Are you thinking about changing careers? Perhaps you’ve been wanting to take up your creative pursuit full time and quit your day job, or maybe you’re taking the leap to start your own business, or doing further study to advance your career in a new direction. Whatever your situation, career change can be a minefield. Once you’ve made the decision to move onto something new, it can be difficult to know to where to start. Should you enrol in a course? Create a website? Ask around for advice and find a mentor? Or should you be networking like crazy to get your foot in the door?
All of these options are important when starting afresh in a new industry, job, or business, and it’s easy to concentrate on the practicalities and neglect to pause and look inward first. But career change, like any major life change, requires cultivating skills that we don’t always think of as relevant to our working lives. So take a look at the steps below before you touch that LinkedIn profile, CV, or website theme.
Reflect on your long-term goals (and not just the career ones)
When at a career crossroads, it can be useful to pause and reflect on the bigger picture of your life. This is your chance to plan your career and work around the life you want to create for yourself. What sort of hours do you hope to work? In what sort of environment would you like to spend your time? How much money do you want/need to earn to keep up your security and lifestyle? How much time would you like to dedicate to your family, social life, and volunteer or “passion projects” outside of work? In other words, it’s a good time to think about what sort of life you want, not just what sort of job/business you want. What is your ideal life, and what sort of working life will help you fulfil this in years to come?
Learn to back yourself
Let’s face it, it can be hard to tune out the voices of criticism when you’ve decided to go against the herd and start something new. There will be plenty of people who try to tell you that you can’t—or shouldn’t—do it. The quicker you learn to shut out those voices, the better. One of the biggest mistakes we all make when initiating a big change is to seek out advice…from anyone who will listen. This invariably leads to a melting pot of opinions that can be confusing at best and discouraging at worst. People project their own fears onto you if they feel threatened by your bravery (because you are taking a brave new step!).
Instead of asking anyone and everyone whether they think you should take the leap and how you should go about it, seek out people you know will champion you. They are the ones you want to hear from; simply tune out the rest. And then concentrate on building your confidence and reminding yourself of your strengths and how they can be applied to your new role.
Particularly if you’re looking to leave the world of nine-to-five and pursue your own freelance career or business, you’ll need to recalibrate your working style to ensure you can self-motivate when external deadlines are not present. Even if you’re just looking to move from one industry to another, you’ll need self-discipline to get yourself up to speed on developments in that area, market yourself properly, and get out and meet people who can help you succeed in your new field. Develop a singular focus (eyes on the prize!) and remember why you set out to do this when there are a million other tasks and fun plans vying for your attention.
Get used to being uncomfortable
You probably already know that this career change business is uncomfortable. From the very beginning, even before you’ve made the change, planning to take this sort of leap requires stepping out of your comfort zone. You’ll have to learn new things, develop networks, and put yourself out there in a way you may not have had to do for years (if ever). The good news is that being uncomfortable equals growth, which is exactly what you want: to grow into your new career. Not to mention the fact that once you get comfortable with being uncomfortable, you will find this serves you for years to come as you continue to learn and grow and take on challenges in your new role. Discomfort may not be our preference, but when it comes to creating the career you want, it will be worth it.
Bec Mackey is a writer, teacher, and producer of screen-related things. She uses a decade of experience in the business sides of media and arts to help creative people fund and promote their work in ways that work for them. Bec writes about funding, promotion, creative careers, and life on her website, Brightside Creatives.