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new year new me

'I went from football to finance': How to change your career (and your life) this year

Meet one man who did just that – plus expert advice on making the leap.

IT’S THE START of a new year, and often this inspires people to make changes in their lives – be it big or small.

One major move that many are eager to make but are too afraid to follow through with is a career change. We all know people who have settled into a career from which they receive no satisfaction. Maybe some of us are those people.

One man who took the leap of faith is Meath native Chris Doran.

In the mid-2000s, Doran finished school and headed straight into a career in carpentry. After a couple of years, an opportunity landed at his feet to play professional football in Ireland.

James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

He juggled both careers for a number of years before being hit with a number of bad injuries and the economic crash of 2008.

From there, Doran decided to pursue a career in Computer Science. He told that he was always interested in maths and analytics but didn’t even own a computer at the time. Nonetheless, Doran was adamant to make a shift in his career and he enrolled in the National College of Ireland (NCI).

“I was driven but I still had doubts in my mind. I knew when I went into the NCI course that there would be all of these programming languages that I would have to learn,” Doran said.

“I didn’t have any experience in any IT stuff so I was really nervous in that end of it but at the same time I was determined that I wanted to do something with my life,” he said.

Chris Doran has since graduated and secured a job as a Quantitative Credit Risk Analyst with Bank of Ireland - going from crunching tackles on the pitch, to crunching numbers in the world of financial data.

chris doran Chris Doran at his graduation from NCI

“Going through a career change, you never think you’re going to get out the other side,” he said. “But I was delighted to get there in the end.”

So, why are people so afraid of making the big move? has spoken to a number of career advisors and specialists to find out why some people are apprehensive about making a change like Doran did.

Jane Downes from Clearview Coaching Group told that people are often ”afraid of the unknown and afraid of rocking the boat”. Careers consultant Ronan Kennedy agreed – saying that being unhappy in an industry can knock back someone’s confidence and leave them with a cloud of uncertainty above them.

There’s a solid reason behind that fear of change. Years ago, career paths were simple. People were expected to leave school, find and job and climb the ladder in their career until retirement. Some lucky people ended up in jobs they enjoyed, others just dealt with the card they were handed.

But according to Paula Coogan, career consultant with the Quarter Life Coach, the mindset of jobs for life is almost archaic.

“This mindset that you start at the bottom of the ladder is obsolete,” Coogan told The ‘lilypad mindset’ is the new trend in how people are beginning to tackle their long-term careers.

The new way of looking at it is the lilypad mindset. It’s to image your career as this pond and it’s full of lilypads and that you’re job hopping from one pad to the next. This is the modern-day workplace.

Unsplash Unsplash

But why should this year be the year to make this change? 

One of the main factors behind the fear a move is an uncertainty of whether companies will take notice of someone entering a new industry for the first time after years in a completely different industry.

However, as more and more people begin to take the lilypad mindset into consideration, companies are taking note and accepting those who wish to take the leap.

Careers Officer at Griffith College Dublin Garry Sheelan said: “Most companies who have experience of graduates coming in and experience of more mature graduates can see the value in both categories.

“If you’re going to have a team of people reporting to you, you don’t want everybody to be of the same mindset. The more people you can have on your team that have different outlooks and different values… they’re all adding to the company.”

How to make this year count

With that in mind, Jane Downes had some direct but encouraging words of advice for making this year count.

“People are tolerating something that they shouldn’t be. The reason they need to change is that another year will go by and suddenly it will be 2019 and they will continue to live with tolerating something that’s not right for them. It becomes an energy drain when careers aren’t going well,” Downes said.

So what do I need to do to make a change?

The first step anyone who has even a slight itch to leap to another lilypad should take is to make a written step-by-step plan of their goals and aspirations.

“I would always encourage people to have a plan and to write that plan down. It’s not that you have to stick to it, you can always come back and make changes, but it is important to have strategies written down,” Gary Sheelan said. A written plan will help focus the mind and pinpoint exactly what it is you want to achieve.

There’s also research. Before walking away from your current job to begin afresh, Ronan Kennedy saidit’s vital to do extensive research into the field you’re interested in.

The first thing you do is find someone who is in the industry you can model yourself on. Find out what they’ve done, what they’ve learned, find out their skills and see if you could do what they’ve done because you’ve seen a proven track record already.

For this, LinkedIn - a business and employment-oriented social network – can be a goldmine.

“You make yourself employable by taking that risk and connecting with people,” Paula Coogan said. “[It's] showing that you understand the company, that you understand what the challenges are and how you can support them. You need to be able to sell yourself.”

‘Let your career speak’

So confidence is key. “Anyone who has worked in a business area has skills in negotiating, in being a team player, handling pressure, just remember that you can bring those skills with you,” Downes said.

It’s up to you to sell yourself. If you see yourself as starting from scratch, then employers are going to see you as starting from scratch. Make the most of what you have.

And finally, for many wishing to make a drastic change returning to education is a must in order to upskill.

Shutterstock / Ollyy Shutterstock / Ollyy / Ollyy

Every career consultant and specialist we spoke to had one unanimous opinion – it’s not always financially feasible to return to full-time third-level education, but that’s okay.

Returning to part-time education can be just as beneficial as full-time because it can be done in the evenings or on certain days of the week, and by doing this people can remain in the safety net of their current job while still upskilling and progressing.

Downes ended with a short, but encouraging piece of advice:

My final bit of advice is to make this year count. Let your career speak. The way you do that is by allocating time to this. If you don’t allocate time, you won’t get anywhere because life is busy.

And describing his own successful career change, Chris Doran said:

It doesn’t matter what background you have, where you come from, what you’ve done, never be afraid to push yourself to the absolute limit. A few years ago I didn’t even own a laptop. Now, I’ve an honours degree in Computer Science.

“You can go so far and achieve so much when you put your mind to it.”

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