What to consider when making a career change

The pandemic has prompted soul-searching among UK workers about where their career should go next, but what do you need to think about when considering making a change?

After an unpredictable and turbulent year, many workers will find themselves moving into uncharted territory. Research undertaken by Aviva in April found that 60 per cent of UK workers were planning to make a change to their careers, while 9 per cent intended to follow a completely different career path and around 12 per cent want to turn their hobby into a part-time or full-time career. 

All represented increases over the levels revealed in its 2020 survey, indicating that the coronavirus pandemic has prompted many to reassess their careers. Widespread redundancies too have left many workers pondering what their next move should be. 

For those contemplating a career change there is help available. The publicly funded National  Careers Service provides free professional careers information and advice in England for all adults  and young people. The sortyourfuture.com website helps people identify good career options. Then there are career guidance professionals, like members of the Career Development Institute (CDI), who  provide bespoke advice on a private basis. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for some of their time to help you determine if it would be a good fit for you and what the routes into this career may be

Various factors can prompt a career change from a desire for more flexible working, greater job satisfaction or an increase in salary. According to Dave Condle, president of the CDI, a lack of fulfilment at work is the biggest trigger for career change. “Once there was a pervading attitude that work wasn’t supposed to be fun. We’re not in that mindset now and usually people want to find something they’ll really enjoy and which will  support their lifestyle,” he says. 

Finding the right job for you

Those unsure of how to approach a change in career should start by analysing their interests, values and skills. Condle advises: “Once you do that your ideal job and what will be appropriate for you will become much clearer.” He urges people to do something that truly interests them. “Even if you’re good at something, you may not want to make it the focus of your career,” he says. “Many people also define themselves by their existing job title and underestimate what their transferable skills may be.” 

Time usually needs to be invested in investigating what a possible career entails and what  opportunities it may offer. Professional and trade associations can provide helpful information, including what qualifications may be needed for a particular career, but personal networking can be vital.

“You may have friends or contacts involved in or with links to the career you’re considering,” says Condle. “Don’t be afraid to ask for some of their time to help you determine if it would be a good fit for you and what the routes into this career may be.” CVs must be carefully crafted before you enter the job-hunting fray, he advises. “Focus on your skills, values and achievements, not on your past job titles and roles,” he adds. 

Shadowing someone in the career you have in mind or working in it for a short time is particularly  helpful, as Peter Jerrom discovered. A maths graduate, Jerrom worked in foreign-exchange trading in the City of London, but long working days and international travel left him little time for his wife and children. 

Hearing Now Teach co-founder Lucy Kellaway speak on the radio sparked his interest in teaching as a new career. Now Teach helped Jerrom be an observer in several schools. “That helped me see if teaching was what I really wanted, and could, do,” he says. “Dealing with a class of young people is different from being with your own children and needs another mindset.”

With the help of Now Teach, Jerrom found a placement at Oasis Academy Shirley Park, Croydon, as an unqualified teacher until he  gained his teacher’s qualification in 2017. He now heads its year 12. “You must ask yourself if you have, or can acquire, the skills required for the potential job. Maths, time management and data were skills I could transfer, but I needed to develop more empathy,” he says. “I learnt, for example, that a  troublesome child may have difficulties at home.

“Teaching is still a high-pressure job, but I’m excited by it and have more time for my family and good holidays.’ 

Stick to what you know

Finding a new role within the industry in which you’re already working may be the answer. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development reports that teachers frequently move into learning and development positions in a range of  organisations. Others may want to start their own business. 

Helena Winter-Brown headed an events team for a high street bank at London’s Canary Wharf, which she enjoyed but the long commute from her home in Hertfordshire left little time for her family. She wanted to run her own business and one that would help other women who wanted to work flexibly. 

Spotting an afternoon tea tent at an event gave her the idea to establish Dottie About Cake in 2017. The business now delivers afternoon teas locally, supplies them for private functions like weddings, sells afternoon tea hampers and hires out vintage china. 

Winter-Brown works with ten local women who bake for the business and support its events across  Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. She also has a tea room in Potten End, Hertfordshire. “I still work long hours, but going to work each day is pure joy,” she says, urging people  to find a career that is meaningful for them. “My career change wasn’t just about a business idea. I had something else I wanted to do too,” says Winter-Brown. Her advice to others who want to switch careers: “Just do it.”