Ask Boo – How to Switch Careers
I’m currently at a complete loss about where I go next in my career. I’ve been with the company I work for currently, for over seven years. Which feels like a lifetime!
But I’ve lost interest in what I do, and have no idea what to do next. Any ideas would be much appreciated.
First of all H, I have to commend you on spending seven years at one place, there must be good reasons you’ve stayed, and I’m sure it’s a massive struggle to think about taking a leap. After spending five years at a job; I one day realised that I was bored and had no idea what to do next.
Because let’s face it, it’s not just the practicality and financials of switching jobs that can generate the stress. Suddenly you can be overcome with self-doubt that you’re not worth hiring, you don’t have the best qualifications and that if you switch you’ll be useless and sacked within days.
I took the jump, and have never looked back. So, I’ve listed below tips on what I would suggest for anyone looking to make a career change, along with some tips from others who have done it, and a handy checklist to get you on your journey to that new career.
Pour yourself some coffee, because it’s about to get serious!
Find What You Love
In all honesty, I bloody hate when people say this. – “Find what you love.”
Yeah right, like it’s that fucking easy.
The truth is, this is probably the hardest part, and what you love doesn’t always the pay the bills. So let’s be realistic about this for a moment.
The reasons it’s good to know what you love doing in life is because if you can’t make a career from it, your career should include elements of what you enjoy, or at least enable you to make time for those things.
For example, I work in digital marketing. I find it fascinating and enjoy many elements of it, and it gives me the flexibility to enjoy my hobbies. While I never would have said I love digital marketing, I can say that about my career because the company I work for provides me with so many elements of those ‘loves’.
As I said, this is the most difficult part, so let’s break it down into two columns. One for those things you enjoy doing in a work environment, and those things you enjoy doing in general. For example, mine would look like this;
Now at first you’re probably thinking, – “how on earth does this relate?”
But now look back over it. My current role combines almost 80% of all the things I love. I write for a day job, I get to use my socialising skills for meeting new clients, I get to be creative on projects, and as I manage people, I get to help others. All while I can finish my day job at a reasonable time and enjoy a good run or go out for dinner with friends. The company I work for also organises regular social events and culture days, so I’m constantly learning new things and enjoying new experiences.
If you can’t make a living from something that you love, find a career that includes as much of it as possible.
On the other hand, if you know you’ve got a passion that you really want to make a career out of, go for it. There are many people, like those I’ve featured in this post that have found a career doing something they adore. Whether you want to bake for a living, make candles or write a novel.
No matter the path you wish to take just remember that every job has an element of crap that comes with it. As much as social media would have you believe, there’s no such thing as the ‘perfect job’, so think about what you’d also be willing to put up with, and make a conscious effort to note down non-negotiables.
What do I love? The question is what do I love enough that I don’t mind the shit sandwich that comes along with it -Elizabeth Gilbert
Give It A Try
My question about any job has always been – “but is it really THAT good?”
Because how do you know it’s going to live up to your expectations unless you’ve tested the waters.
We don’t commit to anything else in our lives before knowing what’s expected of us and whether we like it; relationships, buying a house. But with a job, we’re just expected to window shop and accept it at face value, without trying it on to see if it really fits. Yet, it is what we spend most of our lives doing!
But again, it doesn’t have to be like this if you’re committed to finding the career version of ‘the one’.
I’ve been religiously following the pursuits of Emma at 25Before25, who’s made a radical sabbatical to try 25 jobs before she’s 25, in an effort to truly find what she wants to do for a career.
Quite frankly it’s inspirational, and while I know many of us may not be able to take a year out to test our dream jobs, we can still take a day or two to give it a go.
I know it might sound absurd, but if you’re serious about a job, why not contact someone who’s there and spend a day shadowing them and learning what it’s all about. Surely such a life change is a worth a few days of your holiday?
Whether it’s an essential ‘must’ for getting the job you want, or to give you a boost of confidence on your career path; getting educated can be the best thing you can do.
Before starting my role in digital marketing, I went on several courses to get a better understanding of what I would be getting myself in for.
I know you’re probably thinking – “but I don’t have the money for expensive courses!”
Well, it’s 2017, and the beauty of the internet means that many educational tools and resources are free.
Of course, there are some career paths that will require a costly education. Such as accountancy or something of that nature. But more often than not, many of these courses are ‘pay-as-you-go’ – the same way you would finance a car. Enabling you to gain an education in the comfort of your own home, without a crippling outlay of thousands of pounds.
