“Take that left turn”: How to change careers in three steps


Source: Unsplash/Michael Browning.

Are you thinking about a career change? 

How hard is it to really pull the trigger and take that left turn?

We have all heard about people pivoting their career or business during this time, but how do you do it, and where do you start?

A friend of mine, Baz, recently decided he wanted to pivot away from being a disability carer to something more technical.

He’s always loved home renovations and DIY stuff, so he talked to another friend of ours who runs a small business as an electrician. As it turned out, he was looking for an apprentice, but had tried several people who ended up not all that committed.

But Baz is in his 30s, stable, married and a home-owner, so he’s perhaps got a different outlook.

One discussion led to several more, and a month or two later, he was signing up as the new apprentice, and getting stuck into his TAFE studies.

I caught up with him last month, and he was so happy, and loving the change.

As another example, one of my clients was a stood-down Virgin Australia pilot.

He’s a very proactive guy and wanted to spend his days actually doing something. So he visited a local manufacturing business and has spent the last four months learning all about putting up stud walls and driving a truck and a forklift.

It’s a short-term gig, but he’s helping the business with extra hands, and they get to introduce him to their clients, as Tom, the airline-pilot-wall-builder!

A temporary change perhaps, but he’s enjoying trying it on, and learning new things.

What skills are needed for these types of transitions? 

Baz was able to take his great communication, patience and customer service skills along with his weekend interest in home renovations. His research found he needed to have a qualification, so joined a friend’s business and commenced an apprenticeship.

Tom was able to use his project management skills, attention to detail, precision and friendly nature to quickly get other job offers for casual roles until he can fly again. Wall-building this week, Bunnings the next!

During COVID-19, there have also been great examples of businesses pivoting to new things. Most of them have used their core strengths in a different way.

For example, Stage Kings started building home office furniture instead of stages, and Rashays moved into selling meal kits to cook delicious food at home.

A three-step approach to a career transition

1. Identify your strengths and key skills

Self-reflection is very important in this process to ensure you know what your strengths are and the key skills you possess.

There are some wonderful online free tools to help you identify your strengths. Fingerprint for Success and Wingfinder by Redbull are two that I like to use.

When I uncovered my key strengths, a top one was creativity. I was really surprised as I don’t see myself as creative. I can’t draw to save my life and have never lifted a paintbrush.

Back in Ireland, I have a sister who is an architect and another who is an art teacher and they are super creative… but surely not me!

When I started asking friends and colleagues, they disagreed. They saw me as very creative and innovative, always coming up with ideas and trying new things.

It’s good to ask other people close to you for their opinion.

You’ll be surprised just how they see you. It’s almost certainly different from how you see yourself. This is especially true if you’ve been stood down or are finding the current climate stressful.

Everyone gets down from time to time, but to really make a change successfully, you’re going to need to look up, and out — and those closest to you might just be the helping hand you need.

In relation to key skills, write a list of the soft skills you use in your job.

Technical skills can be taught (think Baz and his TAFE courses) so spend time on figuring out what soft skills you are great at.

These are transferrable skills. The human stuff, personality, customer service, friendliness, adaptability, and so on.

2. Explore alternative career paths that use these core skillsets

Once you have identified these strengths and key skills, you need to think about your passions and interests.

It may be linked to fun things you like to do on the weekend or hobbies you have had outside of work. Think of Baz and his home renovations.

Then explore what jobs or industries link to those interests require in terms of skills. You can start with lots of ideas, but narrow it down to three to make it manageable.

Maybe you’re a project manager or business analyst, but have always loved gardening. Have you talked to your local golf course or to national parks?

Or perhaps you’re used to the retail world, but have always liked the idea of learning a trade.

The list is endless, so you need to build you one, and try to distil it into your big three dream jobs.

Careerone has a great tool where you build your skills into your profile and put your resume online and it will suggest alternative roles with similar skillsets.

Using advanced AI tools, the system can broaden your horizons in directions you might have never considered.

3. Speak to people working in those roles or industries

When you have narrowed down those three roles or business ideas, then you need to find the pathways to pivot into these areas.

It may be a requirement to have certain qualifications. Or, you may be able to start a job first and do the study later, or simultaneously like an apprenticeship. Or you may find a course that has a job outcome at the end.

Speak to as many people as you can that are working in that industry and ask their advice. Once you have gathered all of this information you can make a really informed decision.

Give it a go and see what you find. It may just change your life!

Yvonne Kelly is running a free, week-long career webinar, focused on transferrable skills and pivoting, from Monday, October 19 to Friday, October 23, 2020.

NOW READ: Don’t follow your passions, retire regularly and develop laterally: An 11-step guide to success

NOW READ: Post-COVID-19: Should you just change careers?


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