If you have had a change in your health, wellbeing or lifestyle, you probably have some very good reasons to consider changing your career, even if you love it and financial advice has been your main schtick for a long time!
There are two simple options. To change where you work or what you do for work.
If it is simply about changing where you work, you need to be VERY clear on what is important to you. Would closer to be home make a big difference? Do you need to be in a different workplace environment? Working from home at least two days a week? Reduced daily hours or a four day week? Would you like to be in a larger or smaller firm? Would you like more independence or structure? Are you leaving in anger because one person is getting on your nerves and you believe there is no other way to deal with the ‘problem.’
Firstly, you need to take a good stocktake of these reasons. There may be a different way of handling your existing situation and working on these first is usually the simplest way forward. Communication is key and if you don’t feel as if you have a voice, maybe acquire some personal skills like assertiveness and negotiation first (there are plenty of free and low cost online courses available in these areas).
Any career change can occur in small increments (recommended) or massive changes (not recommended). But like every challenge in life, it is MUCH better if you adopt a practical strategy rather than make a sudden decision without any reliable information or shopping around for the latest tactic and becoming more frustrated.
If you are more interested in making a career change away from financial services, here is a strategy I recommend:
If your health, wellbeing or lifestyle is at a point where you really need to reconsider your options, the first challenge you will face are your own thoughts and beliefs. Do you have the courage to ask yourself the tough questions?
Perhaps you have friends and family who are accustomed to you being a certain way or they may value the 'security' of a particular type of work or knowing that you are a trusted financial adviser. Let me assure you, no career, business or enterprise is immune from a sudden change.
If you are considering some options that are different to the people closest to you, it may be difficult to even talk about what is important to you and why you feel the need to change your career or something about your current working arrangements.
If you are aware of these influences BEFORE you start your research, it will make it much easier to go beyond your comfort zone and consider other options.
For example, you may come from a family of origin that values a prestigious job in a well-recognised enterprise.
On the other hand, you may want to explore your creative talents.
Ask yourself if you are considering your options because you have been denied a choice in the past, because you felt obligated to stay somewhere or because you were fearful of losing the 'security' of your current situation.
Be clear about the internal and external influences and look deep within to what is important for you. At the same time, be realistic when assessing your options as some choices involve a significant financial change.
Ask yourself if you are 'holding back' on making a career change because of the influence of other people in your life. Be very aware of the group think you may have picked up on in your current role too.
Are you aware of your values, strengths and context?
I believe that one of the most significant in these three is your context. There are certain times and stages in our lives when some options are simply not available. We may have other responsibilities or commitments or be unable to work in a location for a variety of reasons.
It is perfectly okay to have 'work for now.' That doesn't mean it will be forever, but if your other high priority values are being met, sometimes we can adjust our focus accordingly.
For example, when my children were young, I did not have access to childcare or support from my family of origin. During this time, I spent less time in paid work, accepted partial welfare payments and volunteered in my community to 'pay' for the welfare payments. My highest priority at that time was being with my children and this worked for me and my local community.
Likewise, I actually have very good skills in the area of accounting, but I dislike it immensely. Other skills I have learned over time, I love and that’s where I choose to work!
Many people assume that to change your career, you need to go back to formal education and start all over again with an expensive and lengthy course. Not true. Most people if they have been working for some time (or have a hobby) have acquired experience and transferable skills. A few specific micro credentials could be all you need to change careers.
There are various courses that include a 'Recognition of Prior Learning' component but before you go to a provider of courses that will naturally recommend a course, why not go out and get some experience first?
For example, I met a woman who had been in banking but wanted to be an aircraft pilot but wasn't sure about the huge cost of the training to become a pilot. I suggested that she purchase 10 flying lessons to put herself in the cockpit and see if what she imagined would be the 'reality' going forward.
No, it would not give her the qualifications she needed, but it would give her a great experience that would clarify whether enrolling in a flying course would be right for her or not - and she gets to enjoy 10 flying lessons in the process! She will also save a fortune if it isn't quite right after all.
