How to make a career change

7th April 2020

You trudge to work everyday, knowing you were made for bigger and better things. But what? And once you decide just what that is, how do you make the jump to a new role, in a whole new industry? In this article we’ll share our 6 step transition from your old job to a brand new one — practical ideas for making a career change.


1. New career research

The first step is to shake up the creative juices and start thinking about what you’d like to do next. Chances are you have a burning desire in your gut to make a career change but you are unsure what that entails. (If you already know what you would like to do you can skip this section.)

If you’re ready to dive in, pull out a pen and paper (we’re old school but a writing app on your phone will also work) and make a list of answers to the following questions:

  • What are your interests?
  • How can you turn these interests into a fulfilling career?
  • What is stopping you from making this career move?
  • What job opportunities exist for your dream career?

These questions will help you sort out what’s actually do-able. For example: you’d love to be an International Flight Attendant, but you’re a single mum with a 9 month-old baby and a 3 year-old — you probably need to find another passion (for now anyway).


2. Career inventory

Once you know where you want to be, it’s time to take a career inventory. Here’s how it works:

  1. Create a spreadsheet or list with two columns.
  2. On the left-hand side, list all of the skills, qualifications, licences, knowledge and experience you’ll need to land your new job role.
  3. On the other side list everything you actually have.
  4. Highlight the gaps.

Let’s imagine you’ve been a hotel manager for the last 15 years and but the late nights, unruly patrons, and licensing headaches have compelled you to make a career change. You decide you’d like to be a hospitality trainer so you take a career inventory of the skills and qualifications you already possess and match them against the essentials you’ll need to get a job as a trainer.

Your list might look something like this:

Requirement Need Hold
Qualifications Certificate IV in Hospitality
Certificate IV in Training and Assessment
Current RSA certificate
Certificate IV in Hospitality
RSA certificate (expires in 2 months)
Skills Bar technical skills
Public speaking skills
Business writing skills
MS-Word, Excel, and Powerpoint
Bar technical skills
Public speaking skills
Experience At least 5 years experience in bar work
Experience providing on-the-job training and coaching others
At least 5 years experience in bar work
Experience providing on-the-job training and coaching others

3. Career training

The next step is to fill the gaps you identified in your career inventory. Start with mandatory qualifications and get these done as soon as possible.

If we refer back to the example above, our hotel manager will need to grab a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment as soon as possible, plus do some training in business writing and MS-Office. The Certificate IV could be done with a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) in the evenings or on weekends — while the business writing and MS-Office training could be done via online short courses.


4. Make the change

Once you have the right qualifications, get to work on your resume and pivot the way you present your skills and experience — so they highlight your personal qualities and achievements in a way that’s relevant to your new career.

Here are a few examples:

  • You’ve been working after school and on weekends at McDonald’s for the last 3 years and you want a job as an IT support technician. Focus your resume on customer service using examples such as ‘going the extra mile’ and resolving customer complaints.
  • You’re a qualified chef moving into event management. Use examples in your resume where you have cooked for large weddings and parties, costed out menus, and assisted with customer bookings.
  • You’re a duty manager at a casino and want to work for a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) as a trainer. Focus your resume on areas where you coached and mentored new staff.

5. Social media polish

Recruiters actively check the social media profiles of shortlisted candidates — especially Facebook and Linkedin — so make sure the photos and text align with your career goals:

Focus specifically on:

  • Using a professional headshot rather than a photo that may be inappropriate.
  • Hiding your friend-list and personal information from public view.
  • Sprucing up your Linkedin account and reaching out for endorsements and recommendations.
  • Including keywords that relate to your new career path in your profile information.
  • Treading carefully when engaging in political and environmental debate.

Once you’ve polished up your social media profiles you could let your network know you are actively seeking work, and turn on the job search feature in Linkedin.


6. Job role transition

Even if you have substantial savings it’s best not to hand in your resignation until you have something concrete lined up in your new industry. It’s always easier to get a job when you are already employed and not feeling pressured, and the longer the gap on your resume, the more explaining you have to do to prospective employers.

For example — which sounds better?

  1. I quit my job as a real estate sales representative 11 months ago to pursue a career in community service but I haven’t managed to secure a suitable role yet. I’m hoping it will be with your organisation.
  2. I’m currently working in real estate sales and at the top of my team, but I’d like to gear my extroverted personality to driving community service projects. I’m excited about helping kids and I also have loads of ideas for fundraising and marketing youth projects to the local community.

Final thoughts

No matter what career path you have in mind, plan your transition so you have the skills, qualifications, social media profiles and resume you need to confidently apply for that dream job when it emerges. Because it will.

Written by Melinda J. Irvine
Melinda J. Irvine
Melinda is a professional writer, blogger and musician. When she’s not writing she’s creating online resources that help disadvantaged kids develop English literacy and life skills.

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