Starting a second career can be both daunting and exciting. Alongside a string of possibilities and the promise of finding your true calling are the challenges and pitfalls of starting over in an entirely new industry sector. There’s a whole host of reasons why you might be thinking of a career change, from spending more time with your family to simple uncertainty about what you really wanted when you left education. Whatever you reason, here are five tips that will help you get your second career underway.
Obtain the relevant qualifications
Changing career usually means having to undertake further education. This might mean going to university or college, or taking a more convenient route such as an online financial education course. It’s worth looking into what qualifications your intended career requires – if it’s a diploma or degree for example, you’ll need to consider the cost of the course, whether you can study part time and if you’ll need to attend work placements.
It’s also a good idea to look at how in-depth you need to study, and which area of an industry you may want to specialise in. To use the above example, a general online financial education may provide a good foundation for lower level jobs, but if you wish to progress to accountancy or investments, you’ll need to study those specific areas at a higher level.
Consider the competition
Some careers such as marketing are highly competitive, with many people applying for one job. This can mean more of a struggle to start your career once you’ve obtained your qualifications. Others always have jobs available – nursing, for example, may enable you to travel as it’s a profession in which many countries experience a shortage.
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs and finance jobs provide excellent career development for women – as traditionally male-dominated industries, they have few female role models, meaning some businesses in these sectors actively look to recruit female candidates. There are also several organisations that provide support and guidance for women aiming to enjoy a career in these industries, meaning that once your studies are finished, a range of opportunities can open up.
Whether you choose to start before, during or after your studies, networking is a great way of getting advice and making valuable contacts. Talk about your intention to switch careers, how you plan to go about it and what you are currently doing to achieve success. Job fairs, conferences or business get togethers are a great way to physically connect with others in the industry; if you don’t have time to attend them or want to start slowly, try joining an online forum or LinkedIn group.
Even if you’ve already taken the first steps to a new vocation, there’s no reason to stop networking. Making contacts and meeting regularly with other professionals can open the door to opportunities for extending your knowledge and even progressing your career.
Evaluate your finances
You may be embarking on a second career in order to earn more, in which case the mid to long term aim will be to take home more than you currently do. If, however, you are giving up a high powered, high-stress job to achieve a better work/life balance, you will want to consider how that impacts your lifestyle. Not only will you have to cover the cost of a course, including materials and tuition – even transport or accommodation if you plan to study in a different town – you’ll also have to account for changes in pay. Even if the plan is to attain a higher salary, it’s likely that you’ll still have to start at the bottom and work up, which could mean things are tighter for a while.
Take advantage of financial aid that’s available, whether it’s a loan, grant or tax breaks. Look at your local government website or investigate the types of financial assistance offered by the institution you’re studying with to understand how you can make your career change more affordable.
Ditch the excuses
Changing career, whatever your circumstances, is always going to be challenging and finding excuses to delay it will only hold you back. Whether you’re 27 or 57 it’s never too late to get started on a second career, and nor should your gender be an issue – as we’ve pointed out, career development for women is actively supported in fields where men dominate. If you’re a 50 year-old woman who has always dreamed of being a mechanic, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give it a go!
Ultimately, it’s important to have confidence in your ability to make the change and forge a successful second career. If you are properly prepared, patient and have considered the above aspects of changing vocation, there’s every chance you can achieve your goals.