How often do we discuss our daily concerns with a significant other person, close friend or family member, even a current co-worker? Do they have the skills, experience, qualifications and capabilities to provide informed and reliable advice for your circumstances? Will they keep the discussion private until you are ready to make a career change?
Can they give you direct lived experience and factual information about the career change you are seeking? Do any of these people have a bias in their recommendations (a profit or status quo motive)?
If you are considering a career change, you need to speak to at least three people about it. I would suggest one of those be an independent career specialist who may also have connections to the industry or profession of interest to you. Another could be someone who has been in the industry or profession for many years and they can give you information and insights that are not published online. The third would be someone who made the transition into that industry from somewhere else and is still within that area three years after their move. These people could be in your home location, interstate or overseas.
Your goal here is to go beyond the process of learning how to do a job and into learning how to get a job. It is about assessing your options with qualitative and quantitative information from people who can save you all the time it took for them to get that experience. In fact, if you can talk to more than three people, that would be fabulous.
For example, I have recently worked with a client who has started a new role that involves appearing in court to provide evidence in very difficult cases. I referred them to another client of mine who does the same in a different field and they will be able to discuss the challenges confidentially and without a conflict of interest because they have different fields of expertise. Whilst this is more of a mentoring discussion related to an existing role, you could source someone aligned with your needs and if you can’t find them via your network on LinkedIn, you can search the entire LinkedIn website via a Google Advanced Search https://www.google.com.au/advanced_search.
I understand that sometimes, a transition is thrust upon us (like if we suddenly lose our job, have a health crisis or move locations) and we may not have the luxury of time to transition from one career to another.
When I was sacked when I was pregnant with my first child, I was shocked. I vowed never to be without options ever again and I have made a firm commitment to continuous learning to ensure I will always be able to secure paid work. I also start planning my next career change whilst I am in my current career, approximately five years ahead of the transition date.
It may not be possible for you to do that. But as I mentioned with the aircraft pilot above, a transition approach could be very helpful.
For example, there was a person who was a very talented graphic designer who loved making jewellery. After creating a financial buffer, they gave up their job and went full time making jewellery. Unfortunately, it is very time consuming to hand make jewellery and not everyone is willing to pay for that time and not only did they become very frustrated by this constant battle, they lost a lot of income. If this person had built up their customer base before making the transition to full time jewellery making, they could have assessed its viability first. Some people also 'ruin' a hobby they have had by trying to make a profit out of something that is not immediately profitable.
This is really important and yet most people assume that the past is irrelevant and only the future counts. Not true. You will have acquired many transferable skills that you can use in your next career. You may have had special talents in a particular area as a teenager. Over time, you have grown and developed. But most decision-makers will want to have some idea of your background to see if it matches with their expectations.
This process will help you identify your values and strengths, the tasks you enjoyed, the culture you preferred and other subtle components like location, layout, management styles, culture, vibe etc. Please, write it all down as in a few years’ time, you will forget what you did and when you did it.
Naturally, as an Independent LinkedIn Specialist, I recommend that you do this on LinkedIn! In as much detail as you can (without affecting your personal safety or commercial confidentiality). Focus on sharing the most relevant information in a scan friendly way (short bullet points) by listing Achievements in past tense, Tasks in present tense and including a description of the enterprise, attach Media and list Skills for each role.
For example, one student of mine was an illusionist and most people he met asked him how he became an illusionist. Whilst it was a passion and interest of his, the transition was made after he hurt his back and he could no longer be an international airline pilot. This was a difficult transition and not something he felt comfortable explaining over and over and over again. But if it was on his LinkedIn Profile, he could just invite people to connect and read his profile and be spared repeating the same story over and over again!
