As we end the year and prepare for a new one, you may be contemplating switching careers. There may be various factors guiding your decision – perhaps you want to do something more meaningful or less demanding than what you’re doing now, or maybe you’ve outgrown your current role and are ready to take on a new or different challenge. The rising cost of living may also be a driving force. According to a recent survey by recruitment firm Robert Walters, more than 78% of employees in Singapore will consider changing jobs in 2023 if their pay increment is lower than the inflation rate.
Whatever your reason for wanting to change careers, it’s important to weigh your options carefully and to come up with a game plan. We asked Paul Heng, Founder of NeXT Career Consulting Group, Asia, for a few tips to help you along.
Q: How can I tell if the time is right to leave my current career to start a new one?
Paul: When it comes to changing careers, there are usually two sets of motivating factors – “push” and “pull”. Reflect on these and write them out, but remember to be objective and avoid introducing emotions into the list. For instance, saying that your boss doesn’t like you is emotional, whereas “I’m not learning anything new” is objective. Ask a friend or mentor to go through your list with you and to challenge your thinking behind each point. As you delve deeper into each factor, you’ll be better positioned to decide if you’re ready to make the change.
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Q: I want to try something new but I have no idea what to do or what I’d be good at. How do I figure this out?
Paul: I suggest reading about the industry you intend to move into, talking to people who already have the job you want, and researching as much as you can about the role. Once you have all the information you need, such as the duties involved, the salary, working hours and so on, ask yourself if that career is something you’d enjoy. It should also be something that challenges and stimulates you. Unfortunately, you won’t know what starting a new career will be like until you actually do it. That’s why it’s important to go into it with as much information as possible, while also factoring in your skills, experience and qualifications.
Q: What are the best ways to research the career or industry I want to switch to?
Paul: Compile a list of the skills you have now that would be useful in your new career. Then, research the roles that align with these skills. Think about how these roles will help you develop and thrive, not just in the short-term but in the long run as well. Once you have a list of potential roles, you can start your research to figure out if you need extra qualifications or experience, and so on.
Generally, switching careers is easier if you’re not at the mid-point of your career, however, it’s perfectly fine to want to try something new even if you’re in your late 30s or 40s or older. After all, our perspectives, needs, passions, motivations and ambitions tend to change as we age.
Q: How important is it to network with people who are currently in the industry I’m planning to move into?
Paul: It’s certainly important because connections matter. There may not be anyone in your immediate circle who can help you, but the people in this circle may know other people who can, or their friends may have friends who may be willing to offer you advice or recommend you to a position.
Don’t be shy about reaching out to total strangers, either, on platforms like LinkedIn, for example. Just be clear about what you want. You could start your message with something like, “I’m trying to find out more about this industry, and since you’re a part of it, I was hoping that you could answer a few questions that I have”. In my experience, most people are happy to help.
Q: I want to do something totally different from my current job but I lack the experience. How do I gain experience if I’m starting from scratch?
Paul: Look for ways to acquire some experience in that industry before applying for work. But remember, you can close the gap by taking an interest in the job and amassing as much knowledge as you can about the industry.
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Q: Switching careers can feel scary and overwhelming. How do I deal with the anxiety and any insecurities that I may be feeling?
Paul: Be clear and objective about your reasons for wanting to make the switch. This should boost your confidence. Second, remind yourself that it’s normal to feel scared and anxious about trying something new for the first time. And finally, don’t burn bridges at your present job – knowing that you can go back to it later if you need to, may give you some extra reassurance.
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