Career change - what's stopping you?

road block

The path to career fulfilment is rarely linear. Despite the pressures we receive from our school days onwards to know exactly what we want to do with our working lives, the truth is that most people’s individual career journey is characterised by a number of unexpected twists and turns, and changes of direction.

And we are lucky. Because in the 21st century the idea of career change is wholly acceptable. The ‘job for life’ culture that we may associate with our parents or our grandparents’ generation is long gone. Indeed, research by the Guidance Council in 2010 showed that approximately 1 in 10 people were considering an imminent career change; that equates to roughly 2.5 million potential career changers year on year. Yet I recognise that there is a huge difference between considering and actually going ahead with plans for a new occupation, and in my experience, most people don’t get past the thinking stage.

So, any potential career changers out there; stop and ask yourself “what is stopping me?” It’s only when you begin to identify these obstacles that you can realistically start to plan ways around them and move forwards with your new career plans. Perhaps the 5 biggest blockers are the ones listed below. Consider them carefully before deciding if they are a real obstacle or perhaps just a perceived obstacle to you.

  1. Money

    It’s easy to say “I can’t afford to retrain/take a salary cut/do an internship” but sometimes short term financial sacrifices have to be made for longer term gain. Have you actually done the sums? Have you looked into funding opportunities including, for example, career development loans? Are there ways that you can save for the initial investment or cut back on spending whilst your new career grows?

  2. Fear of failure

    This can be reduced hugely by appropriate planning. Have you sought professional advice to confirm it is a career area that you are going to thrive in? Have you researched the job market and feel confident that there are opportunities for you? Do you have existing networks in the industry that you can utilise now or in the future to make the transition to this new career easier?

  3. Timing

    I’m always hearing “it’s too late for me to change careers” (and sometimes, even “is it too early for me to change careers?”) But think about it logically. At, for example, 40 years old, you are perhaps only 15 years into your current career, with another 25 working years plus ahead of you. That’s a lot of working years to spend if you are unhappy in your current occupation.

  4. Personal circumstances

    Perhaps the time is right in term of your career but not your family situation. Do you lack the support needed from your nearest and dearest to make a career change? Maybe they need to see some of the planning you have done in order to be convinced that this is the right way forward. Or maybe waiting a couple of years until after the wedding/when the car has been paid off/when the kids are both at school would actually be a more sensible option.

  5. Fear of the unknown

    This is the biggie. And I admit that seeing what I see so regularly through my job, I can become a bit blasé about career change. The truth is that whilst changing career is commonplace, it still is a big deal to the person doing it. And that can be scary. Perhaps you need to speak to others who have done it themselves (there are plenty of them out there) to get an idea of the realities involved before you can feel truly ready to go ahead and take that leap of faith.

Now give yourself a few quiet moments to reassess your situation. Tackle your personal obstacles one by one. Perhaps career change is more attainable than you thought