How to prepare for a successful career change

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How to prepare for a successful career change

With technology changing our world so rapidly, the chances of us entering the paid workforce in one role, and that role then seeing us through until retirement 40+ years latter would seem quite remote.

And even if this were possible, is it what you would really want?

In this post we’re going to explore some key steps you could take to execute a successful career change.

I’ve also put together a simple 1 page summary of these steps for you to download.


The first step in planning your successful career change is to take a some time to consider what it is that you’d like to do next. Take your time. Perhaps get away for a holiday. Discuss your thoughts with those closest to you – sometimes they might see things in you that you had been too blinkered to realise.

Get clear on your why

Are you making the career change because your current role is causing you anxiety or even depression? Or is it that the industry has changed and the work just isn’t there anymore. Maybe you feel that your true talents aren’t being valued – you’re not where you are meant to be.

Consider your strengths and weaknesses. You might find it useful to do a personality test like Myers Briggs to help you identify the types of functions that might suit.

Learn about your options

This period of reflection is likely to point you towards one or several potential careers, so the next step is to learn about them. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming you understand the realities and trajectory of a new potential career. Instead use your network to talk to people already in the space.

Learn about the entry points. Is the industry as a whole expanding or contracting? Are their particular areas in strong demand? What is a realistic income and will that work for you and your family? Is there a typical career pathway? Will that pathway align with your own life plan? By this I mean, if you plan to move to a rural area once the kids have finished school, then you don’t want to embark on a new career that ties you to the inner city.

And what are the usual prerequisites? For instance if you wanted to move into the Police Force, a certain level of physical fitness will be required.

Make a plan

Only after you’ve done your research should you move to the next phase – setting goals and making a plan. When will you make this career change? Set yourself some clear goals, for instance, by the end of the year I’ll have the study done so that I can sit the qualify exam. Really lock in those milestones to ensure you push forward.

In some cases you will be able to take on the training whilst in your current role. Indeed if you’re fortunate enough to work in a large company with lots of different divisions, perhaps your career change could occur within the organisation, in which case they may pay for your re-training.

One of my favourite interview episodes is when I spoke with Tim Lavery back in episode 55. That episode is a perfect accompaniment to this one – it’s a case study exploring Tim’s actual experience in making the successful career change from Bank Manager to Primary School Teacher. If you haven’t listened to it, I encourage you to do so.

Tim’s career change necessitated a significant period of retraining – he had to go back and study for a couple of years. Whilst this is a big commitment in time and energy, perhaps most significantly it’s a significant financial challenge. Tim was able to solve this through stretching a redundancy package. Tim and his wife determined the minimum they needed income wise. They determined a budget and a plan on how to meet that via his wife’s wage and a rate of drawing from the redundancy. Then they tested it prior to him finishing up.

I think the methodology that Tim and his wife employed provides a great template that we can all apply to making a successful career change, even if the exact solution differs.

His first step was to determine the minimum amount they could survive on for the period he needed to go back to study.

Next, where will that income come from? It could be your partners wages, drawing on savings, payouts such as Long Service Leave and Annual Leave, and perhaps if you’re lucky, even a redundancy payment. (See also: Redundancy – what a great opportunity)

Finally, test your plan. Run it for a few months whilst still in your current job. Will the planned income be enough? Can all the bills be paid? Will the kids still have food in their lunch boxes?

With the financial strategy resolved, you’re ready to move forward.

So in summary, to prepare for a successful career change you should:

Download the 1 page Cheat Sheet here to help you enjoy success in your career change.

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