Careers advice

Must read tips and tricks for a successful career change

A successful change in direction comes with careful planning and research - yours can start here!

A career change is an exciting but daunting prospect.

While a new direction can lead to greater job fulfillment, the accompanying uncertainties mean this isn’t a decision to make lightly.

To help you clarify your thinking, and start taking positive steps, we’ve created this guide to making a successful career change. We’ll cover what to consider in your planning, and the steps you should follow.

A career change should be an exciting prospect.

Am I too old to change career?

First things first, let’s put this one to bed. No, you are not too old to change careers.

Sure, it’s easier to make big trajectory swerves when you don’t have responsibilities like kids and a mortgage – but don’t let these considerations stop you from at least looking into it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re 25 or 55, with proper preparation, you don’t have to go back to Square One just because you’re entering a new industry.

How to make a career change - our tips and tricks

1. Ask yourself why

It’s one thing to know you’re not totally happy in your current career, it’s another to figure out why. Common culprits include:

  • Boredom: either you’ve been at it too long, or your career isn’t delivering the goods. If this is you, chances are you want something more aligned to your personal interests.
  • Pay: rent, cars, holidays, kids – they all cost money. If your sector isn’t generally highly paid, you might consider a big shift to access roles that are.
  • Work/life balance: it’s no secret that some industries make more demands on your time than others. The right career change could give you better control over your hours.
  • The organisation: our research shows 15% of New Zealanders look for new jobs simply because they want to leave their current employer. 

Understanding why you’re thinking about a career change is important for two reasons:

1. To work out if you’re serious: disliking your boss might be a reason to look for a new job – but, by itself, doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change career.

2. To help you target next steps: your motivation should help you narrow the options in your job hunt. For example, while a skilled trade job can pay well, it probably isn’t the ticket for someone looking for an improved work/life balance.

You need to work out what's not working out in your current career before you make any big decisions.

2. Assess your strengths, experience, interests and values

  • If you have a career destination in mind:

Review how your past experiences could set you up for where you want to go. Even if your training and career history are very specific, you’d be surprised at how easily skills can transfer.

For example, marketing and sales professionals are often highly sought after in the not-for-profit sector due to their ability to network and raise the profile of organisations.

Remember, at this stage you’re just brainstorming, so let your imagination go.

  • If you don’t have a career destination in mind:

You can now start to marry the drivers you identified in the previous section with your qualifications, experience and interests.

Don’t be afraid to come at potential job ideas from oblique angles. For example, nurses looking to get out of healthcare, perhaps for more sociable hours, could comfortably consider roles ranging from freelance medical writing to corporate wellness consulting.

This is where having a complete and comprehensive job profile really pays off. You can use this tool to quickly skim your previous roles and credentials and cherry pick those that will come in handy for your career change.

3. Talk to people

When weighing up big career decisions, the more relevant people you can talk to, the better.

Everyone has different experiences and perspectives, and listening to these can help you develop a rounded picture of what you might expect from a new beginning. Useful contacts include:

  • People in the industry you’re targeting.
  • Friends who’ve made big career changes.
  • Careers consultants.

: it’s worth talking to people, even if they had a bad experience. However, don’t let negativity put you off – this is your chance to learn from others’ mistakes.

4. Look at job listings

With all this research complete, it’s time to start looking at specific roles in your target industry.

From here, you can work out what additional qualifications or training you might need.

Reach out to your network to when considering your career change options.

5. Create a plan

Okay, so you have a shortlist of vacancies that fit your criteria.

Sometimes, you may feel confident applying straight away by simply rearranging your current CV to make it highlight your most relevant attributes.

However, if your career move requires you to pursue new qualifications or experience, it’s a good idea to set some SMART goals.

SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely, and this framework is perfectly suited to cutting the headline career change objective into bite size chunks. For example, you could aim to do an evening course or voluntary work over a given time period to beef up your CV.

These goals can be short or long term, but following the SMART framework will help ensure you’re always moving in the right direction.

6. Stick at it

Depending on how big a change you’re making, your transition could be weeks, months or years in the making.

Crucially, don’t get disheartened if the first interview for your desired sector doesn’t land you a role. That doesn’t mean your efforts have been in vain – you may just need to tweak your application. If you’ve done your preparation properly, you’ll get there!