Get Back in the Driver's Seat of your Career - A Guide to Changing Careers

Career Development
September 17, 2021


We've all been stuck in a job we don't like, or have that feeling like we are not going anywhere, and changing careers, especially later on, can be a really scary thing.

It doesn't have to be, in fact it can be the best decision you have ever made.

But where do we start, how do we make the move to bigger and better things? This ultimate guide to changing careers is here to help put you back in control.

  • 1. What is the right career for me?
  • 2. What's important to think about when considering specific job roles?
  • 3. What is a career structure?
  • 4. Considering a career change at 30 or 40?
  • 5. Dust the cobwebs off your CV
  • 6. Selling your career change with a cover letter
  • 7. Career Change Examples and opportunities

What is the right career for me?

Possibly one of the most daunting questions you'll face during your adult life. Unless you've got it all figured out of course, then you're probably chilling. But for others it can take years and years of wrestling between options, or just having completely no idea, before finding the answer. And it can be an exhausting process!

It's important to remind yourself that there's always a difference between what's going to make you happiest and what's going to be ˜sensible'  - I mean, I know I'd be happiest spending my life on a Caribbean beach sipping mai tais but that isn't going to pay the bills.

So, how can you actually figure out what career path is going to give you the best of both worlds, emotionally and financially?

It's best to start off with a bit of self discovery.

Consider what interests you have, and any skills and talents you've accumulated to date - what job fields are going to prioritise and nurture these? Think about your personality and your values - what sort of environment and culture do you see yourself fitting into? If you know which ones you definitely don't want to be in, great! Start ruling them out and make room for other opportunities.

And, of course, figure out what salary you're going to be looking for.  Cha ching.

What's important to think about when considering specific job roles?

Hooray! A potential job opportunity has come your way, but is the role itself right for you? Is the company even right for you?

When trying to answer these questions, try thinking about the future. It's easy to be a yes man with job offers because you obviously need the job, but it's important to consider how that momentary decision is going to affect your future and career development.

First and foremost, prioritise your personal wellbeing. If you don't see yourself being happy at the company, don't go for it - mental health is far more important than a job.

Second, ask yourself if the role is going to be a dead end or not. An important factor when making career decisions is having opportunities for growth at the company, and thereafter. A stagnant professional life is not a desirable quality for a CV.

As I mentioned before, it's vital to be immersed in a healthy working environment. If you've met members of management or any future colleagues, think about the first impressions you received. Having good relationships with team members is an indispensable quality and a key factor in making you do your job better!

If you're already in a role at a different company, draw pros and cons together of leaving that current position. Is the new opportunity worth it?

This follows us nicely on to a discussion about ˜career structure'.

What is a 'Career Structure'?

A recognized pattern of advancement within a job or profession.

This ˜pattern of advancement' is most often indicated by a progression from less senior to more senior roles, or an obvious increase in responsibility and salary.

Progression in a field is not something that can be predicted nor guaranteed when starting off a career, but it can be planned and hoped for. It's up to you to put the work in to make it a reality

It's all about structuring your career path. Once you've found out where to start, you'll be able to see where it can take you and the different positions you might find yourself in.

So, ask yourself what your short term and long term career goals are. If you know where you want to get to in X amount of years, you'll need to first understand the sequence of roles and responsibilities that are going to get you there. Let's look at some examples:

  • Administration: Administrative Assistant > Executive Assistant > Office Manager
  • Customer service: Customer Service Representative > Inside Salesperson > Outside Salesperson > Major Account Salesperson > Regional Sales Manager
  • Retail: Retail Sales Clerk > Assistant Manager > Department Manager > Store Manager > Regional Manager
  • Education: Teacher > Curriculum Coordinator > Assistant Principal > Principal
  • Recruitment: Trainee > Recruitment Consultant > Team Leader > Manager

Start doing some research into your desired field and see if you can start mapping out your professional journey. For more information on a career in recruitment, check out our ultimate guide on why you should choose recruitment as a career.

Considering a Career Change at 30-40?

Why do I need a change?

Now, there are no rules for this. You really don't have to have the best reason in the world to make a career change, as long as it's valid to you. There are, however, a few most common reasons why people do have this realisation. Let's look at some and see if any ring a bell¦

  • Money/Salary
  • Appreciation and recognition
  • Stress
  • Flexibility
  • Opportunities and advancement

If the average person is spending a third of their life working, then we all need to be prioritising job satisfaction and motivation.

Ripping off the band-aid

If you've come to the decision that you want to change careers at a later stage of your professional life, you're probably going through a range of emotions. 

Excited! It's a brand new chapter in your life. A new beginning, and who knows where it will take you. Life is too short to stay in a job you don't want, right?

Scared is it too late for me? Is it too risky? Will I end up failing? Should I prioritise job security?

You're right to be feeling these things and asking yourself the difficult questions. They're a good sign, it only shows how much you care - hold on to that, and don't be afraid! Even if it ends up being a mistake, you don't learn anything about yourself without making mistakes along the way.

