Five expert tips to help you change careers.
Leaving behind an established position for the great unknown midway through your career can feel a lot like being asked to jump from a moving train: frightening, risky and unpredictable. For advice on how to navigate unknown professional waters we spoke to three experts: Daniel Thorpe, manager of Langara College’s Continuing Studies Business department; Kevin Evans, CEO of the Industry Training Authority; and Richard Beed, vice-president of recruitment with Telus Corp.
Chase your passion
All of our experts agree that the most important thing to consider when embarking on a mid-career change is your own happiness. “If you are going to make a change, it’s got to be something that you have passion for,” asserts Thorpe; otherwise you could end up right back where you started: unfulfilled at work and fantasizing about what could have been. For Beed this means considering the position you’d like, and the type of company culture you’d like to work in.
Ask for help
When he left his job as a CBC journalist in 1996, Evans turned to a career coach to help him prepare for his new gig, a choice he describes as invaluable because it helped him to “take stock of where [he] was at, both personally and professionally.” Beed seconds the importance of sourcing outside advice, saying that feedback from co-workers, bosses, friends and family helps form a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses.
Focus on your strengths
While acknowledging your weaknesses is important, focusing on them rather than your strengths can be fatal to your confidence and career aspirations. Beed stresses the importance of finding a job that highlights the things that you do best. Thorpe sees this as especially important for middle-aged employees who have skills that may not be easy to recognize: “organizational, emotional intelligence and general skills. Those are benefits that someone who’s old enough to be doing a mid-career change often has.”
Jumping into a new position full-time can be daunting, if not impossible in a slow economy. At Langara, Thorpe sees more and more professionals starting the change on a part-time basis. This could mean consulting or volunteer work – anything that lets an individual become immersed in a new industry and hone new skills.
Give it time
If you don’t immediately find the job you’re looking for, don’t fret. “It can take anywhere from one month to 18 months to find something,” comments Beed. It’s more important to take the time and look carefully to find the right fit than to decide on something quickly, only to have regrets later. For Evans it helped to “think of jobs as stepping stones, not final destinations,” which can take some of the pressure off when you find yourself behind schedule or drifting from an early plan.