How to change career (when you don’t have any experience)
Realizing that a job (or industry) isn’t for you, and deciding to make a change, can be very difficult, especially as you get older. Here’s the thing, though, if you’re thinking about it enough, it’s probably something worth doing. When you feel like you’re in the wrong place it can be discouraging and depressing; you stop caring and giving it your all, which can have a negative impact on your company and career prospects (to say nothing of your mental health). Why would you want to spend your career this way?
The happiest employees are proud of where they work, and find meaning in what they do, and if that doesn’t seem familiar to you, it might be time to reconsider your job and career. Yes, changing now can mean some big life changes, and that’s scary. But as the poet E.E. Cummings once said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
Here are some reasons why now might be a good time to make a career change:
- You bring your network with you.
Mid-career, you’ve likely met a lot of people, and have an established network of contacts who can help get you in the door in a new industry or company. They can also introduce you to key decision makers, reducing the amount of time you need to spend at the bottom of a new industry or company.
- Some skills are transferrable.
Although you may lack specific industry experience, you’re already well-versed in the ins and outs of the working world. You likely have a solid understanding of what it takes (i.e.: soft skills) to navigate and adjust to new teams or working styles.
- You may end up earning more.
Making a career switch could help you increase your current compensation, and in time, even push you into management roles you never expected to find yourself in.
So where do you start? Honest introspection is a critical first step in figuring out what direction you want to go in. This will require a good deal of due diligence and a lot of research. Ask yourself, what is it that really excites and motivates you? Do you need a different work environment? What sort of day-to-day tasks do you prefer? Is there an industry that really interests you? Once you have the answers to these questions, you might start to see a pattern emerging. When you do, you’re ready to take the next step.
Here’s how to set yourself up for a successful transition:
- Get out there.
Attend industry networking events in the evenings or seek out lunch and learn sessions near your current workplace. Make use of networking sites as meetup.com or LinkedIn to find professional interest groups and employers in your area. The more time you spend researching a field, the better equipped you’ll be to decide if it’s a fit for you, and the deeper your professional network will be in that specific area at the outset.
- Take on a temporary role.
Not only do temp roles offer the chance to “try out” a variety of workplaces before making a commitment, they also help you get your foot in the door of a new industry or field. Consider working with a recruiter that specializes in your field. They can serve as your eyes and ears during the search and provide insight into positions that best match your objectives.
- Get skilled.
When you’re starting out in a new career, you might need to hit the books. A little research can help you understand if any credentials or courses are needed. Don’t be put off by this. Yes, it might take some time to get where you want to go, but it is worth the effort. Professionals who earn and maintain certifications make themselves more marketable to employers, and are more likely to rise up to leadership positions.
- Meet with a pro.
Informational interviews are an opportunity to meet with someone who is in a role or company you’re interested in. These are a great way to gain real-world insights, learn about the position and what it involves, and ask about any educational certifications or courses they’d recommend. As an added bonus, if you make a good impression on the person you meet with, it can possibly give you an advantage for future job openings, or lead to referrals to other contacts or opportunities. At the very least, you’ll be building your network.
If your career just isn’t doing it for you, you owe it to yourself (and those that have to live with your post-work grumpiness) to do something about it. It won’t happen all at once: Courage is about persistence; it’s about making progress, step by step. Figure out what you want and what you need to do to get it, then take a deep breath and get going.
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About Dianne Hunnam-Jones
Diane Hunnam-Jones is the Canadian president of Accountemps, the world’s first and largest specialized accounting staffing agency for accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals.