High school career advisers have a lot to answer for. How could they possibly predict your forever job based on who you were at 17? Here’s another thing they probably didn’t tell you in class: it’s never too late to do a 180, and, even better, you won’t have to relive your days as a broke uni student to pull off a career pivot. “Changing careers doesn’t have to be a risky, scary experience if it’s planned properly,” confirms Brisbane-based career coach Suzanne Williams. Itching to hit reset? Consider this your road map to serious success.
1. Put in the prep
OK, so your current job isn’t ticking the fulfilment box, and you reckon retraining in [enter dream vocation here] is the perfect solution. You’re probably right – but before you quit and recommit, take the time to suss it out. “I see people jumping in too quickly when they don’t know themselves well enough or what that future career entails,” says Williams. “Talk to people in the industry so you’ve got full knowledge and awareness of the space you’re moving into before you invest your time and money into training.” You could try volunteering, shadowing someone in the industry or doing a cheeky short course to get a taste of what’s to come. Part of your recce should also include a personal audit – consider what transferable skills you have, and if any of your existing qualifications can count towards your new career. “Most people have a qualification already and think they need to do a whole course of study, when they only need a short bridging course,” Williams explains.
Take a good look at your finances while you’re at it. Nikole Neal, a former TV producer who segued into a career as a PT last year, tracked her earnings and expenses for a year before making the leap. “I wanted to make sure I had enough money put aside for the changeover,” she says. “I was on a good wage and had become accustomed to not thinking about my spending each week. I documented it on a spreadsheet so I could see where my money was going and then started slashing the extras to save as much as I could.” Assessing your bank account can help you move beyond fears that might be holding you back, says career change specialist Jo Green. “You could be thinking that you need more money than you actually do, so getting clear on the numbers can help that fear to settle,” she notes.
2. Pick your timing
If your ideal role requires a shiny new qualification, you’ll need to be creative with your time – especially if keeping your current job for rent-paying purposes is a non-negotiable. Nikole’s PT course, a mix of online and in-person learning, took eight months to
complete around her full-time job. “I was doing shift work so it was tricky to allocate specific days and times to study,” she says. “Some weeks I would power through chapters and assignments, and others I would barely touch it.” You may not want to do this, but Williams suggests opening up to your current boss about your goals and negotiating flexibility to your hours for study. “If you tell organisations with enough notice, most rational people will support their staff,” she says. Not an option? “Committing to the process and getting stuck in is really important,” says Green.
Sheer determination helped former hotel receptionist Rhianna Bridgett juggle three jobs while studying a myotherapy degree full time at Endeavour College of Natural Health. “I was really good at time management; I had my weeks planned out in advance,” the 29-year-old recalls. “It took a lot of sacrifices to make it work. But the thing that kept me going was the ‘why’. I knew what it was like to work in a job that I didn’t like or care about, and I just kept reminding myself that I didn’t want to go back to that feeling.”
3. Set firm boundaries
Adding study to an already jam-packed life can jack up stress, so it’s vital to set clear boundaries. “I had to get really comfortable saying no to things that I just couldn’t do,” Rhianna says. “And if I was feeling really overwhelmed, I’d get a coffee and sit in my favourite place near the beach ... to process what I had to do,” she reflects. Back yourself, adds Williams, who says 90 per cent of her clients struggle with self-belief during this process – including corporate execs. “I doubted myself incredibly,” admits Rhianna, “but I used it as a positive in the end, to prove to myself that I really could do it.” When you hit a roadblock know this: at the end of your journey is a job you love, and the achievement of a goal. “When people overcome challenges, they feel the growth that comes from that, and feel amazing,” Williams says. Go get ’em.