How to change career: Here’s what you need to know

Career changes can be scary, but they don’t have to be. No matter how old you are, and even if you’ve only ever worked in one field, it’s possible to make the change. And you should, too, because it’s been reported that 6.5 million UK workers are unhappy at work and that’s no way to spend your life.

If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do but you’ve become stuck in your career path, read on and learn how to finally do what you’ve always dreamed of. Learn how to change career.

Do you really want a career change?

We all have good and bad days. It’s part of life. Therefore, you should make sure that it really is a career change that you want, and not just a long break. Is it possible that you’d enjoy your current career if a couple of things changed? If so, it’s worth trying to work these things out, perhaps with your manager, before divebombing into a brand new career path.

Remember: this isn’t just a job change, it’s a completely new career. If you’re happy with your actual career path but not your current job, maybe a job change would be simpler and more effective. But if you’re absolutely sure that a change of direction is what you need, keep reading.

What do you want from your new career?

You’re here because you want a career change, so there are obviously things that need to be different in your new career. What is it that you want? To utilise different skills? A different environment, such as going out and meeting clients instead of staying in an office? Or a career path that allows more flexible working hours, or homeworking?

Jot all these ideas down and make a list. Start thinking about which career paths could provide you with some or all of the benefits you desire, and remember to think about the negatives of any career paths that come to mind. Nothing is 100% positive, after all. There will be some drawbacks.

Can you afford a career change?

We’re not saying you should stay in a role you hate just to get by, but there are some important realities to consider. Starting a new career path means going back to square one again, and potentially taking an entry level role with an entry level salary and entry level benefits; it’s entirely different from just changing jobs.

Make sure you can earn enough to support yourself, and your family, if you have one. It might be that you need to cut your expenses to make it work. How can you do that? Figure out how much money you need every month or year, and go from there.

How’s your professional network?

One of your greatest allies in changing careers will be your professional network. Your contacts might be able to point you in the right direction by telling you who’s hiring or by recommending you for jobs you might like. Try speaking to your family, friends, and ex-colleagues. Do they have any leads? You’ll never know who has a friend of a friend until you ask.

If you don’t have many professional contacts, consider joining a business networking organisation like BNI in the meantime. BNI involves groups of businesspeople who meet every week to promote their business and meet professionals from other trades.

We know that you’re looking for a career change, and therefore you probably don’t want to promote your current career path, but it’s a great way to meet people and gain some much needed professional contacts.

Do you need any training?

Starting a new career path is likely to involve learning new skills. These might be skills of the trade, or more formal qualifications. Ask yourself: could any of the skills I need be applied in my current career? If so, you might be able to make a case to your employer, explaining how the extra training could benefit them, and get them to pay for it.

If it’s a formal qualification you need, try looking for a part-time college or university course. These can sometimes be done in the evenings, allowing you to keep your current job while you work towards your qualification.

It’s also worth checking out The Open University, through which you might be able to do a distance learning course at your own pace. You could also try the services we offer at CV-Library; we have a variety of online courses available, covering everything from accountancy and bookkeeping to IT and networking.

Could you use your current skills?

Learning new skills is great, but you can save yourself a lot of time and money if you apply the skills you’ve learnt thus far to your new career path. For example, if your new career will involve managing people, try to think of any management skills you have learned through your current career.

Be sure to think of examples, too, that you can call upon during an interview. The skills don’t have to be identical; just try to find any similarities.

Applying skills from your current career will make the transition to your new career path much easier. But that’s not all. If you can prove your level of experience to a new employer, you’re less likely to be thrown into an entry level position — which will hopefully circumvent the ‘entry level salary and benefits’ problem. Win-win.

What will your new career path be like?

You’ve thought about what you want from your career change, and you’ve worked out how much you need to earn. You know exactly what training you’re likely to need, and you’ve thought about how you can make the most of your current skills. Perhaps you’ve even thought of the perfect career move. Great! The next step is to apply, right?


Remember, this is a big step. To make sure it’s the right one, consult your newfound professional contacts. Do any of them work in the field you want to move into? If not, do they know a friend of a friend who does? If you’re lucky, you might be able to shadow someone for a day or two to get a feel for what your new career path might be like.

Even if you don’t know anybody who works in the field, you could still do some shadowing. Reach out to local organisations, stating that you want to shadow someone for half a day, a full day, or longer. Explain who you are and what you aim to accomplish career-wise by doing so.

Our guide to cold-contact cover letters might assist you with this process — just tweak your letter so that it’s about shadowing, and not applying for a job.

How are your job-hunting skills?

If you’ve been on the same career path for a long time, the chances are that your job-hunting skills are a little rusty. Make sure your CV is up-to-date. Learn how to write a cover letter and how to interview well. You’ll be up against plenty of other candidates, so you need to distinguish yourself. Use your experience to your advantage — the other candidates are likely to have less than you.

If you have any questions about how to change career, please feel free to get in touch on Facebook or Twitter.

About Kieran Barker

Kieran is a Junior Content Writer at CV-Library whose job is to produce engaging, high-quality content for the company's Career Advice page. When he's not writing, you'll find him raving about his favourite technologies and bloggers.
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