Considering changing careers? Answer these questions first

Are you thinking of changing careers? Not sure how to go about it? Don't worry, we can help get you on the right track.

So, make yourself a cup of tea (or coffee), grab a pen and some paper, or your laptop, and make yourself comfortable. It's time to ask yourself some key questions, make a plan and take action.


Why am I doing this?

Is it your job you hate or is it your career that's the problem? There is an important distinction here. You may be struggling or stressed at work because of a particular environment/boss/co-worker/workload. It may not be your actual career itself.

You need to separate the career you're in, from your current workplace. Narrow down what it is in particular that you're struggling with. Once you know that, you'll know whether you need to just change workplaces, address an issue in your job, or whether you need to look around for a new career.

How's my attitude?

Complain: we all do it. Whether it's having to get up early, the bad weather, or the annoying habit of a co-worker, there's always one thing that will annoy you.

What you need to work out, however, is whether the urge to exit is being driven by a real desire for change, or by a bit of a bad attitude.

Bad attitudes can develop for a number of reasons, and sometimes they become so ingrained that they are habitual and we don't know we have them.

If you find that you look for faults, focus on negatives and tend to be overly critical both in life and at work, you may have unwittingly developed a bad attitude.

It happens. However, adjusting your attitude can help quell your restlessness at work. When you find yourself being critical or negative, stop and acknowledge that it's happening, and then try to find one positive thing in the situation to focus on. The more you practice this, the more you'll find your attitude gradually shifting.

Is there someone behind this?

Don't change your career if it's simply to please someone else, or because you see someone else's successes and want to emulate them. Remember, we are all different, what is right for someone else may not be right for you. You may just end up miserable.

Also, make sure that you don't jump ship because you are drawn to the flavour-of-the-month industry. Trends pass, but careers stick around. What is popular today may be far less enticing 15 years down the track.

You should choose a career because you genuinely love it and because it suits who you are as a person.

What do you really want?

If you've gotten through the questions above, and have decided that you do need to change careers, your next step is to work out what you now want to do for a living.

Ask yourself the questions listed below. Remember, this is not a test-it's your life. So take your time with this and really consider your answers.

  • What are the most important things to me in life?
  • What are my values?
  • What interests me?
  • What makes me happy?
  • What gives me satisfaction?
  • What do I like?
  • What don't I like?
  • What am I most passionate about?
  • What are my proudest accomplishments so far?
  • If I had no limits, what would I do?
  • Who do I admire and why?
  • You may start to see some patterns emerge. For instance, if you value spending time with your dog, you're inspired by someone like Steve Irwin, and you are happiest when you're helping, then the chances are you may actually love a career as a vet nurse, not a bank branch manager.

    Look for these patterns. Play around with ideas. You may stumble upon a career path that you never thought of before, but that is actually perfect for you.

    Now you need to have a think about the practicalities. Ask yourself:

  • What responsibilities do I have?
  • What type of lifestyle do I want?
  • How far do I want (and am I prepared) to travel for work?
  • How many hours do I want to work per week?
  • These practical questions will help narrow down your job path. For example, if you already have tons of commitments, getting a full-time job may not be realistic. You may be better off with part-time work, a job that lets you work from home, or that allows you to work at unconventional hours.

    What type of environment do I want to work in?

    Group Of Businesswomen Working Together In BoardroomThis is an important element in job selection. You spend a lot of time at work, so where you work and who you work with, are very important to your mental and physical health.

    Consider what type of office environment you want to work in (private offices, cubicles, open plan, remote work) and what type of team (or no team at all) you want to work with.

    Once you have a ‘wish list' you can narrow your search to companies and business cultures that meet your requirements.

    What are you willing to do?

    Are you willing to start at the bottom of the career ladder and work your way up? If you're starting a brand new career, this may be something that you have to do.

    How much are you willing to be paid?

    This is a big one. Make sure you check out the rates of pay for the industry you are interested in, including entry-, mid- and upper-level wages. Can you live on these wages with your current expenses and lifestyle?

    Also, make sure you look at the future of the industry. Is it a growth area? A steady job arena? Or is it an area in decline? These are important considerations when looking at the lifespan of your new career.


    What can I offer?

    Portrait of young student wearing headphones sitting at the table in library and reading book. University student finding information for his academic assignment.Now you know what careers you want to explore, you need to work out what transferable skills and knowledge you have that would fit these roles, and where you need to pick up new skills.

    Make a list of where you meet the new career requirements and a list of where you don't.

    For your transferable skills, work out a way to translate them into language that fits your new career.

    Where you have skills gaps, work out how you can pick up the new skills you need. Perhaps you need to do a short course, a long course or a particular qualification? You will need to investigate these education requirements, looking at course options, costs and time commitments.

    List of wants for the new job

    Make a list of all the ‘wants' you have for your new career. Consider:

  • Location
  • Company culture
  • Pay
  • Career advancement
  • Lifestyle flexibility
  • Use this list to narrow down your job options and set some boundaries and parameters.

    What companies do I want to work for?

    Do some research into companies that you are interested in. Investigate what they have to offer you. Make sure that they align with the job wants that you have defined above (location, pay, culture). You may also want to do a quick Google search to find out what current and past employees have to say about their experiences with the company.

    Bank some savings

    Start to bank up some savings. You will need them. A career change will cost money. You may need to pay for qualifications, professional associations, travel, networking, new work clothes or equipment. You may also need to cover lost earnings if you are taking a pay cut by starting at an entry level position.

    After all, you don't want to be worried about missing bill payments as you are embarking on a new career adventure.


    Now you know why and where you're going, it's time to take action.

    Round up your squad

    Have a think about people who could help you reach your job goals. Do you have any friends or family in the industry that you can talk to? Are there professional networks and associations you can join? Can you have a friendly chat with company HR departments about potential positions?

    Think far, think wide and mobilise your career squad! The more people that know you are looking for work, the more chances you'll have at finding a job.

    Update your pitch

    You will need to update and rework your resume, finding ways to transfer your skills into a new career setting. Make sure you add in any relevant study, professional associations, or volunteer work you have done.

    Work out a two-line pitch to sell yourself with, both at the top of your updated resume and in job interviews.

    Your pitch should briefly weave in your job background but focus on skills and strengths and how your experience makes you a perfect fit for the role.

    For example: ‘I am a web designer who takes pride in creating user-friendly experiences and clean, branded pages. Having a background as an art teacher, I am able to bring creative flair and an extensive knowledge of design history to my work, giving it an extra edge.'

    Volunteer or intern

    A great way to get some experience under your belt and work out if the job is for you, is to volunteer or intern a day a week. You may need to cut back on your paid work or other activities, but it's worth it.

    Volunteering or interning will get you work experience, networking opportunities, an insider's view of the industry (before you make the full career leap), and may even land you a permanent role in the company.

    You can find volunteer or intern positions by calling up companies that you are interested in and offering up your time, or by hopping on to job sites like Seek and Indeed and looking through the volunteer and internship sections on the sites.

    Final thoughts

    Ultimately, when considering a career move you need to be sure that the grass really is greener on the other side.

    Spend the time and do your research to make sure that the job you're moving into is really going to make you happy, that it will provide enough money to live on, and will give you a healthy work/life balance.

    By taking the time to properly research and plan your career leap, you may save yourself from moving into a job that will wind up making you unhappy.

    Have fun with it, open yourself up to possibilities and move forward with confidence.

    Meanwhile, if you're looking for a way to boost your skills, or to fill a qualification gap, check-out the TAFE NSW courses that will give your career the edge here.