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How to change careers at any age – part 1

Learn the five key stages to make your career change easier - it all starts with ramping up your knowledge.

This is the first part of a five-part series dedicated to breaking down how you can make a successful career change at any age.

Whatever your reason for wanting to make a career change (or Switch), there are five key stages that you must consider from the offset. If you do, and you can successfully navigate these five stages, then not only will you be more successful in your goal to change careers, you will also maintain any momentum you have to date in your career.

How do I know this? Well because I followed this exact pattern, decided to Switch from environmental consultancy to marketing, changed careers, and managed to accelerate my career momentum. At the point of switching, I managed a 10% salary increase, unleashed untapped potential within myself, improved my career happiness and in the subsequent 4 years after the change increased my salary by 450%.

The success of your career change will depend on how well you obtain knowledge about your new chosen profession.

The first of the five key stages of changing careers is around your need for new knowledge. The concept here is simple: Build up your knowledge about your chosen new profession. This is a crucial stage because it really will determine your success through the four remaining stages. Specifically, if you gain the new knowledge you need, it will help you do three main things:

  1. Give you the confidence you are heading in the right direction;
  2. Allow you to more easily identify learnings and experiences you already have which will be of value to you in your new profession (i.e. help you craft a compelling story); and
  3. Allow you to talk the talk of the new profession and give you (and your story) vital credibility with your prospective new employer.

Learning about the day-to-day will help you confirm the new profession is right for you.

The first step is to build up your knowledge of the day-to-day aspects of the role you are planning to switch in to. This will help you confirm if your chosen new profession is indeed a good fit for you. Simply, you are aiming to confirm that the job is something you are interested in doing, and secondly that the types of tasks you will be asked to do, will bring out the best in you. A great research tool for this is the good ole internet search. For example, you could use the following search phrase: ‘Guide to <insert your new profession name here>’. The other way to get information about the day-to-day is to reach out to your network and ask people about their experiences.

Your aim should be to spend only the time and money on the formal education you actually need.

The second step is to establish the level of education you will need to successfully make the career change. Specifically, check for any formal qualifications or education requirements. By far the most costly (both time and money) professions are those with formal educational requirements. For example, think lawyers and doctors. This is because there is a certain level of critical knowledge that every one of these professionals needs in order to function. After all, you would probably not want to see a doctor that just read a few books as his only form of education. One way you can easily establish if your chosen new profession has formal educational requirements and get some useful information is to visit resources like www.study.com.

However other professions have much less stringent requirements, and usually, if you have relevant experience, this can fill any educational gap you may have. For example, marketing, sales, and operations. If this is the case, then your path to a successful ‘Switch’ is likely to be less onerous. If you have chosen one of these professions with a lower educational barrier to entry (i.e. experience can count in lieu of formal education), then your aim is simple: Build up your knowledge of the sector or position / profession, so that you can talk the talk and have enough working knowledge of the day-to-day that you can add value from day one.

During my own career change / ‘Switch’, the best thing to happen to me was not pursuing my MBA. This was not necessarily by design. I studied really hard for the GMAT exam, and my test scores were in the range I wanted. However, on the day I got a score below what I needed. I can still vividly remember the sick feeling I had in my stomach at the confirmation of my lower than expected score. That feeling of desperation that all was lost, and that I now needed to think again how to move forward.

Instead, I got a professional marketing diploma from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM). A tenth of the cost, but delivered all the knowledge and education I needed to be successful. It also gave me a credible educational achievement that meant I could talk the talk and establish credibility when it came to speaking to prospective new employers in my new profession.

Invest early in building your knowledge before you expend too much time, energy and money.

Bottom line; make sure your new profession is right for you, by learning about the day-to-day. Then make sure you are considering your return on investment before undertaking any formal education. You want to maximize your output (i.e. time to start in your new profession and earnings) versus your input (i.e. time to complete and monetary cost).

Check out our FB page for this week’s additional insights, which will help you think about the true cost of formal education.

Originally published at 3decisions.com

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