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Nicola Kenyon knows what it’s like to switch careers. She gives some advice on how to steel your courage to the mast and make the jump.
Working in the same role for many years has many advantages, but depending on the nature of your work, or your personality, it can sometimes feel like you’re stuck in a rut. A change of employer is sometimes enough, but it might be that you realise that you’re in the wrong industry.
It’s then that a move can feel impossible. Whether it’s due to feeling that you don’t have the right qualifications or experience, or because of financial responsibilities, too many women wish to find a new career but feel held back.
However, as I have learnt from experience, it’s never too late to switch careers. I worked in journalism for seven years on local and regional publications, but decided to make the move into the PR industry. I was able to get a job doing the communications for a public sector organisation and since then have worked at PR agencies and in-house and never looked back!
It’s important to pursue a job which genuinely excites you, and there’s no time like the present. So, here are my top tips on how to switch careers.
Reluctance to switch to a different industry can stem from a number of reasons, which can be enough to put you off doing so altogether. This can be particularly true of working mums who have others who rely on their income and stability. Many mums also spend so long focusing on the welfare of their children, meaning that their children’s needs often come first!
But you’ll still need/want your career after they’ve left home. So, you need to focus on yourself. Also, I talk to a lot of mums who stick with their job because ‘it fits’ with family life. But there are other jobs that will fit too.
Lots of places offer flexible working and if an employer wants you, they may be willing to make it work for you.
Switching industries can be a relatively risk-free process. Though it may take up some time out of your working day, it’s unlikely it requires you to be unemployed for a significant period of time or to affect your family.
Plus, if you want to move industries – the sooner the better. The longer you put the decision off, the more time you waste when you could be in a new role, learning new skills and climbing the career ladder.
You may be looking to switch industries because you know that your passion lies elsewhere, or simply because your current position isn’t making you happy. Either way, it’s inevitable that you may feel a little lost knowing what kind of job you might be able to get.
I found that the best way to tackle this is through research. Other than online research, try to talk to as many people as you can who do the job (or jobs) that you’re interested in – and be sure to consider their life situation in comparison to yours.
For example, a police officer with no children is likely to view her job differently to a mother who would need to deal with childcare for night shifts. As working mums, it’s not just about the job – it’s about how it fits into everyone’s life. But ultimately you don’t know what a job is like until you try it – so go for it, it doesn’t have to be forever!
Once you have decided on the industry, and potentially the specific role you’d like to pursue, you need to assess your transferable skills. Create a list of key skills that you have gained from your education, work experience and any other qualifications you may have – don’t be afraid to big yourself up. Next, work out the most important skills required for your desired role – looking at job application forms is a great way to do this.
With this information, you should be able to assess which skills you already have that make you a fitting candidate for a new job – this is really crucial information to shout about, that employers will want to know.
In my case, copywriting, working to tight deadlines, and creativity (to name a few) were skills which are needed in both journalism and PR, and helped me to make the switch. I focused very much on the experience I had gained in previous roles which could be used in PR, along with my knowledge of the industry.
It is also likely that there will be skills required for a new role which you don’t have much experience of. Don’t let this put you off. There are many practical ways in which you can upskill your current abilities and learn demonstrable new ones.
One of the best ways to do this is online courses. There are thousands of courses online which can get you recognised qualifications. Prices can start from around £10 and some are even free. Not only do these give you the skills you need, but it shows a thirst to switch industries to employers.
After all of your hard work preparing yourself for a new role, having a poor CV is like falling at the final hurdle. You need to make sure that you pitch yourself effectively for your desired role, so look at some examples online that are specific to the industry.
As you are unlikely to have bags of experience in the industry you’re aiming for, make sure that your story and your skills are the main things which shine through.
The person reading your CV should clearly understand why you’re switching industries and how your skills make you the perfect candidate. Be honest.
I once received a CV from a woman who hadn’t worked for some years. She listed all her experience as skills she’d gained in the home. So financial skills – managing the household budget; organisational skills – dealing with the admin of two children and a household etc. It worked really well and I knew she’d be a great hire. Never underestimate the skills you have.
Nicola Kenyon is the PR Manager at Patient Claim Line, a specialist medical negligence brand operated by leading UK law firm Fletchers Solicitors.