We recently welcomed six career changers onto campus to share their experiences of career transitioning which prompted a very interesting and wide ranging discussion. Our panel had worked in a range of industries including international organisations, investment banking, consultancy, finance, law and management and transitioned to areas including government policy, the charity sector, impact investing and entrepreneurship and coaching.
The panel spoke openly about some of the challenges they had faced. These include knowing what they didn’t want to do and the challenges of figuring out what to do next, the steep learning curve, getting to know your new sector and building a network from scratch, developing a new professional identity and figuring out your value in the new market you want to transition into.
One of the things we asked our speakers was to share any advice they would have given themselves if they were about to embark on the process of changing career again. Here are some of their top tips:
Be focused on your career change ‘project’ and what interests you most. Think about what you are genuinely curious about and don’t be too open to a too wide range of things. This will come across as a lack of clarity.
Identify what ‘tribe’ you’re comfortable in: which people you want to work with, which culture you enjoy working in.
Know what YOU want to get out of your change and be confident in this. Don’t spend your time explaining to others and justifying yourself.
Find one or two mentors and other sources of support who can help you through your career change. This might be to act as a sounding board or to offer more practical advice, for example, networking contacts. They can also give you a sense of perspective and help you stay resilient when things get tough.
Go out and meet people. While conferences, meet-ups and other themed events can be really useful for building a broad network, seek out people for one-to-one conversations. These conversations with a specific purpose can often be more productive.
Look to your local community – both for contacts as well as practical ways to take steps to manage your career change. Don’t stay at a conceptual search level.