So, you’ve been in the “perfect” bulge bracket banking job for two years, only to now realise that you hate it. Really hate it.
This narrative may resonate. Maybe it’s not after two years but 20. Perhaps it’s your career in PR rather than banking. Regardless of the details, you’re looking to escape into another field.
To make that jump you’ve got to think strategically and accept it may not happen overnight. You’ve built up career capital in one area that may need to be reworked to make it relevant to a new world. Here are some ideas on how you can best manage your transition.
Know What You Are Targeting and Why
You must get clear on the type of role that you want and understand why it appeals.
It’s easy to like the idea of an industry or job title without actually knowing what is involved. So, take the time to research it online, looking at job descriptions and industry forums.
Also, reach out to those already in the sector, perhaps via LinkedIn or email. Take them for coffee to find out more. Not only is it great to build a relevant network, it will hopefully give you a proper feel for the role you’re targeting.
On top of that, you’ve got to take a long hard look at yourself. What makes you tick? Why does this role or industry appeal to you? The last thing you want to do is change careers only to be burdened with the same underlying issues you hate now.
Undertake a Skills Inventory
Once you get clear on what is required, write down all the skills you currently bring to the table to find out what you are missing. It’s an important step for bridging the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
In some cases, you will have to earn an additional qualification. You can’t hope to jump from web designer to lawyer, for example, without gaining the necessary certifications.
But in plenty of situations, you can get around that.
Learn the Required Skills
Even before you consider going back to college, consider the broad range of learning opportunities available you can pursue – often for free.
Firstly, don’t forget that there may be opportunities to learn new skills in your current role. That could be through shadowing others, doing internal training or volunteering for projects more aligned with the field you are looking for.
Also, don’t ignore the value of books. Whether you’re looking to become a marketing guru or a fashion designer, printed material can at the very least give you a solid foundation in a topic, and for free if you use your local library.
Elsewhere, there’s so much untapped information waiting for you to access via your laptop. You could start by accessing free talks through YouTube. But more valuable would be signing up for MOOCs (“massive open online courses”). These are free online courses available to anyone on platforms that include Coursera, edX and Udacity. The courses themselves are created by an assortment of leading institutions from around the world, including Harvard University, the University of Cambridge and Hong Kong University.
So, if you want to advance your data science, marketing analytics or business writing skills amongst other things, take a look.
Apply the New Skills to Build Your Portfolio
Once you’ve built knowledge in your chosen area, it’s time to put it to work and create a portfolio to show a future employer that you can do the job.
You could do this by approaching local companies or charities to offer your services, whether paid or unpaid. Alternatively, there are several freelancing sites that will give you the chance to earn money while you hone your craft. Consider signing up for the likes of Upwork, PeoplePerHour and Fiverr.
You can build up your expertise while still in your current role. Don’t forget to showcase your skills on LinkedIn so that prospective employees can see what you can do.
Work Your Network
Once you have a body of work, it’s time to reach out to your network.
You could still apply for roles you see advertised online but using your connections is a great option for taking the first step into a new field. Some estimates suggest more than 70% of people land jobs through networking rather than through responding to job advertisements.
It’s a good way in which you can get yourself in front of the right people when your CV doesn’t exactly match the job specifications.