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How to change careers - at any age

Feeling stuck in the wrong career? It’s always a good time to find the career that’s right for you, and make the switch. Read our step-by-step guide.

How to change careers - at any age

Many people choose a career in our early twenties, or as teenagers. But how are we to know at that age what our interests, passions and skills will be later in life? It’s completely normal to reconsider your career. In fact, a career change made later in life, with all the self-awareness you have gained, is much more likely to be a good match for you.

Here are a steps to take before you take the bold leap and switch careers.

1. If you're 35 or older

Good news! If you are you 35 or older, are looking for work and wanting to retrain or upgrade your skills, you may be eligible for a fee-free place in a TAFE NSW course.

Mature-Age Workers Scholarships are connected with courses linked to skills shortages. Courses are at a range of levels, so you can choose the best fit for you with all the support you need. 

As part of this program you'll also have the opportunity to access study support and counselling, and receive all the other amazing benefits that TAFE NSW students have access to. 

2. Take support where you can

Changing careers can be great, but no one is promising that it’s the easiest thing to do. There will be challenges. So when there’s help available, grab it.

Many people avoid changing careers, concerned that it will render their career, up to this point, a waste. Remind yourself that your time spent learning is never wasted, and having a wide breadth of experience can even give you an edge over steadfast career specialists.

Take your skills with you. The skills and knowledge you have gained through working, volunteering, or previously studying, can give you a head start in your TAFE NSW course.

ScholarshipsRegardless of your age or other circumstances, you deserve the chance to create a better future through education and training.

Career counselling. The TAFE NSW Counselling and Career Development Service is free, and is designed to help you succeed in your studies at TAFE NSW, as well as in your chosen career.

2. Be inspired

Look around you. People change careers and love it.

After years of trying to find a career that she could love, Rebecca studied Building Design through TAFE Digital.

“With the support of my family, I gave up my career of nearly 15 years in administrative roles,” says Rebecca, pictured.

Her studies included low–to-medium density residential and commercial building design projects, from conceptual design, through to working drawings with a focus on sustainability. 

“This was a great choice as I am now a qualified building designer and I thoroughly enjoy my work.”


3. Self-assess

Take the time for some soul searching. Think about what it is you enjoy, what it is that you're good at, and what it is that you find meaningful in life. Then write it all down. Organising your thoughts is immeasurably easier once you have them down on paper. Be sure to refer to your experiences when doing this.

You may like the idea of data analysis, but it’s more reliable to have done data analysis before, and have found it engaging. Think of some of the most satisfying work you have done, and try to identify patterns or common elements. Maybe it’s creative writing, or working with young people. Be comprehensive, and relate it to more than just your paid work. Frances Hesselbein became CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA after volunteering for years as a troop leader.


4. Make a list

Get brainstorming. Now that you know the kind of attributes you are looking for in a career, you can research jobs that fulfil these criteria. Consider your family and friends’ careers, take a look at job boards, read the biography of someone you admire.

If you get stuck, you can always speak to a careers counsellor, who can certainly point you towards suitable options worth exploring. It’s just a starting point, so don’t be afraid to include some out-there ideas.

5. Eliminate

If you’ve done things right, the list you have right now should be a little too long, and there are probably way too many options to properly investigate them all. 

Rule out the career options that just aren’t feasible, there will always be some in this category. Maybe they require a level of education you can’t commit to, or there are limited opportunities in your region. That’s ok, we’ve got options to spare.

6. Dig a little deeper

Now that you have a manageable list of new career options, you can delve deeper into each.

So you can really understand what you might be getting yourself into, find out what people in those roles do on a day to day basis. You could speak to people in your network with the right knowledge, or even reach out to someone in the industry via LinkedIn.

Tell them you’re considering a career change, and ask for an informational interview. This is your chance to ask all the questions you have been wondering about, and to get an honest answer from someone in the know.

7. Re-skill

Now you should be pretty confident about the new trail you want to blaze. Start looking into classes, short courses, or even degrees that you can study which will help you gain the appropriate knowledge for your new career. 

With over 20,000 industry connections and hundreds of courses to choose from, TAFE NSW will help set you on a path to career success. 

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