Your guide to navigating a career change

A silhouette of a street sign with arrows pointing in multiple directions at sunset.

Did you start 2024 dragging your feet into work? Or were you filled with enthusiasm about turning your side-hustle into a full-time gig, or achieving greater work-life balance? 

Either way, it’s a sign that a career change could be on the cards.

A career change can be a transformative and rewarding journey, allowing you to align your work with your passions and aspirations. 

In this guide, discover how to successfully navigate a career change at any age, with careful planning and self-reflection, and actionable steps to help you upskill or reskill for your new career. 

Identify your ‘why’

Everyone has a different reason for seeking a career change. A 2021 study of more than 4,600 workers found the top three reasons people want to change careers were: 

  • Better work-life balance 
  • Higher pay 
  • More meaningful or fulfilling career 

Some personal reflection to identify your ‘why’ – along with your skills, interests, values, strengths and aspirations – is a vital first step in any career change journey. This process can also help you identify any transferable skills, like problem solving, leadership or creativity, that can be leveraged in your new career. 

Depending on what you uncover, you can then determine whether you’ll need to upskill, or re-skill

Upskilling can help you build on your existing skillset to land a promotion or pivot your focus within your field; whereas reskilling is often required if you’re considering a total career change and need to learn a new set of skills. 

Age isn’t a barrier 

Pursuing multiple careers is something that’s often associated with younger generations. 

But with people living longer than ever before, it’s much more likely that the traditional 40-year career will soon be overtaken by a 60-year career…and who wants to stay in the same job for 60 years?!

To avoid burn out – and adapt to our changing needs and interests over time – career change will become the norm for everyone. 

If you’re an older Australian, the Federal Government has developed a range of initiatives to help you navigate a career change and remain engaged in the workforce. 

These include the Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers Program which provides up to $2,200 (GST inclusive) to jointly fund training to help individuals build skills to remain in the workforce longer, and the Mature Age Hub, which lists services and supports available to businesses employing mature age workers and for mature age workers looking to find a job or upskill. 

How to upskill or reskill

Find a mentor

There is immense value in seeking out an inspiring mentor, especially as you navigate a career change.

When researching potential mentors, look for someone who has the experience, skills and values that you respect and admire. They could be someone who’s already in your network, or someone who has achieved what you’d like to achieve in your career.

Mentors can give you an idea of the types of roles available in the industry you might be interested in pursuing, provide fresh insights, and help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. 

They’re also likely to be well connected. If they’re impressed with your proactive manner, they might eventually put in a good word with a hiring manager or introduce you to other helpful contacts.

Seek out training

Whether you’ve identified a need to upskill or reskill, there are plenty of ways to acquire the skills needed for your career change. Rather than dive straight into a university degree (which isn’t always practical if you’re juggling existing work and family commitments) you might like to consider a range of in-person or online short courses. 

Online short courses, like those offered by the University of Adelaide via AdelaideX and FutureLearn, provide you with the opportunity to study what is relevant to you with freedom and flexibility in when, where and how you learn. There are courses that can help you develop specific skill sets, such as Marketing Essentials or Environmental Impact Assessment, along with ‘soft skills’ like Introduction to Cultural Intelligence, or Create Energised and Empowered Teams

One or two-day in-person short courses are a fantastic way to intensively learn or develop transferrable skills in an interactive environment. At Professional and Continuing Education, some of our most popular in-person short courses – attended by people working across a range of industries, in a variety of roles – include Project Management Essentials, Leading and Managing People and Emotional Intelligence at Work.

Build your network

As the adage goes, it’s not just what you know — it’s who you know — that can give you the upper hand when changing careers. 

Identify people working in your desired industry or role on LinkedIn and look at their education, training and employment history to understand their career trajectory. Along with recruiters, don’t shy away from asking your network whether they know of any upcoming job opportunities, too. 

Following industry leaders and thinkers on LinkedIn and Twitter, listening to TED Talks and podcasts, and reading books and blogs about the industry you want to move into is another great way to stay abreast of your new industry or profession – as is attending industry events. 

You can discover relevant industry events, like conferences, workshops and networking events, by subscribing to industry mailing lists, joining Facebook groups, or checking websites like Eventbrite and Meetup. Many professional associations and industry groups also run networking events, along with mentorship programs. Some even offer discounts on membership fees for newcomers to the industry or profession. 

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