5 habits of successful career changers

A successful business man with his arm outstretched on a field

The New Year is often the time when we reflect on our lives and consider how we might make changes for a better life. For many, a change of career will be top of the list, but it can be daunting. If you're unsure where to start, here are a few tips on taking the first step and making a successful switch.

What do you want?
Before you start scanning the jobs pages, take some time to think about what's really important to you in terms of your career. Consider where your particular skills lie in the workplace, as well as what you enjoy doing the most. What kind of environment would you like to work in, and with what kinds of people? Career planning tools such as the Prospects website can help, and you should try to narrow it down to two or three possible choices, and then research, research, research, looking at specific roles and companies, and industry guides to help you in your search.

Change gradually
When you're feeling excited about a career change, it can be tempting to jump in with both feet. However, a gradual approach is typically more successful and more sustainable. It might mean taking an evening course to improve your skills, making changes in your current job to equip you with more experience, or even volunteering or shadowing someone. Learning and improving your skills will make you more attractive to prospective employers down the line, and show them that you're serious about making the switch. And don't be disheartened if it takes a few steps in terms of jobs before you reach your ultimate goal - it is better to be learning and earning than worrying about where the next pay packet is coming from.

It's easy to see your ideal career through rose-tinted glasses, and that's why networking is so important. Nobody knows the reality better than those already working in the industry, so try to talk to people employed in the business, even a specific company if you have one in mind. It will help you to better understand the culture, the recruitment process, and the industry's approach to career changers. Don't imagine that it's only the senior employees that can help either - junior members of staff can also shed light on working in the industry. Professional networking sites, like LinkedIn, are a great way to make contacts in your chosen industry.

Concentrate your CV
When changing careers, particularly if you have taken a number of 'stepping stone' jobs, it's tempting to add every little detail to your CV so that you're covering all the prospective employer's bases. But the truth is they won't thank you for it. So when applying for that dream job, read the description carefully, research the firm and try to identify what qualities and skills they're really looking for. You want to grab their attention, and showing these key skills in just one or two pages is the way to get it. The goal is to get an interview - from there on, you can always impress them with further experience.

Let's face it, changing career is nerve-wracking and can be stressful, and it's only natural to have wobbles. You've thought long and hard about the idea and the affect it might have on your life, both at work and at home, now you have to believe that it can and will happen. Once you believe it, the chances are others will too, so have the courage of your convictions.

Have you successfully changed your career? What advice do you have for others looking to take the plunge? Leave your comments below...How to Change Careers