Alternatively, if your career requires less formal training, there are a number of well-established educational platforms that are run by UK universities and companies, which provide you with free or minimal cost training. A few of my personal favourites which I have used include;
Future Learn – https://www.futurelearn.com/courses
Guardian Masterclasses – https://www.theguardian.com/guardian-masterclasses
While I’m a self-confessed nerd with an addiction to personal development and continued learning, don’t forget that qualifications are not everything.
If you can show that you’re a dedicated individual, who’s passionate about learning, then any company would be willing to have you.
After all, people buy into people. Show them what you can do, and the world is your oyster!
Find a Mentor
If you’re truly struggling to find a direction in your career then why not find a mentor who can guide you.
And I don’t necessarily mean one you have to pay for. I mean someone who you look up-to who can give you solid advice and actionable help.
It’s all well and good having a therapist or a counsellor, but what you most probably need is a role model who can point out what you should be doing. Ie getting on LinkedIn, helping you decide which course is best for the role, improving your interview skills etc.
Unfortunately, I don’t have first-hand experience of finding a mentor, but I do have a number of women in my life who I have met through various local networking groups, who I go to for professional advice when I need it.
Avoid Recruitment Agencies
I hate to make an industry look bad, but in my personal experience, recruitment agencies have never worked for me. Not only do they try to pigeon hole you into what you’re already doing, but they do not have your best interests at heart.
For example, when I was looking to switch careers, they just didn’t get that I didn’t want to do the same thing I had been doing for the past five years. And they still do not understand the importance of culture in companies.
When I refused a role because the company appeared to be slave drivers, ie the boss turned round me to and said – “if you’re here at 9 and leave at 5.30, we’re going to have problems”- The recruitment consultant said that I should perhaps think about my work ethic!
If you’re looking to switch careers, I would say – avoid like the plague!
Remove Negative People
It sounds harsh, but sometimes those around you, are holding you back from being your best self.
And you know exactly the ones I’m talking about. The doubters, the negative nancies who don’t understand why you would want to change or how you’re going to do it when you don’t have relevant qualifications.
These people are the ones who live a life of fear and are simply jealous that you even have the balls to try and do something you really want to do.
I experienced this myself. An ex-partner was petrified of me changing jobs. He thought I was just having a bad time and it would pass, and that I shouldn’t because what if I get less money or get sacked within a few months.
Basically, he was fearful. But what it also did was put doubt into my mind and make me lose confidence in myself. And no-one on this earth should do that to you!
Whether it’s friends, family or partners. Be firm about what you want from your life, and don’t be put off by them. They do not live your life, you do.
Organise Your Financials
Money makes the world go round, unfortunately, so if you’re considering switching jobs, there is always the consideration of what you’re going to earn.
The truth is, you may have to take a pay cut in order to get into a career that leads to a happier, more motivated you.
The best way to handle this is to work out exactly how much you need to live on. No, not live a champagne lifestyle, but a basic lifestyle that can get you by.
How much do you realistically need to survive on?
What can you cut back on? And how long could you live like this?
By taking the pressure off trying to hit a certain salary bracket, you might just find that many more doors open, and you feel less fearful about switching. And don’t forget, that with drive and hard work you may eventually get to that pay bracket after a few months.
Whatever you do, don’t make your switch about money. It’s the worst thing you can do.
Why? – Because money motivation doesn’t last long, and before you know it, you’ll be switching jobs like hot dinners.
In my eyes, no amount of money can make a shit job bearable.
Career switching isn’t about money; it’s about building a role that you enjoy and works for your lifestyle.
As well as getting practical, and taking some real steps, be brave.
Having the confidence to change your life for the better is a very brave thing, because there is constant doubt and worry that things won’t turn out for the best.
But you have to put this mental conference to one side and remember why you are doing it, and envisage the life you want to lead and the way you want to feel.
We’ve all had the dreaded Monday blues when we’re in a job we hate, but don’t let it get to that point.
Life is too short, and I’m a strong believer that we can make things happen if we want to.
If you’re still umming and ahhing, then I’ve listed below some of the useful videos and books that will give you the kick up the bum you need, as well as my very own checklist to get you on your way.
When Breathe Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Pivot by Jenny Blake
Blogs and Articles;
I truly hope this collaborative advice has helped. And if you have any suggestions or tips, please leave comments below.