lifestyle

Yes, changing careers is actually possible.

Yes, you can change careers. Here’s how.

When I announced I was leaving the law to study journalism, most people looked at me like I’d just decided to divorce my husband to audition for Married at First Sight.

“But… you have a secure job with a shiny glass office,” they’d say. “We’re recovering from a recession, and newspapers are dead, and won’t you just end up writing dodgy PR emails as an unpaid intern forever?”

Adding to those less-than-charming prospects were the thought of having to start at entry-level all over again and sadness at coming to grips with having ‘wasted’ six years of study.

But I did it anyway, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Grace, senior current affairs editor at Mamamia.

I don’t work in a slick city skyscraper anymore — but I get to write about things I care about, I regularly interview fascinating individuals, I’ve found ‘my people’ at work, and I get a little flippy excited feeling whenever I think about my job.

Honestly, I only have one regret: Not abandoning that shiny glass office sooner.

So if you’re considering a career change yourself, I say: Go for it. Just plan for it first by following these basic steps.

1. Work out whether you dislike your career – or just your job.

It’s a whole lot easier to seek a new role within your current industry than change careers altogether – so do not, I repeat, do not change careers before ruling out if that bored, restless, frazzled feeling is all down to your current role.

Have you searched for similar positions at a different company? Have you asked for a promotion, if you think you deserve one, or a role with different or more challenging duties?

Have you searched for similar positions at a different company? Have you asked for a promotion, if you think you deserve one, or a role with different or more challenging duties? Try that first.

2. Get over disappointment at your ‘false start’.

It’s a bummer to realise that you’re probably not going to use that accounting/science/fine arts degree you originally completed. But look at it this way: at least you’ve narrowed down your vision of where you’d really like to be – and you’ll now likely have an ‘edge’ to your CV, plus a set of transferable skills that’ll be helpful in your next career.

Better to cut your losses now, right?

3. Identify what, exactly, you want to be doing instead.

This step is key. Don’t just leave your old career because you hate it; find something that you’re confident will engage you, and make that new career your motivation.

Not sure where to start? Ask yourself what you’d do with your life if you had all the money in the world (no, you’re not allowed to answer “swanning around in the South of France.) What motivated or thrilled you when you were younger? What do people often tell you you’re good at?

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What did you love when you were younger? What did your parents say you were good at?

People tend to excel at things they enjoy, so that’s a good starting point for success.

4. Do your research.

Research the qualifications and experience required for your dream job, and gain some reasonable expectations of the salary and workplace environment you’ll be looking at.

Then arrange some ‘informational interviews’ with contacts already in the field – don’t be afraid to reach out to friends-of-friends and old schoolmates and offer to take them out to coffee. It’s a valuable way to learn what it’s like to actually work within your considered profession, and how to get there; (as an added bonus, this step will allow you to network with people who might just hire you later down the line.)

5. Upskill (or reskill).

Draw up a list of skills required for the new career, including formal degrees, less formal certifications, and personal characteristics. (If you’re totally lost, ask a career consultant what you need to get where you’re headed.)

Then audit your current skills and abilities before working towards bridging the experience and skills gap between your old profession and your desired one.

Grace, graduating from her postgrad degree.

This step might involve taking night classes while you’re still at your current job, dabbling in a free online course (see Coursera.com,) or learning a new language. Do what you’ve got to do to get qualified.

6. Get some experience.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but you’ll quite likely have to start your new career at a lower level than your current role – although your previous experience might just fast-track you through the ranks later on.

Volunteering’s also a way to get references for your CV – and hey, it may even get you noticed as a potential hire.

I strongly suggest considering some volunteer or internship experience in your desired industry; this will give you a feel for you’re in for, before making a big investment. Volunteering’s also a way to get references for your CV – and hey, it may even get you noticed as a potential hire.

7. Go for it.

Once you’ve planned, researched and prepared like crazy, it’s time to take the leap.

For some people, “moonlighting” – getting a part-time casual role, freelancing or taking night classes – is a less threatening way to transition to a new career.  For others (me, for example) it’s too distracting to have a foot in both camps; in that case, consider quitting and committing fully to the degree or entry-level job you need to begin your transition.

You’ll need guts and grit, and you’ll probably doubt yourself at times. But repeat after me: It can be done.

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