However, changing careers is very different from changing jobs. There are many examples of people who have given up solid careers to follow their hearts. They have turned hobbies into lucrative vocations or just turned entrepreneur. There are those that have switched careers midstream and made a success of what they chose to do.
Whatever your reason, if you have made up your mind to switch careers, then it would make sense to go about it the right way. We spoke to a senior HR executive on how to ensure a career change works.
1. Where do your strengths lie: Play to your strengths, always. Be very sure of what you are good at. These include your talent and your skills, which you have gained from your work experience and your education. Therefore, while you may compromise on several things while changing your career hoping for a better second run, such as salary, work timings, daily travel distance, perks, don’t compromise on your strengths. Always remember that a better salary alone should never be the reason for a career change. What will keep you in the game in the long run are your strengths and interests. These could include proficiency in a particular field of management, expertise in a particular sub-field in your current job, managing people, public speaking, etc.
2. The challenges you might face: It takes time to establish one’s position in a particular industry. Lots of challenges have to be overcome, a lot of learning and unlearning takes place, a lot of contacts have to be made, and you start finding comfort in chaos. Changing your career may need you to start afresh completely. A totally new work culture, work ethics, a fresh set of challenges, new skills to learn, a new network to be made—these things take time. Therefore, do factor in all these things before making the switch. The best career switch would, of course, be when most of your skills and resources stay the same. A good HR manager may move to career consulting; a good legal reporter, who would already have sufficient knowledge of the legal system, can study law and become a practicing lawyer.
3. Going back to school: This is a no-brainer. You should be willing to study further to meet the qualification criteria as well as brush up on your knowledge. This could mean a two-year post-graduation or an MBA. What this also means is that you will have to manage your studies with your current job, and neither can be compromised with. Lack of seriousness in your job will not be tolerated, and lack of dedication towards education would mean poor grades as well as missing out on the knowledge you require for the new career, and you may just fail to make the cut. That would be disastrous. It’s best to speak with your manager beforehand about this. Let him know that you plan to study further. If company policy allows, you may be allowed a work-from-home, or maybe put in fewer hours at work, or even a sabbatical.
4. Get your finances in place: A career change could mean added expenses towards education. Also, a career change may not always work, and you may want to go back to your previous job. Add to this the chances of a slightly lesser salary simply because you don’t score on the required work experience. Make sure you have set aside adequate funds for your family in case things don’t work out. An ideal window would be two-three years. Find out if you are eligible for an education loan. A working spouse would mean lesser mental and financial stress.
5. Talk to people, old and new: What may look good on the outside may not be good on the inside. Do a lot of research. Speak to people who are already in the profession you seek to pursue. Find out the inside stories. Are there really better chances of growth in the long-run? Are the average salary packages really as attractive as they are made out to be, or is that just for the top 5 per cent? Will the new career offer you as much flexibility as you think it would? And while you are at it, don’t ignore your current network. They are the people in your current field you know best. Let them know you are planning a career change and ask for feedback. It’s quite likely that others in your official circle may have thought of the same and could give you valuable advice. Also, these are the people you may need the most in case the career switch is not working out.