You may not be able to quit today and start somewhere else tomorrow, but you can make a START today. Perhaps you can start connecting with people in your field of interest and build up the size of your network in that new profession. Or book an appointment with a career specialist. Or complete a free or low cost micro credential or even watch some videos on YouTube. Consider joining some online groups of other people in the industry or profession that is of interest to you. Become a member of the relevant industry association for the new area of expertise and see if they have a mentoring program or can provide referrals to people you can talk to. Investigate prospects in the industry - demand, salary, qualifications etc on a website like https://myfuture.edu.au. Update your LinkedIn Profile with all of your experience and fill in all the sections in detail. Please choose all of the free and low cost options first. They may be enough.
For example, one client had moved to Melbourne, Australia from a very high level public relations position in New York. Whilst they were very happy to have a much more balanced lifestyle, they missed the challenge of their previous role. This person had always wanted to be a graphic designer and so they started an evening course and suddenly met their 'tribe' and their passion and realised that this was what they really wanted after all - a balance of life and work.
You can have 30,000 connections on LinkedIn and an unlimited number of followers. In the past, everyone was very secretive about who they knew and what they could do. Nowadays, we need databases to help us be found for our capabilities and when we are found, we need the content to help people self-select the next action they take.
I believe it is not what you know or even who you know. It is who refers you and how you can be verified independently. LinkedIn can help. Make sure your LinkedIn Profile has at least six Recommendations that you have both given and received. Reach out to people in the new profession or industry that’s important to you and invite them to connect with you. Mention that you would value a brief chat to discuss your options and for them to provide any referrals or recommendations.
For example, a person who recently arrived in Melbourne went to an event and got chatting to the guests and one of the guests invited him to a social event on the weekend. He went and met someone else who referred him to an inhouse role that matched his skills and expertise and they became both friends and workmates.
Sometimes it is not until you are actually in a role or an enterprise that you really understand what it would be like to be there on an ongoing basis. If there is an opportunity to visit some workplaces, complete a trial, participate in an event or meet with some employees who work there, you will gain a much greater understanding of the workplace beyond what is mentioned about the enterprise online. Don't assume that only one enterprise in one location is your only option. Our bodies are designed for survival (aka challenge) and even if you don’t move on, you have probably gone outside of your comfort zone and given yourself a little thrill in the process.
For example, one client assumed that the only type of role he was interested in would be in the CBD of Melbourne. He wasn't aware of any large employers located near where he lived - but he hadn't even looked! Do some research and see if you can find a role that is close to home. Reducing your commute time can create a much better work - life balance.
Hopefully by now, you have enough information to make a well-informed decision or you may even be willing to take the risk and manage what happens as you go along. So many people want to jump straight to this step, but without some clarification beforehand, you run the risk of regretting your decision and then assuming that the entire career change process was not successful. This has certainly been the experience of some people who quit their jobs during 'The Great Resignation' during the COVID-19 pandemic assuming that by going somewhere else, the grass would be greener.
Regardless of what decision you make, ultimately, you need to MAKE a decision first. Some people get through all of the above steps but through a perceived lack of support or encouragement, they hold themselves back and don't make a career change. If you don’t have a lot of personal support in your life, making a decision can be even more challenging. You don’t have to do it all on your own. Don’t deny someone the opportunity of helping you if you haven’t asked for help in the past.
If you end up regretting a current or past decision, please do not beat yourself up. Maybe now you are ready to try again! Don't wait for 100% to go ahead. If you have completed 80% of the above steps, and you have clarified that you can manage any consequences of your decision, now is the time to take that leap of faith - even if it is only a small part of the overall leap you would like to make.
For example, one of my clients had resisted following her passion of working with children because her parents had made it clear she would only be a success if she was a doctor, lawyer or very highly qualified professional. When we met, she was at a low point. Her boss was exploiting her talents for minimum wage and once she realised what was holding her back, she suddenly took the leap of faith and started studying and transitioned successfully. A few years later, she decided to change again and with the previous experience behind her, she was well aware of the steps she would need to take.
Sue Ellson is an author and consultant
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