Career Changers – A Retrospective

Over the past seven weeks, we’ve spoken to people who have decided to change their lives for the better, by finding the right career fit. Some of them knew what they wanted; for others it has been a gradual evolution. There were also those who had no idea what to do next – they just knew they needed to stop what they were doing. This week, we’ll take a look back at common threads throughout these journeys, and what might inspire you to become the person you really want to be. If you want to read all seven interviews, you can find them here.



What do I do next?

Three of our interviewees decided to go it alone and forge their own paths, whether that was starting their own businesses in the case of Kit and Emine, or imagining an ideal job and persevering until that job existed, like Olivia W. In the stories of all three, they were already doing well in their first career, but it wasn’t enough for their job satisfaction – they wanted to be in charge.



Others wanted to retrain in order to work in a ‘helping’ environment, like Andy and Paula. In a society where digital communication and remote working means we are hyper-aware of our own isolation, it’s understandable that we would feel that urge to connect with and have an impact on others in a meaningful way.



The other direction that we discussed, with both Olivia A and Emma, was a de-stressing of their work environment. With a role high in pressure comes an inevitable need to switch off, and they both found places they could do this which, although arguably less ‘prestigious’, gave them satisfaction in other areas.



Why would I change?

We started out this series with a broad idea of the reasons that people might want to redirect their working lives; more money, more prestige, a better work-life balance, a forced change from redundancy. As it turns out, most of our interviewees cited bad mental health and stress as their main reason; Kit remembers a particular train ride where she realised she needed to stop, and Emma was crying every day.



Our instincts let us know when the time is right for change, and often that’s enough of a reason. But if you’re wavering, or just a bit bored in your current role, it’s worth thinking about the practicalities. When you sign up to Stay Nimble, you’ll get access to data from our partners at Burning Glass, who can give you expected salary ranges, risk of job automation, and what’s in demand in your local area.



What might stop me?

To be honest, a lot of practical things. Most people we talked to spoke about a severe reduction in finances during their transition, and the uncertainty of a new industry. It’s sensible to make a financial plan for the worst case scenario, and to build up a buffer if you aren’t moving straight into a salaried role. There are also internal worries, such as feeling you may have made the wrong decision, but with that comes a whole new network of people who understand what you’re going through. Paula states that “the people I’ve met have kept my spirits up, especially when I felt like quitting.”



As Emine points out, “Obstacles … are not isolated events, they are continuous and neverending.” This might sound negative but it can be quite reassuring; life is full of challenges whether you make major changes or not, so if the risk you’re taking is informed – for example, you’ve done some of our Stay Nimble tests so you know what kind of job you might thrive in, and you have examined whether that work is available to you, and what new skills you need to learn – then you’re in the best possible position to deal with whatever life will throw at you.



What can I learn?

Many of our interviewees found they were using a lot of the skills they had already developed, and were just formalising that skill level, or adding on complementary learning, such as Olivia W, who was knowledgeable about the games she ended up working on, as well as her existing editing and organisation skills; Kit, who had been training in Pilates in her spare time and took a long while to realise she could do it as a job; and Olivia A, who came from a problem-solving environment and was able to apply that easily to a completely new industry.



On the other hand, we read about examples of completely retraining. Andy pivoted from being a classroom teacher to learning all about digital technology on the job, whereas Paula went back to education to be retrained all the way to postgraduate level before entering her new career. With a whole world of new skills and roles out there – including jobs that don’t exist yet – your horizons really are wide open.



How will I feel?

This goes back to the obstacles you might face. Everyone has a different position in the world, socially, financially, physically and emotionally, and your experience will be unique. Kit, for example, was surprised at how long she felt stressed after quitting her job, whereas Emma having much more free time meant she could plan additional creative outputs such as writing and podcasting that were excellent for her self-esteem. But if you plan carefully, if you make decisions based on what feels right as well as using any data you need, then determination and adaptability will be the things that keep you feeling positive.



In every single case, our interviewees felt they had made the right decision in switching careers. They are all happier, and while not necessarily all goal-oriented, they are in the place they feel at their best.



So how do I do it?

If you’ve decided that changing career is the right move for you, there are endless resources out there to help you with the move. You could start by reading our article on returning to work after a break; it may not describe your situation, but some of the considerations are the same. Then, why not sign up to Stay Nimble? We offer tests that can help you determine what might be suitable, and we ask the right questions so we can point you in a direction that works. With the data we offer on what’s in demand in your local area, and with a coaching approach to help you plan your skill development, as well as qualified careers advisors on hand for more in-depth guidance, you’ll have all the information you need at your fingertips.



Stay Nimble brings direction, focus and purpose to your career. Grab your free profile.



Author: Katherine Stephen

Katherine is a qualified careers advisor and a member of the Career Development Institute. She has just begun a PhD programme to research meta-skill development in the workplace, and is a fiction editor and publisher in her spare time. You can find her on Twitter at @katobell.

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