • Use your network to learn more about different careers. Ask the people around you to tell you about their career, what it involves, how they got into it and what advice they have for anyone thinking of moving into it. 
  • Track down the professional association for the different careers that are interesting to you e.g. the CIPD is the professional association for HR and the CIM is the one for Marketing professionals. You can find a handy list of most of the associations on the Total Professions website. They usually have useful career information, descriptions of the different types of roles available for their profession and some even provide free events, mentoring and career advice for their members. 

4) Do some ‘grown up’ work experience

Once you’ve narrowed down your career ideas, it’s time to test them out. Remember the work experience placement you did when you were 16? Think about how much more valuable and effective it would be to arrange some work experience now.

You will probably have to do this unpaid but it will be worth it in the long run. Not only does it help you to test out your career ideas, it is a great way of making more useful contacts and if you’re really lucky, could even lead on to a job offer. 

Another way to reframe work experience is volunteering. Finding a voluntary role using the skills you need, or in the area you want to move into can give you valuable experience and contacts too, and demonstrates commitment to your new career direction.

5) Put a plan in place for making the change

Depending on the new career you have chosen, you need to put a plan in place for moving into it.

From your research in steps three and four, work out what you need to have on your CV to increase your chances of moving into the role. Do you need to retrain? Do you need to take a step down the career ladder, or make a sideways move? Who in your network can help you make the move and which recruitment agencies are the best to approach?

Set yourselves deadlines for updating your CV, speaking to your contacts and regularly contacting recruiters. If you find it hard to take action, share your goals with a friend and ask them to hold you accountable to them. 

Ready to find a career you LOVE?

Life is too short to stay in a career that you no longer love (or perhaps never did). And as impossible as it may feel to escape the rut you’re in, it is possible to not only identify a role you’re much better suited for, but to actually land it.

Yes it will take work and maybe even some time, but if you’re determined and committed, and follow these five steps, you can (and deserve to) find a career you really love.

Fay Wallis is the owner of Bright Sky Career Coaching, and a member of the CIPD – before becoming a career coach, she was an HR Business Partner and has an MA in Human Resources Management, find out more about Fay here or via her website.