Want to change careers? Here's what you need to know


As you may know, I recently left my safe, comfortable, potentially life-long career as a lawyer. For the people that know me well, it didn’t come as a surprise.

When I started to tell people that I had resigned to take up a new opportunity, it was pretty interesting to hear the wide variety of responses I got. I heard it all: from excitement, to concern, to confusion, to jealousy… and of course the people who were stoked for me making the big jump.

What I found really interesting was the number of people who confided in me that they weren’t sure that they made the right career decision, but had absolutely no idea what they wanted to do. Or, if they had an idea, they didn’t know how to start transitioning towards where they wanted to be and change careers.

Want to change careers?

With this in mind, it’s timely to share some of the things that I learned along the way. So, here goes!

  1. It’s going to take time

First of all: I’m going to be brutally honest. It won’t happen overnight.

You are going to need to be prepared. Have a strategy for how you are going to work through the process of changing careers. Can you stay in your current job and put the steps in place out of hours? Or do you need to take a “sideways” step, to free up some time or get you out of a bad work environment?

With hindsight, I admit that sometimes it was a really hard slog. I was working full time, frequently completely snowed under by my “day job”, while trying to network, up skill, apply for jobs and get my name out there. It wasn’t always easy, so accept that there will be ups and downs.

And if it does happen over night, then that’s worth celebrating too!

  1. It’s all about education

I have been reading “Work Smarts” by US TV anchor Betty Liu. Interestingly, Betty also had a big career change, and received this piece of advice:

Opportunity + Preparation = Luck

This may be one of the best pieces of advice that you will receive on your journey. In the book, Betty goes on to share some more of the advice that she received, which really resonated with me:

People see other’s successes and they think, oh, they’re just lucky. Nobody is ever lucky, trust me. Sure, things happen to people. There’s stories everywhere of people who have been toiling away and all of a sudden, they get the dream job they’ve always wanted; or their business idea takes off and they make millions. We look at that and think, they’re lucky. No honey, they’re not lucky. They were prepared.

Educate yourself and prepare in every way possible, Connect with leaders in your target industry on social media and start a conversation. Sign up for a part time course or nighttime events (this is particularly useful if you can’t quit your job). Read books – from self-education to relevant texts on your industry and share what you have learned.

Don’t be lazy and don’t get complacent. Education is key, so start preparing now.

  1. You need to put yourself out there

Now for more brutal honesty: applying for random jobs online from the safety of your lounge room ain’t going to cut it.

You are more than a CV, or a LinkedIn profile, so get out there and prove it. Don’t underestimate the power of people who hear your story and want to support you. In fact, one thing that kept me going when it all got too tough, was the amazing generosity of people who were willing to meet with me and share their insight and knowledge (check out some of my learnings here).

I was recently listening to the “Beers, Blokes and Business” podcast on changing industries. In this episode Steve Sammartino suggests sitting down for coffee with 10 people in the industry you are working towards as a key method of changing industries. Prepare before your coffee and pick your coffee date’s brain on their career and industry. Share your passion and your why. Importantly, before you finish up ask if they can introduce you to one more person in their industry. It won’t be long before your network builds up, bringing you to the front of people’s minds when a new opportunity comes along.

Yes, I just admitted to listening to a podcast called Beers, Blokes and Business! Back story: I met Sean Callanan (aka Sports Geek) at Unconvention this year and he got me on to it. The beer talk is minimal (I’m more a wine girl myself), and it’s not super “blokey”, so check it out because the episodes are super informative – episode 72 is the one I am referring to here. I highly recommend this episode.

  1. Focus on transferable skills

I can’t think of a job that is so specialised that it won’t give you skills that you can’t apply to a new career.

Think about what you do at work, and strip it back to the absolute fundamentals. Are you organised? Able to manage and balance a number of important tasks for your boss? Can you distill complex information into something that is clear and concise? Are you able to manage challenging shareholders? Present comfortably to your peers or clients?

Thinking about your fundamental skills is key to remembering that you are capable of so many things; so don’t be afraid to sell your skills!

  1. Enjoy the journey

Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the journey!

Although I had my fair share of bumps along the way, I am so thankful that I persevered. For me, it’s brought so much more than a great new job: I’ve made new friends, learned exciting new things, reminded myself that I can put myself out there and go after what I want, and had heaps of fun along the way.

Finally, there may not be the perfect time to pursue a career change. But what’s the worst outcome of pushing yourself to learn more and meet new people? Your personal growth might be enough to get you excited about the career that you already have. And you know what, that’s not a bad thing either.

Good luck! I would love to hear about your journey – please get in touch via social media using the links below or get in touch by email: phoebe@makingitup.net.au