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Top tips for a successful career change

Throwing in the towel to embark on a different career can be daunting. Here are a few tips to prepare you for the transition and improve your chances of scoring that dream job.

By TAFE Queensland

It happens to a lot of us. That dream career you’ve worked so hard to build starts to lose its shine and you get filled with those niggling ‘what ifs’. The drive to change careers is different for everyone. For some it's spurred by boredom while for others it’s a shift in values or the need for a lifestyle change. It can be a daunting prospect to throw in the towel and embark on a different career with different people and a skill set you may not yet have. Here are a few tips to prepare you for the transition and improve your chances of scoring that dream job.

Figure out the whys

Why do you want to leave your job? Are you unhappy with your colleagues, the culture, or the industry in general? Keep a work diary for a week or two and record what makes you unhappy and what drives you. This will help you narrow down the attributes you’re looking for in a new career and remind you of the skills you already have. Tracking accomplishments is also handy when it comes to updating resumes or preparing for job interviews.

Where to next?

Think about what you'd like your new career to look like. Are you looking at changing roles but staying in the same industry, or making a fresh start altogether? Write a wish list for your job and another list with the skills you already have. It’s important to be realistic about how a new career will affect your lifestyle. For instance, a job that requires frequent travel may not be ideal if you are raising a young family or have other regular commitments.

Assess what you’ve got

Leveraging off your current career capital can make the leap a lot easier. Your years of experience may be all you need to make a lateral move into a different job with similar skill sets. Regardless of how big a career change you’re making, employers in all industries highly value skills in effective communication, problem solving, creative thinking, and rising to challenges. Listing these attributes, and examples of where you’ve shown them, will help to sharpen your focus as well as getting you interview ready.

Phone a friend

Look through your contacts. Do you know anyone who is already working in your dream job? Take them out for a coffee and ask them to give you a realistic run down of what their job entails and what skills they deem most necessary. A warts and all approach will help ensure your expectations are realistic. And reaching out to someone in the industry will help you start to build valuable networks that may help land you your dream job.

Back to school

Do the research to see if you need extra qualifications or recognition of prior learning. You may be able to get credits for previous qualifications or life experience. And even if you aren’t quite ready to take the leap, start trawling through job ads. They will give you a good indication of what level of qualification is industry standard.

Network, network, network

Now’s the time to flex that LinkedIn muscle. Make connections and follow influencers in your chosen profession. Read everything they write and share relevant articles and ask others for their input. Be seen as someone who's passionate and engaged both online and in real life. Find meetups or info sessions and attend conferences and lectures — don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to anyone and everyone. Find out if there are volunteer opportunities and try them out. You never know when you might meet your new future boss.

Track your happiness

Check in with yourself every step of the way to assess how you’re feeling. Does your career change fill you with dread or excitement? Does your research feel like a passion project or homework? Let your research take you on tangents and find that fine line between using your head and trusting your gut.