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6 Strategies for making a successful career change

Ready for a career change, but have no idea what else you could do – or where to start? The career-change experts at Careershifters share their top strategies for success.

6 Strategies for making a successful career change

Trapped in a job that isn't right for you? Ready for a career change, but have no idea what else you could do – or where to start? The career-change experts at Careershifters share their top strategies for success.

1. Stop thinking, start acting

Some career changers are lucky enough to have a passion or dream to follow, but if you're not sure what kind of career you want, it can be even harder to make the leap.

Richard Alderson, founder of Careershifters, explains: 'When you don't know what else you want to do, it's easy to get stuck in analysis paralysis. Making lists, going round in circles in your head and endlessly searching on Google isn't likely to help.'

In these cases, it's best to explore a few different options. Join a class, meet new people, go to conferences or networking events, or shadow someone whose job you find interesting. Stepping into different worlds will spark ideas and, at the very least, help to cross off possibilities rather than leaving them open in your mind.

2. Avoid job sites and build relationships

As a career changer, the traditional ways of finding a job are unlikely to work. Rather than applying for roles for which you have no experience (and suffering the knock of rejection), spend time building relationships.

If you search job sites for something in a different field, you're unlikely to have the skills and experience they say they require. And if you speak to recruitment consultants, they'll only likely want to place you in similar roles to the one you're in now.

Instead, focus on looking for people and not jobs.

'People are your best route to new opportunities. Not only is there a huge hidden job market (an estimated 80% of jobs are never advertised), but connecting with people allows you to present yourself in a much more effective way that you could through your CV,' says Richard.

Start by looking at who you've already got in your community who might be able to point you in an interesting direction. Make sure you're getting the most out of LinkedIn and don't miss the opportunity to speak to people at events.

3. Find your tribe

There's another good reason to focus on building relationships with people in your new career.

The work you'll enjoy is as much about the people you do it with as the role itself. So, seek out like-minded people – others who share the same values, passions and interests as you, through classes, courses, meet-up groups and events.

You'll not only feel energised, but you'll also get important clues as to what you might enjoy, as well as useful connections in different fields.

4. Reclaim your time

Changing careers takes time and effort – to research potential new roles, network, obtain qualifications and gain experience – and trying to do this while you are holding down your current job can be a challenge.

Richard suggests seeing if you can free up time to focus on your career change by working from home, going part-time, or consolidating your working hours. Many employers now offer the opportunity for flexible working or part-time hours. Not everyone has the opportunity to do this, but you might be surprised at how accommodating your employer can be.

5. Test and learn

You don't need to take a complete leap of faith when making a career change. It's possible to test your ideas in small ways to give you certainty before you quit.

You can do this by taking a course, doing short work assignments in your new field, voluntary work, or running small proofs of concept if you're launching a business.

In order to be taken seriously by recruiters, you'll need to have some work experience in your new field, as well as qualifications. Be prepared to temp, work shadow or volunteer if necessary. As well as showing recruiters that you're serious, it also gives you a chance to make sure the job is right for you.

6. Get help

Making a major change to your career and life is hard to do alone, so make sure you get help.

Richard's advice is to build a support team. These can be friends or colleagues who can be cheerleaders and supporters, or mentors – either people who've successfully shifted or are already working in a field you're interested in; or they can be paid experts – coaches, consultants or career change specialists. All can help you get unstuck, overcome the fears associated with a change and move faster to fulfilling work.

If you're interested in changing careers but not sure where to go next, Careershifters has a Career Change Toolkit which you can download for free.