We say go for it! Here are some steps that might be useful to see you through the process:

  • Personal inventory - this is a self-assessment tool that career development professionals use to reveal your personality type e.g. social traits
  • Decide if you want to change industries - are your current skills transferable to any other industries? Will you need to gain new qualifications to enter a new industry? Do you want to bother readjusting to a new field?
  • Brainstorm - start brainstorming any potential careers you are considering.
  • Rebrand yourself - you don't want to be stuck in the mindset of your previous career, so consider rebranding yourself appropriately to your prospective career

Once you've made the all important decisions, you can move onto putting your changes into action and making plans a reality. Here's a few things that will help get you started: 

  • Mobilize your network - look to the people who are already a part of your network, and keep making new connections. Use LinkedIn to network, and attend events and conferences (online or in person) to build your network up. 
  • Look for hands-on opportunities - now if you are looking to build on a certain career or speciality, you don't always need to have an official job to start making a name for yourself and gaining experience. Look for people online who could be interested in your services or skills or maybe set up a website or a social media page where people can book your services. 
  • Consider educational resources - this doesn't necessarily mean you need to go and get a uni degree, there are plenty of online courses available to you these days.  For example, HubSpot provides marketing and web design courses online using detailed video lessons, with exams to test your knowledge and certifications to take forward.
  • Develop new skills - with the amount of resources that exist today, employers tend to have higher expectations when it comes to skill sets. If you have a clear idea of the career and position you're aiming for, start learning what you can from wherever you can.

Dust The Cobwebs Off Your CV

If you've been in the same job for a long time, chances are you haven't even looked at your CV let alone updated it, so it's probably been collecting dust. It's time to pull it out, blow the cobwebs off and give it a refresh.

If you're applying to a new industry then do some research on some key buzzwords you should be using to grab an employer's attention and impress them with your knowledge.

Update any new skills you have learnt in your current job to maximise your chances of landing the new opportunity, and put emphasis on any important achievements or milestones in your career so far. Have you received any personal recognition for particularly great service? Show it off.

Make sure you use action verbs that will stand out, e.g. performed weekly analysis on or managed the social media channels of and even achieved a X% increase on. Don't just tell them what you did in your role, tell them what you did for the company!

Pick out terms or phrases that companies you apply to have used in their job descriptions - some businesses use software's to detect specific keywords to show if you speak their language and shorten their hiring process. It also shows you're paying close attention, and 63% of recruiters look for CVs that are tailored to the open position.

Keep your CV no longer than 2 pages - if it is longer than 2 pages, chances are you've rambled on for too long and need to trim it down to only the most important pieces of information.

Selling Your Career Change With A Cover Letter

The dreaded cover letter. You've probably been writing, re-writing and tweaking the same cover letter repeatedly for however many years. It's a time consuming task, and if you're anything like me then writing all about yourself is difficult as it is.

It's not easy to sell yourself to a company.

But when written properly, your cover letter is an extremely compelling tool for getting hired. It acts as an extension of your CV, but gives you an opportunity to go into a deeper level of detail about yourself and, of course, your desire for the job role you're applying to.

CVs are a more structured and formal document for you to lay out your qualifications and experience, so a cover letter is a great way to really showcase more of your personality and highlight your positive attitude to working life. After all, 93% of employers consider soft skills an essential or very important factor in hiring decisions.

Here are some of our top tips for writing a cover letter:

  • Add a personal touch - address the hiring manager by name (if you know it)
  • Don't state facts that they will already know, instead tell them how you align with their company culture and ethos
  • Tell them what in particular makes you want to work for them (research some background information!)
  • Explain how your professional and personal experience to date is going to help them achieve individual and company goals
  • Avoid cliche lines - be authentic and true to yourself
  • Elaborate on points from your CV, for example explain what process you took to come to an achievement - highlight details of strategic approaches and judgement making

If you need some help, Indeed have provided a useful cover letter template for changing careers, or give us a call and we can offer you some insight into what to write, after all we deal with the people who'll be seeing it on a daily basis, so we know a thing or two about what makes them tick.

Looking For Some Inspiration? (Career change examples/opportunities)

Career change opportunities are obviously very subjective. Not one person is the same, and so not one person will necessarily have the same options as another. However a lot of skills are transferable, just bear in mind that if you are going for a senior role in a new function, usually they'll want to see a bit of experience or at least some high profile reviews from previous employers, before they'll take your word on it.

Here's some examples of departmental crossovers, to give you an idea:

  • Creative - New product Development
  • Finance - Buying/Purchasing Function
  • Sales - Marketing

There are tons of potential crossovers, best practice is to look at the core skills you currently have, the ones you feel you have but perhaps aren't being utilised, and see which functions best match that - checking out job descriptions on adverts is usually the easiest way to do that.

Need A Helping Hand?

If you're still a bit stuck with where to start, you can always give a quick career quiz a go. Even if you don't take anything from the result, it can be a bit of fun in the meantime. Just make sure it's a credible one, of course, such as the Prospects job match questionnaire. It might even give you an insight into your soft skills and wider interests.

Better yet, get in contact with us! Who better than recruitment experts to help you on your career path.


In a nutshell, changing careers can be a scary prospect, especially if you have a family and big commitments like mortgages etc, but in reality it doesn't need to be. There are so many resources out there to help, and agencies like us who are more willing to help you find the best company to suit your needs. Just remember not to leave your current job before you are at least offered a new one, solid advice from the best resource ever, my mum.

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