Changing career paths is not a rare thing – people do it all the time. How often do you hear of someone who is trained in one field, but now occupied in something entirely different? A doctor who is now a medical business consultant; an airline pilot who now runs a driving school; a maths teacher who now works in retail merchandising. Sometimes these people are envied; their ability to switch focus with such success is admired. Nevertheless, it is not always an easy thing to do.

Many people change jobs within the sphere in which they are trained. This may require some further training, but their basic training remains the essential stepping stone. A ballet dancer can become a ballet teacher; a hospitality specialist may run a retirement home; a chef may become a franchisor of upmarket restaurants. But to change from what you may have spent years training for, to something fundamentally different requires courage, determination, and a whole new learning curve.

The point to remember is that whatever you have learnt in whatever field, is never wasted. People find ways to apply their knowledge to their new endeavours – and indeed, use many of the life skills they have learned along the way. Whatever industry you are in or move to, you are going to need basic development in communications, a readiness to learn and apply new knowledge, team spirit, motivation and sense of purpose. You also need to know how to dovetail your previous learning in whatever way you can into the function of your new job. To succeed at this you need to evaluate a few things.


Steady the boat

  • Don’t move with dissatisfaction with your old job to your new career. This is an important assessment. Don’t take anger and bitterness with you. Why are you moving? Were you unhappy with the work content? Did you have issues with fellow colleagues? You need to honestly look at your achievements and relationships in your first career, before you launch into something else.
  • If you’ve had training and solid working time, you are in a very strong position to take the experience of both your track record and your own behaviour into account. What do you enjoy doing, and what are you good at? Remember, wherever you go, you take your attitude with you.
  • Before you move make sure the field to which you wish to move, is in fact the right one for you. How can you use your knowledge and experience to best advantage? How can you draw upon previous qualifications in a way that will contribute positively to your new role? Work from the point that everything you have learnt, every training course undertaken, is valuable in some way as you go forward into new territory.
  • Find out as much as you can about your new field. Make time to meet with people within the industry and discuss those elements they may feel important to bring to the role. Talk to them about melding your current knowledge with fresh aspects in their field. Most people love to impart information, and you can learn a great deal before you even make your decision to move. If you find people who don’t mind you job-shadowing for a week or two, that’s even better – because then you can evaluate exactly how your first career training might assist you to integrate into a new field.
  • Investigate all the educational opportunities that might assist you to change career lanes. The beauty of having some background before you move, is that this training already tucked under your belt could prove immensely useful in quickly adding new studies to your repertoire. There are many evening classes and online courses that could supplement your previous studies and skills.
  • Analyse you transferable skills, such as marketing know-how, business acumen, computer systems knowledge, and customer service abilities. Keep remembering that all education is valuable. Nothing is ever a ‘waste’. You can even learn to extract useful aspects from as far back as your schooling education. Certificates are mere pieces of paper, it’s what you are able to transfer usefully from those qualifications to fresh experiences that is the real value of education.
  • In many instances, you do not have to start all over again every time you change your job or more specifically, your career. Your qualifications and track record that you achieve as you work, learn, upgrade and increase your experience, are literally the vital building blocks of your working life. Focus on building transferable skills in whatever job or career that you find yourself, because you never know when you may need to change, or when circumstances may change around you.

If you constantly develop and adapt your skills, then no change should be daunting, and you should be ready to take that turning point should it arise, or should you need to find such a turning point. Occupations are not set in stone; you should be able to look around with interest and confidence, and make that leap to something more satisfying or lucrative – or which may simply make you happy.