How to change careers

a group of coworkers
Are you missing something in your current job or career? Or are you thinking that a role in an emerging sector might be a better fit for you? With many of us retiring later in life, the idea of spending decades in an unfulfilling career isn’t a happy one.
But when you’ve already established a career path,  switching to a new career direction can be daunting. Can you pick up the new skills required easily enough? Are you financially in a place where you could absorb a salary cut? Do you have the spare time, work/life balance, and the energy to step outside of your comfort zone and learn something completely different from what you’ve been doing? 
Change can be hard, but sometimes, not changing can be harder. So, if you’re looking for how to switch up your career, consider these steps.

Taking the next step toward changing careers

Before moving forward, it’s useful to step back. Consider what is making you happy, or unhappy, in your current profession to try and get a better understanding of what true job satisfaction might look like for you. Is it more free time? A career path that offer more progression? By understanding what your personal ‘north star’ is, you can consider what careers and industries might align to your core values. Once defined, the next step is working out which transferable skills you already possess that can be used and what skills you need to acquire.
Skills clusters are a way of identifying what skills you have and how they can lead you toward a different career path. Take working in customer service for instance. Providing guest services will be one of your skills, and a skills cluster in that role. Specialist tasks involved in that skill can then directly link to other occupations you may not have thought of, such as a hotel service manager. Skills clusters can help you understand how your skills can cross over into other roles can set you on a totally different path.

Plan your upskilling journey for your career change

Once you have an idea of what an ideal career path might look like, research openings on different job boards to get an understanding of the skills it might require. This may include researching industry associations for information on available courses and accreditations, reviewing the job specifications of open vacancies for roles you aspire to move into, or reaching out for advice from a credible recruiter.
Making a career change doesn’t have to mean going back to university for a new degree, it could just be learning a new technology platform or specific skillset – and many of these can now be learnt for free, For example, our online learning platform, Hays Learning, Hays Learning platform offers thousands of free courses across many industries. Set yourself a target for what skills to learn, identify the courses to get you there and put barriers around time you want to dedicate to learning. This will help you to create a learning pathway that’s achievable within a set time frame.

How to learn in the current world of work

Setting a schedule, carving out time to complete courses and knowing the goal you’re trying to achieve are all important steps towards changing your career. But perhaps the most important is learning how to learn again. 
For many, intentionally learning a new skill hasn’t been something that we’ve had to do for many years, so getting comfortable with being bad at something again requires a mindset shift. The fact that you’re stepping outside of your comfort zone should be acknowledged – and embraced.  
Learning new skills takes patience and practice.


You need to adopt a beginner’s mindset when setting out to add to your skill set. No one is good at something new immediately; it’s going to take time. 
Being patient with yourself throughout the process, and when working through the inevitable mistakes, will help you stay committed to the journey. Getting frustrated at being slow to pick up a skill or making errors can derail your commitment to learning the skill. Try breaking the learning into smaller sessions, consider how you learn best and resist the temptation to give up when things get hard.


Adopting a deliberate practice approach helps embed new skills faster. Doing the same thing over and over again without analysing what went right or wrong when applying those learnings will never embed the new skills. Deliberate practice means you approach learning with purpose, learn from mistakes and apply those learnings when applying new skills to a task.

Your professional network

While you’re on the learning journey you should also start building your professional network in the new industry you’re hoping to join. LinkedIn is a useful tool to develop these networks – search for people that hold similar job titles in the industry you’re looking to move to and connect via a personalised message. It can help if you interact with their content – comment on articles they write or share and tag them in posts that might be relevant. Let them know the journey you’re on, and when you anticipate being ready to start your job search in earnest.  
Also look for events where industry experts might be talking or join professional bodies in the new industry to attend conferences.

You don’t have to start at the bottom again

While you might have to downshift a rank or two to embark on a new career, the skills you have been using in your current role means you most probably won’t have to start at the bottom again when you change careers. Soft skills such as communication, problem solving and adaptability are just as valuable as many technical skills to an organisation. You might not start at the same level as you were at, but your past experience and transferable skills mean you will be able to consider roles above the entry level.

Be ok with being a beginner again

There will be frustrations when learning something new. But by being patient with yourself, consistent with your approach and building your new network, the leap into a new career can happen. Learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable to find a role that will give your career a new purpose.

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