The do’s and don’ts of changing careers

Changing your career can be tough, but it's often worth doing. Even if a job pays well and there’s great progression, it may feel like it’s time to change your career goals. Perhaps it’s essential to improve your mental wellbeing, or the kids have left home and it’s time for a rethink.

Whatever your reasons, changing your career can result in a mine of misinformation. You have colleagues telling you what to do, well-meaning relatives offering advice, all the while you’re just sat in the middle wondering what to do.

Here’s a simple list of career Do’s and Don’ts that should help you decide whether now is the best time to change your job.

Do imagine life without working your current job. Maybe try spending as you would if your salary was depleted. This should help provide reassurance that even if you did change your job, say, to a more creative role, you should be able to survive. If it turns out to be tough, then doing a trial run should help you work towards a savings goal.

Do be realistic. You work in accounting but want to work in the music industry? Rather than working out how you’re going to be the next Mark Ronson, perhaps consider if you can get an accountancy role at a label, or use your financial knowledge to work as an analyst. "I spent ages thinking I wanted the glam life of a journalist, before realising that actually, my writing skills weren’t amazing. I took a sales role on a national newspaper, so now I have the buzz of working in the media, but have stuck to my strengths," says Amy Gedden, from London.

Do think about your social media presence. It’s been said time and time again, but watch what you’re putting online. Employers now tend to search for candidates online to see whether their experience stacks up. What would kill your chances of getting a job are any offensive comments on Twitter or other social media that would make you a liability to the company you work for. Weed out any incriminating photographs, and, if you can’t trust what your friends will do or share during your job hunt, consider disabling social media for a short while.

Don’t be afraid to just quit. You either have a job to go to, or you don’t. Waiting around for the right job to appear will make you even more frustrated. Not having a job to could mean you step your work experience game up. If all else fails, then why not get a job as a waiter? For Harnah, working in Nero’s turned out to be her dream job. "The cafe was right next to the news agency I wanted to work for. I served coffee to journalists every day and eventually got the courage to ask for a work placement. I got one, and now I’m a full-time staff member."

Don’t do anything dramatic. Funny resignation cakes are all very well on Instagram, but icing a cake that says: "I hate you goodbye" is never going to keep your network strong. Changing your career is easier if you have strong previous contacts so try not to burn all your bridges. Same goes for hilarious YouTube videos and public resignation letters detailing all the reasons you’re leaving. Keep it quite, keep it polite, and keep it professional.

Don’t give up on a dream because the training looks too tough. Want to be an architect, or a lawyer but worried you’ve left it too late? Obviously if you’ve got a mortgage or kids then retraining might be expensive. But there are always night-classes. Five years spent slogging a bit harder than usual has to be better than 35 years spent in the wrong job.

Do ask as many people for tips as you can. People love to give advice, and will enjoy sharing their story of how they changed career, especially if they’re now successful. Listen, take-note of any pitfalls or problems, and think about how they might impact on your life too. Even better, finding people to chat with could lead to networking. Not a bad thing when you’re trying to change your career.

Do spend lots of time planning your new career. Unless your dad is the CEO, whatever you change to is going to require a good slog to make inroads. If you’re moving to a job which has a slightly different skillset, then your research should anticipate this. Need to learn a new coding language? Then why not study it before you make the move? If anything it’ll make you more valuable to employers when you’re trying to get hired - plus, when you start you’ll hit the ground running.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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