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In the wrong job? Here are 6 tips on how to successfully change career

Why wouldn’t you make a career out of what you really love? asks Peter O’Connell.

Peter O'Connell

IT’S A FRUSTRATING time when you realise your current career isn’t turning out to be what you want it to be, and what you had hoped it would be.

You’re in a situation where you can feel stuck because you can’t see another option, and you have to keep working because you have commitments, a mortgage – maybe even more than one, bills, etc.

When you started out you had aspirations, and now these seem long in the past. Or maybe you have no option because of redundancy, or the job that you are doing is changing and you are going to be put in a new role that you foresee will be unsatisfying.

Perhaps you are even at a stage in your career when your mortgage is almost paid off and you are in a position to consider pursuing a career that you would really love, and revenue is not a critical issue.

So where to from here?

You start looking for new work and a new career using the same old channels that you’ve always used, job websites, recruiters, the media.

You try to get potential employers to see that your “skills” and “experience” are transferable from one industry to another. And you get the same responses  “you don’t have specific sector experience and that’s what the employer is demanding”, “our client is very specific about the experience required…..” Now you’re stuck. Or are you?

There are a number of steps that you can take to improve your chance of success in changing career:

1. Try to articulate what it is that you want – sounds easy, but when I ask people, they often find it very difficult to answer. Or else, the answer is just a pipe dream – winning the lottery, not working ever again etc. We know what we don’t want, rather than what we do want and this actually is a good start. If you can begin to articulate what are the areas in your current or past work life that you don’t want to continue, this is a step along the way to your new career.

2. What do you enjoy doing? Review your past work, what areas do you remember positively? It sounds a little bit fuzzy, but actually it is critical. If you can clearly identify the things that you really enjoyed doing, you will see that your performance at that time was strong. So if you can firstly identify those areas, and secondly, identify the skills that you were using at that time, you are beginning to identify you own areas of expertise;

3. What are you passionate about (and not just in work). I know that this sounds a little bit like an emotional issue, but when you are emotionally invested in your job or in what you do, you will be more committed and you will perform better and be more “satisfied” in what you do.

A really simple example – you’re working in an office all day in front of a computer or on the telephone all day, but you’re actually passionate about the outdoors and fitness. You look to what you really enjoy as a way to forget about your “day job”. So why wouldn’t you look to see if you could make a career out of what you really love. I know, it sounds simplistic….if only it were that easy….the reality is that it can be done. What stops you is the fear of change.

4. Identify a mentor – what stops us changing is the fear of change. We paralyse ourselves with the “what if” questions. “What if it doesn’t work?” “What if I fail?” “What if I’m not good at it?” A really effective way of beginning to address these questions is to identify a mentor or expert who can assist you answering them. And not just a friend who is going to say “yes” to you. Perhaps the mentor is someone who is already working in the area that you want to get into, someone who can positively challenge you, and share their experience and expertise with you.

5. Don’t just immediately jump in, plan – one of the most important steps in any career change is that of planning. In many successful career changes, it doesn’t happen overnight. If you expect it to, you may well be disappointed. It is essential that you plan your career change. Sounds obvious I know, but it’s critical. There are many issues that need to form part of your plan, some of which are:

a. Set goals and timing for each goal

b. Set review dates, when you objectively look at your progress and make clear decisions to continue or not

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c. Set objective and realistic success criteria, e.g. turnover, net income

d. Use your mentor to challenge your goals and independently review your progress

6. Review, without bias – The risk in any planned career change is that we become so emotionally invested in what we are trying to do, we find it difficult to admit when something doesn’t work, and we keep going. It is vitally important that you regularly review your progress and make realistic decisions.

I’ve changed careers more than once. The first time was as a result of going through redundancy, and the second time was because I planned the change based upon seeing a business opportunity where I could apply my own professional expertise.

The first was challenging and frightening, because I worried about failing. The second was equally scary, setting up my own business , but was done in a planned fashion, with clear set goals to measure progress. So far, so good.

Know your skills. Sell those skills. Be persistent.

Peter O’Connell set up his own business to proactively support people in building and managing their own careers, following on from personally experiencing redundancy and career change from large multi-nationals and SMEs – “by taking ownership of your career, you can achieve success” – peter@careerdevelopmentassociates.ie 

Read: Here’s what graduates need to do to get a job*>

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Peter O'Connell

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