Many of us daydream of escaping desks, deadlines and piles of paperwork for a more exciting career, but few are actually brave enough to jack in our jobs and try something new.
Changing careers is undoubtedly a huge decision but it can be incredibly rewarding if you make the right choice. So what should you consider before taking the plunge?
Many workers feel lucky to just hold down a job in light of widespread redundancies in the rocky current climate, yet this suggests a massively dissatisfied workforce. Over three quarters (77%) of workers have given up on the prospect of landing their dream job, according to a study by uSwitch.com, with just 6% admitting to being in their ideal role. That's a pretty depressing picture.
Career change is one of the biggest life transitions there is, so it's little wonder that many of us approach the process with fear and trepidation, says Tony Roy, president of CareerBuilder.co.uk: "We're afraid that we'll choose the wrong career, that we won't be able to get a job, that our friends and family will disapprove.
The most popular second career choices include plumbing, teaching, floristry and public relations, followed by interior design, alternative medicine, becoming a chef, web design, nursing and garden design. Interestingly, this myriad of widely different careers are less reliant on office work and technology, and suggest a widespread interest in practical and creative work; care and education, as well communications and face-to-face interaction with people.
Yet attractive as these roles may be, they involve considerable retraining, qualifications and work experience. This requires motivation, commitment and a shift in financial stability, so what should you think about before changing direction?
Why do you want to change?
Figure out exactly why you want to leave your current career and try to distinguish if it is the actual career you are unhappy with, or if is due to other factors such as your current role, colleagues or employer. It can help to draw up a specific list of what you do and don't like about your current work, and identify what would make your working life more enjoyable.
It is important not to rush this step as you may find that you can make a less drastic career change than completely retaining, such as taking a secondment; finding another job in the same sector, or looking for a similar role in a different sector. "Try to utilise your area of functional specialism or industry experience," advises Neil Owen, global practice director at recruiter Robert Half Financial Services. "These transferrable skills will make it easier to change direction."
Are there opportunities in your network?
Looking for opportunities internally within your company should always be the first step before you jump ship, says Owen. "The time you have invested with your employer should generate loyalty for them to support you in changing direction," Owen explains. "They know you and your strengths and you know the right contacts to pursue in your chosen area."
Don't be afraid to talk about your desire to change. Reach out to friends and contacts on social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and ask for advice. "Research the latest developments in your chosen industry, network as widely as you can at industry events and talk to people who do the job you want to do," suggests Michael Gentle, a spokesperson for Monster UK & Ireland.
Do you know exactly what is involved?
If you are certain on a more dramatic change of career, it is crucial to fully research the industry to avoid any nasty surprises. Some roles can seem perfect from the outside looking in, but every job has its downsides. Industry forums can be a good place to get a reality check – on Floristnews.co.uk for example, wannabe florists are warned about incredibly early mornings, constant cleaning, long hours, difficult customers and poor pay.
It is also important to be fully aware of how to get into the industry. Are you prepared to start at the bottom, with the possibility of younger colleagues being superior to you? Are you happy to work for fee or do an internship, or spend time and money building a portfolio of work?
Are you prepared financially?
Finance tends to be the biggest barrier to career change, both in terms of swapping to a less well-paid job and living on a reduced income while retraining. It is crucial to work out a budget with household income and expenditure and be prepared for a potential shift in lifestyle. "You need to be realistic about the options open to you," says Gentle. "Going to university full-time or retraining simply might not be possible if for example, you are a single parent or have large mortgage payments."
If it is within reach try to build up a safety net of savings while in your current job to ease the transition into training, and look into options for part-time work or flexible working to fit around a college course. Research to find out if grants and bursaries are available in your chosen field and discuss with your spouse or partner about the financial support you may need.
Will you regret it if you don't?
Career choices shape our quality of life, so if you are unhappy in your current situation it sensible to explore new options rather than simply stick with it and grumble to anyone who will listen. Making a change is unlikely to be easy but the adage goes that we regret the things we don't do more than the things we do. In two, five, or 10 years time, will you regret not having made a change? If so, form a plan to create the life you want and don't give up until you have achieved it.