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How to Plan for a Second Career
Some lucky people can say “I just fell into my dream career”. The rest of us need to plan for it. These 12 steps can help you make the leap from your current career to the one you’ve always wanted! It probably won’t happen overnight – successful career changes can take years of planning and work to execute successfully – but whether you’re 20 or 50, making a plan and carrying it out can get you where you want to be.
Step 1: Research
You’re dissatisfied with what you’re doing now but where do you go next? Jumping blindly into a new job and a new career might solve your problems, but you’ll likely find yourself in exactly the same position fairly soon.
Explore your own needs, values and desires in life. What are your highest priorities? What makes you happy? You might already have a clear picture of whom and where you want to be. If you don’t, there are a wealth of resources and tools on the internet, in books, and elsewhere, that can help you work that out for yourself.
Researching potential careers and industries is also time well spent. Technology changes so quickly it’s constantly throwing up new opportunities while simultaneously eliminating others. On the other hand, basic human needs like food, healthcare and social assistance rarely change.
Step 2: Plan
Set a reasonable time frame to start your new career. Depending on your barriers to entry, you might be able to achieve your goal in just months. One to three years would be a realistic goal for most people who need to complete some training and get their finances in order. Someone wanting to become a doctor will have to go through up to 7 years of full time training plus work placements, so that aspiration would have to be at least a 10 year goal.
Step 3: Work out your financial position
Starting a new career can be financially stressful. You’ll likely have to take a pay cut, lose perks and benefits (medical, dental, company car), pay for training, or fund some business start-up costs out of your own pocket.
Start building your finances early. Set aside at least 6 months of living expenses. Downsize your lifestyle and cut out as many expenses as possible. Avoid signing up to new personal contracts, clear your debts, pay off your credit cards and get yourself in a position where you can live comfortably on a smaller income.
If you need a loan to start your own business venture, get a copy of your credit report and talk to banks about how much you could borrow and at what rate so you know what you’ve got to work with.
Step 4: Invest in yourself
Get the training you need to work in your new career. Check what skills and certifications are legally required and start working on them.
In a recent Federal Court case, a man was penalised $30,000 for acting as a BAS and tax agent without being registered. Completing an eligible course like the Certificate IV in Bookkeeping, developing the experience he requires and registering as a BAS agent costs time and money, yet it would be considerably cheaper in the long term.
Work out what skills you have and how they can be redeployed with the minimum amount of re-training. Build on your existing skills – many people have extensive work health and safety experience, which can easily be ‘formalised’ into a qualification with a course like the Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety. The same goes for experience with training and the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. Even if it isn’t the core of your new career, extra skills and qualifications like this can make you a more attractive hiring prospect and help you get your first break.
Look for scholarships, grants, apprenticeships and don’t forget any self-education tax deductions you might be eligible to claim. Your current employer might have professional development activities you can do or fund your training costs themselves.
Build up your broader skill set too – advanced computers skills are essential in many jobs and don’t just stop with ‘proficient in Excel’. Develop advanced and specific skills that you can put on your resume – ‘can create pivot tables, use the vlookup function and develop complex spreadsheets for database management’.
‘On the job’ training through volunteering or moonlighting in your new field gives you a taste for the work you want to do, develops relevant experience and you’ll have your foot in the door when it comes time to get a paying role.
Step 5: Network
Networking is a tried and true method of developing your career. The ‘old fashioned’ way of developing relationships with co-workers, clients and people within your field through work and social activities still works today.
Social media has also created a space where people can connect more easily than ever. Google+ and LinkedIn are more ‘professional’ social networks, while Twitter makes it easy to reach out to people in a non-threatening manner. Participating in discussions and developing your social contacts can open doors and make you stand out.
Step 6: Look for opportunities wherever they are
No matter what industry you’re in, there’s likely to be a handful of fundamental skills that are essential to your success – salesmanship, time management and communication. If you’ve already developed these skills in another career, they’ll stand you in good stead in any organisation.
Taking things a step further, smaller companies and nonprofits often require more flexibility from their staff. That means your previous experience in one or more careers can make you a much more valuable hire than a recent graduate who doesn’t have the same depth of skills to draw on.
Step 7: Prepare to be ‘new’ again
Not only will you be the new person at your workplace, your years of experience and qualifications might not count the way they did in your old job. Career change can cost you seniority, security and you might even find yourself missing your old position. Starting fresh means you’ll be learning new skills and making mistakes which create a lot of stress. You’ll also need to ‘prove’ yourself all over again in your new vocation.
Step 8: Get your life in balance
Get physically fit when you start planning you career change. You’ll have more energy, mental sharpness and will be better equipped to manage the demands and stresses such a drastic change can wreak.
Get enough sleep each night (exercise can help you sleep better too!) and remember to maintain your relationships with your family and friends.
It might be hard at times to keep everything in balance all the time, but don’t neglect any one thing for too long. Good health and family support can keep you going even when times are tough!
Step 9: Keep an eye on your future
It’s tempting to go ‘all-in’ on a new career or business venture, but keep your long term assets safe. Don’t touch your home equity and long term savings, if you lose those your long term security and plans for retirement can be destroyed.
Step 10: Be realistic
There are no hard and fast rules with your career. Life has a way of throwing up unexpected changes and challenges.
Your situation can be drastically altered by changes in your family or personal needs. You might decide the career you’re pursuing isn’t suitable for you after all, or you might find a new passion you’d rather pursue.
Fortunately the new career you’ve planned doesn’t have to be the only one you’ll ever have. It’s normal now to have multiple careers over the course of a lifetime. If this one falls through, then learn your lessons and start planning for the next one. At the very least, you should have new skills, training and a better idea of what you want to do next.
Another consideration is money. You’re more likely to be happy in the long term if you choose a career that suits your abilities and interests, but it helps if you can afford to support yourself and your family. Pursuing a new vocation might mean fundamental changes in your lifestyle to accommodate a smaller pay packet; or you might find your new path much more lucrative!
Staring down the barrel of a long term plan is a daunting prospect. Focus instead on what you can achieve each day and take many, small steps.
Today you might sign up for a new course, find time to exercise, find a way to save an extra $10 a week and spend 20 minutes participating in a LinkedIn discussion to build your professional network. Sometimes you might just need to unwind…. but keep it up day-in, day-out and you’ll find yourself achieving your goals.
12. Take control and get your new career on track!
Moving career can be a fulfilling experience. It’s an opportunity to learn new skills, pursue a lifelong passion, rekindle the excitement of going to work and help you find happiness and satisfaction you might be missing now. Leaving things to chance pays off for some people, but taking control and planning your new path is far more practical.
Start planning today, get your finances in order and work on the skills, training and qualifications you need to take your next step and you’ll be on track for starting your new career in no time!