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Seven Questions You Should Consider When Thinking of a Career Change By Simon Ash

How to change careers; some advice from a job coach
Work is a reality of life. The vast majority of people will spend a large portion of their life earning money in some job or another. The average person spends more than 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime (Psychology Today) so it makes sense that we should be doing something that gives us satisfaction as well as paying the bills. Getting the right job is therefore one of the big life goals and when we choose our profession or change our career we want to get it right.

“I think my job interview to be a bug sorter went well. I boxed all the right ticks.”

Where are you and what are you doing in your dreams?
So you are sitting at your desk, staring out the window; what are you dreaming about? Where do you picture yourself? Our daydreams can be a good indication of our yearnings, they can give insight into places we want to go and the people we want to be. What would you do if money and time were no object? What would you do if you had your time over again? Who would you most like to be like? What do you love doing, even if you are not being paid to do it? When have you had the greatest job satisfaction? Who would you most like to work with? Start making notes about what you want to do and this becomes a picture of where you want to end up, a personal vision statement. Then you can start to consider if you can make it a practical reality.

Why do you want a career change?
One very important thing to explore is your motivation for changing career. Why do you want a different job? Is there some compelling reason or are you just bored? Are you looking for something that aligns with your values or do you just think the grass is greener in another company or position? It is important to remember that there is an aspect of work that is always going to be just that, work, no matter how much you love what you do. No job or business is without its challenges and pitfalls so don’t expect a job change to magically transform all your problems, you may well find you take the problems with you.

As you start to refine your search to a specific job or company have a look and see whether your ideals and values are aligned with that business. Many people forget to do this and then wonder why they feel unhappy in their work, even when the job description seems to be just right for them. On balance, you are probably going to be happier in a place where people share the same values as you, than just somewhere with the right job title.

“If a man loves the labour of his trade, apart from any question of success or fame, the gods have called him.” Robert Louis Stevenson.

What is your dream job?
Once you have an idea of where you want to end up you can start to be more specific about the work, job, career or vocation you need to get you there. Look at the answers to the questions about your dreams and why you want to change careers and then put a job title or description to those notes. This is an important step in turning dreams into reality. You are defining success, giving yourself a definitive mission. Once you have something to aim for you are much more likely to hit the target.

How should you land your new job?
Once you know the job you want then you start to need making a plan to get the job. You know where you are going, now take stock of where you are. Update your CV (curriculum vitae) or resume and see how suited it is to the job you want. Would you hire a person with your resume for the position you want? How could you tailor your CV to better suit the career you want? Are there gaps in your training, qualifications or experience that you could fill?

Who do you know who can help?

It is a commonly used phrase that ‘it is not what you know but who you know’ that is important and this is frequently true in the job market. A large proportion of jobs – and arguably the best ones – are landed through networking rather than classified adds and job listings. Who do you know in the industry you want to work in? If you don’t know anyone directly then are there any friends or friends? Now is the time to use social media to your advantage. LinkedIn is particularly good for finding people and if you don’t know them directly you can join a group relevant to the industry you are pursuing and meet up with people there. Don’t ask people for a job; ask them for advice. No one is going to be offended if you ask them for advice. I have had plenty of coffees where I have either been giving or receiving information about certain jobs. These conversations may not lead directly to a job but they will help to answer questions and perhaps lead to other contacts.

When is the best time to move jobs?

Most of the time the best time to quit your job is when you have another one lined up. I always advise people not to jump ship until they have sorted out some further work. This is because it is very hard to follow your dreams if you are constantly worried about how to pay day to day bills. A good redundancy package can soften the landing but I know plenty of people who have still been scrabbling around for work as the money disappears. You may not have the choice, you may have unemployment thrust upon you. If that is the case then try to make the best use of your new found freedom to prepare for the job you want. Get an extra qualification or look at voluntary work placements that can help you further your experience (if paid ones are not available).

If you are looking for a specific position or opening you may have to wait anyway. The more specific the thing you want to do, the fewer the openings there are likely to be. Use your time to line yourself up as best you can but the wait will be more comfortable if you have an income.

Which way should you take to achieve your goal?

There are multiple paths you can choose from to get to your objective. It is worth thinking through the alternative ways that you could achieve a goal as significant as a career change. When changing career you may not be able to step directly into your dream job. There may be one or more intermediate jumps you need to go through, especially if you are changing the sector or industry you are working in. It is like using stepping stones to cross a river; there may be various options, and you may have to even make a sideways step at times, but you can still make progress towards your goal if you keep focussed on where you want to end up.

If you want to read more about exploring options and brainstorming different courses of actions click here: Which: Options

If you want further advice on career change I would recommend that you read “What colour is your parachute?” by Richard N. Bolles. You can click on title link above or the picture below to buy a copy from Amazon.


Simon Ash
Simon works for Oxford Catalyst Ventures and assists people and organisations who want to do well by doing good.  He has worked in the charity sector as a senior management and as a trustee.
Though his work in leadership and management across the public, private and charity sector he has developed ‘The Right Questions’ methodology that is a strategy, decision making and planning tool.  You can find out more at:


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