Starting & Switching Careers

When you start your career you will almost certainly start somewhere near the bottom of the ladder and start working your way up as you gain skills and experience. Qualifications, whether gained at university or through a vocational scheme like apprenticeships may offer you a little boost early on but ultimately you will need to prove your worth as an employee in order to gain promotion and rise up the career ladder. But what if you decide to switch careers, having decided that your choice of job didn’t suit you or wasn’t really what you thought it would be – how easy is it to move to a different role, company, or even career?

The ease with which you can change your job depends on how much you want to change and also how far along your career path you already are. At the lowest level you should find it relatively easy to move from one starting role to another elsewhere while, at lower levels, transferable skills can also prove useful. These may include ‘soft’ skills such as communication or may be ‘hard’ skills like knowing how to build an engine, cut hair, or handle accounts.

Transferable skills are great if you plan on moving from one role to a similar one elsewhere. Perhaps there doesn’t seem to be much scope for promotion with your current employer. So having built up some knowledge and experience you decide to take your career to another business or company, where you feel your chances of progressing are much higher.

For example, it can be tricky to land a role at a major employer – such as the BBC – due to competition for places. But, if you have managed to prove yourself in a similar role elsewhere, you will suddenly be more appealing as an employee. Proof often trumps potential when it comes to the job market – so if you can show that you know what you are doing, and have succeeded in a similar role previously, then you stand a much better chance of getting hired.

However, as you rise up the career ladder, your direct experience of a particular job becomes much more important than your transferable skills – especially if you are moving from one employer to another. While it may be perfectly possible to work your way up to becoming an executive, your chances of landing a similar role elsewhere based on just your skills and potential is much lower than if you have already shown you can do the job. Employers want to know the person they are hiring can do what is asked of them, and so are much more likely to hire someone with direct experience over someone with promise. This is why the apprenticeship system works so well, as it offers you real work experience of a particular job which you can then build upon.

Before you decide on your career, it is worth trying to get some knowledge or experience, so that you understand exactly what you are letting yourself in for. Taking an internship or getting some work experience is a good way to see if a particular job suits you before you commit to it. This is also a good way to make some contacts who could help you later. An existing employer may even let you do a secondment with a different department in order to see how you get on there.

But what do you do if you decide that a total change of direction is needed?

As ever, you will need to prove your worth to an employer – showing that you would be a good fit for their role and making them want to hire you. Any transferable skills or experience you have will certainly help you here. Maybe the career you want ties in with a hobby or past-time you have outside of work, or perhaps you could find a way to get some work experience in the role? The more you can show your ability to do the job the easier it will be to move, and the higher up the ladder you will be able to start.

The important thing is making the move and getting the experience you need. This may mean a slight sideways move, or even taking a pay cut in order to get into the career you want. It is often easier to get the job you need with a smaller, more intimate company, where you will also be more likely to work in various areas and gain a broad set of skills. From here you can make the jump to a larger firm, and if you have proven yourself they may even come looking for you!

There are plenty of ways to get your career moving, whether that is from the start or in the case of a change to doing something else. It is all about getting the right skills and experience and being able to prove your worth, and this will change from role to role and employer to employer. If you need any specific advice on your chosen career path you can find it right here on NotGoingtoUni – but remember, employers need skilled and dedicated staff just as much as you might need a career.

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