Top 10 dos and don’ts of making a career change

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Making a career change in your 30s or 40s can seem like a daunting prospect but with the scrapping of the default retirement age from 65 we could well be working until our 70s and beyond.

So it is more important than ever to try and find a role you really enjoy and find fulfilling as well as pay the bills. Recent research conducted by AAT found that workers think it’s too late to change careers beyond the age of 41. Of the 2,000 respondents, 59% said they feel they are trapped in their current career path or line of work because they feel they can’t progress any further and are bored in their current role.

Instead of 9-5 it’s often five to nine jobs a lifetime and the days of working at the same company for decades until you earn your gold watch are long gone. Suzie Webb, AAT’s Director of Education says: “This research shows that many people incorrectly believe that they have to stick with their career despite being a reasonably young age. This is very much at odds with our experience at AAT where we have students choosing to retrain in our accounting qualifications in their 50s, 60s as well as their 70s.”

With that in mind, here are the top 10 dos and don’ts of making a career change.

1. Do plan with the future in mind

Careers expert Karen Meager, managing director of Monkey Puzzle Training & Consultancy, says: “You still have around 35 years of career time left so really think about what you want to do and how you can do it. You can often train for a new career whilst still in your current job so look into flexible learning options as that can make the change a lot easier.”

2. Do factor in your family and other goals

If you have young children or would like to do so in the next few years, make sure you factor that into your plans, advises Meager. “It’s a big upheaval so you could plan to do your career change after kids or change careers now and give yourself a few years before having a family. It’s not a good idea to make a major change in more than one context of your life at the same time though.”

3. Do your research

If you need to retrain, research training options thoroughly and look at all the options available to you. “There is much more flexibility now than there was a decade or so ago so it’s worth putting in the work to find something that fits best for you,” says Meager. “Can you ‘try out’ your new career by doing some voluntary work or taking a short placement? If not can you talk to people who do the job you want to get a good sense of it. It’s one way of checking that the reality really matches your expectations.”

4. Do make sure you present a consistent and positive image of yourself on social media

Looking for a new role is about much more than just updating your CV. Make sure you present the best possible version of yourself (i.e. no drunken profile pictures on Facebook or Twitter) on all social media channels. Louise Jenner, the Dream Job Coach, notes: “A great CV can be wasted if it’s not consistent with your LinkedIn presence.”

5. Do be realistic and flexible

Unfortunately, we can’t all walk into our dream job so be prepared to be flexible and take an interim role or step back to help achieve your long term goal. “Is there a job that can bridge the gap between your current career and the new one you want?” asks Meager. “This will help you to utilise all your experience and move you to your dream career at the same time.”

6. Don’t waste time prevaricating and procrastinating

“Take action to find out what you need to know and make a plan to move towards the career you want,” says Meager.

7. Don’t dismiss it just because it looks like too much hard work to retrain

“Do you really want to spend the next 35 years or so doing what you currently do?” asks Meager.

8. Don’t rule yourself out on the basis of age

It is now illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of age so keep in mind that your age should be nothing but a number. “Don’t think you have less to offer than a younger candidate – you have years of valuable experience!” says Jenner.

9. Sell yourself

Make sure you don’t undervalue yourself or go for whatever is available. “And don’t assume your employers will magically see your strengths either – sell yourself,” advises Jenner.

10. Speak to other people who have made a change

Tom Hawkes, who left his role in customer services at Land Rover at the age of 38, after 12 years at the car manufacturer and is now self-employed, says there are usually two types of people who make a career change. “There are the ones who have a job to go to and those who don’t. My advice either way would be do it sooner rather than later. Life is too short, your health and happiness are much more important to you and your family than a job which makes you unhappy.”

Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.

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