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Nine Steps to Making a Mid-Career Change

14 November 2011 at 11:19 am
Staff Reporter
Long gone are the days when people expected or wanted the one job for life. Here are some tips to make the transition to a new job smoother.

Staff Reporter | 14 November 2011 at 11:19 am


Nine Steps to Making a Mid-Career Change
14 November 2011 at 11:19 am

Long gone are the days when people expected or wanted the one job for life.

Lack of opportunities for career advancement, poor pay or a lifestyle change are some of the reasons why people mid-career decide to seriously change track.

But it can be daunting making such a big leap – after all you have probably climbed the ladder accruing skills and experience in your current area and you may also have financial commitments with a mortgage or family to support.

Here are some tips to make the transition smoother:

Be real about your current job

Is there really no room for you to change or grow? Some jobs offer oodles of potential if you look hard enough: you can make the role your own and push it in exciting new directions. Other jobs have natural boundaries and set tasks that can’t be shifted. If you are in a role that doesn’t allow much room for growth then it may be worthwhile speaking to your HR manager about other opportunities within the organisation. If you work for a large company is there the opportunity to retrain within that company for another role?

Ask yourself also – is it the work that you don’t like, or is the work environment?

If it’s the work environment you find toxic you should ask management if it’s possible to either resolve the situation in your current team or be seconded outside the office on a project or be transferred to another office or department.

If you are working with a lovely, supportive team that buy you cake for your birthday and make you tea in the morning – then you need to investigate the source of your malaise further.

Are you simply having a bad week?

Maybe you are just having a rough patch, where life seems dull and work is boring. It’s easy then to visit job websites and imagine things would be so much better if only you worked in a completely different profession. But how deep do these desires go? If you’ve always wanted to be a social worker but you’ve ended up in marketing – where you have stayed unhappily for 15 years then it may be time to think about a career change. But if you’re just having a slow week then don’t do anything drastic.

What do you want to do?

This is the big question. If you are going to make a radical career change that will most likely result in a loss of income and time off for you to retrain or study then you need to be sure about what it is you want to do.

A life coach can help with setting direction, as can speaking to people who have made a similar switch. You need to be dispassionate when you make such a big decision and be realistic about your dreams ie – wanting to be a travel writer when the market for travel stories is shrinking.

Take a contact out for coffee

One of the best ways of working out whether a new career if for you is to find someone who does the job you want to do and take them out for coffee and a chat. They may be a friend of a friend or someone who you find on the internet through a professional association.

Finding out from someone already in the field about the true nature of the profession – its pay, pitfalls and opportunities, is important before you take the plunge.

Most people will be happy to share information with you- and can give you an idea or what further study may be needed.

Be clear on the requirements for your new career

Find out through professional associations and research if you will need to update your qualifications to make a career transition.

You may need to do a TAFE course, or a whole new degree. Contact the university and find out if previous study counts towards the new degree.

Work out the cost of studying and assess if it’s going to be worth the investment of time and money.

Work experience for grown ups

A great way of assessing whether your dream of a new career could be a reality is to spend some time during your holidays doing work experience or an internship.

People of all ages and stages do internships. Trudy, 42 wanted to make the shift from hospitality to publishing. She enrolled in a 1 year course at RMIT which had a work experience component at a publishing house. She enjoyed the internship so much she has signed up to do a full degree in publishing, and is planning further internships at other publishers to bolster her CV.

Don’t make any sudden moves

It’s much harder to get work when you’re out of work. If you have done your research and are serious about a career change, talk to your current employer about going part-time and use the rest of the time to retrain for your career change.

Get your finances in order

Starting a new career can often mean starting at the bottom again. See a financial planner before your income takes a dive. Work out if you can keep up with rent or mortgage repayments on a reduced salary.

Adjust your lifestyle

It may be that you have to move to a cheaper house, your spouse becomes the primary breadwinner or you have to forgo your annual holidays for a while.

Have a long, hard think about whether it’s worth it. We spend so much of our time at work, it’s important to be happy. If you are going to make a radical change, do so with a cool, clear head.


Brigid Delaney is the former editor of the My Career section in the Sydney Morning Herald. She has worked as a recruitment consultant and written a series of career guides published by Fairfax. She is the editor of Pro Bono Australia.

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