Most people don’t know what they want to be when they grow up, and I’m not talking about high school students. Everyone I know has the same answer when I ask if they’re currently in their dream job – this job is “fine for now”, but they’re still looking for that “dream career”.
Unfortunately, we’ve all passed through an education system that encourages us to choose our path from a young age. The subjects you learn in high school influence what you can study at college or university, and these will shape the internships you are eligible for, and finally the career you walk into. Education sucks you up into a whirlwind at the age of four or five and spits you out 17 years later a few feet taller but none the wiser about what you want to be when you grow up.
For the late bloomers – those people who find their calling later in life – it can be difficult to change direction so late in the game. Walking away from an established career and starting from scratch is terrifying, and not just from a financial perspective. There’s a reason Hollywood makes movies about 70-year-old interns.
Even if you’re thinking about changing your career in your late 20s or early 30s, you’ll still face a lot more obstacles than a wide-eyed graduate might go up against. It’s emotionally and professionally challenging, but there are also practical considerations to keep in mind. Graduates can generally throw caution to the wind and live each day as it comes. You didn’t know it at the time, but those years after graduating were the most blessed of your life. It will take sacrifice, but there are ways to change your career direction later in life, whether you want to be a lawyer, a doctor or a business owner.
When looking at new career paths, it can be easy to forget the soft skills you already have in bundles that will be beneficial in any job. Communication, numeracy, teamwork and managerial skills are essential to most jobs, so play up these skills when looking to transition to your new field.
At the start of your career, working for no money but endless perks doesn’t sound so bad. Unfortunately, freebies don’t pay the rent, so you’ll have to look for ways to gain experience while still bringing home the bacon. One of the best ways to do this is to find ways to sell your existing skills to an employer that will give you experience and exposure to your chosen industry. If you’ve trained in marketing and want to work in law, finding a law firm that is looking for marketing support will be a mutually beneficial arrangement.
If you’re thinking about moving into the medical field, gaining experience will be harder but not impossible. Try combining your work experience with a vacation with a company like Gap Medics. If you want to go it alone and start your own business, look for a business mentor to guide you through those early stages.
For career changers, going back to school and gaining a Masters or PhD in a completely new field is not uncommon. With a fancy new qualification under your belt, there will be no denying your commitment. You might need to brush up on your studying skills, and you’ll probably be the oldest person on your course, but going back to school can be the easiest way to switch up your career path.
Some employers will be hesitant to hire the “career changer” as they are worried you’re jumping ship on your current career because you think the grass might be a little greener elsewhere. By showing up with a little experience under your belt, you’ll be showing an extra level of commitment, rather than just showing how you can adapt your current skills to a new role.