Considering a career change?

Whether you’re considering a career change through choice or necessity, it can present a few of its own particular issues which I’ll cover in this post.

It’s never too late to change your career – it does depend on what you’re going to go into though. So, for example, some professions do have an age limit, or they may have reservations about taking people who aren’t physically fit which would be more of a concern than your age.

The Police, for example, will need people who are physically fit – if you struggle to climb a set of stairs without getting out of puff, then that would probably exclude you. They have a physical test for this reason. Some organisations find it harder to recruit people over a certain age because of the nature of their industry (Industries relying heavily on internships, like the media) – they may have issues with taking on an older trainee. This is manly because of the perceived demand from their customers or audiences.

Also some careers can demand that a certain gender is recruited if a job is excluded from the Equality Act for certain reasons for example working in a female refuge.

It is important therefore when you are looking into changing a career you consider some of the advantages and disadvantages to entering the career within your career history. Often it can be a real advantage for example in a career like Social Work if you are older because of your greater reservoir of life experience which can help you handle difficult situations well and make good judgements.

Some concerns that employers have is that older workers for example might not be able to adapt or change to new ways of doing things and also, they may not want to work under someone younger. Therefore, if you are applying for a different area of work later on in your career then you need to show the employer that you can be be flexible – it’s really important to demonstrate to employers that you are adaptable and will work well as part of a team, and you’re ready to learn.

Discrimination laws mean that employers aren’t allowed to ask your age when applying for a job, although this will be suggested by your experience and education (and it will be obvious if you reach interview).

The importance of Transferable Skills when doing applications or CVs for new career areas

The most important thing when changing career is to show your transferable skills you have that are relevant to the new career or post. You must show rather than just say, that your skills from your previous job are relevant to what you may be doing in a new job or career. This can be easier said than done but you must make sure on each point of an application (against the person specification) that you try to tie in what you have learnt, or gained from your previous work to the position you are going for now.

Transferable skills are those that are needed in many work places such as:

  • Good Communication skills
  • Ability to work well in a team
  • Able to work IT competently
  • Numerate and able to work effectively with numbers
  • Having organisation skills and ability to prioritise or meet deadlines
  • Being able to learn and take on board new ways of working
  • Being flexible in working patterns but also in your approach

These sorts of skills most employers need so if you can give examples of how you have shown these in your present employment then this is really helpful towards you showing your relevance to a future new career.

Things to watch when applying to new employers

Never put your age on a CV unless it is specifically asked for by the employer.
I would advise never to put your date of birth on an application (when asked for) as, if the employer were to reject your application – even on legitimate grounds – they could be open to prosecution because of discrimination laws.  They may not thank you for putting them in this position.

This also goes for supporting statements – don’t dwell on your age or how “because of my years of experience” you should be in charge – this may well suggest to them that you’re not going to be flexible.

It’s all about taking away the barriers to you joining their team – demonstrating you have the right attitude.

Make sure you know a lot about the new career area or job, look up the company on the internet, try to see what it is about. See if you can find it also on Twitter and LinkedIn so you can get their latest news. This all helps you show that you are informed and know what you will be doing.

Preparing to change career area – what to do first

  1. Talk to people in the new area of work you’re planning on going into
    Look carefully at employers and the types of people they employ – look on LinkedIn and also follow twitter feeds. Make sure you know both the good and bad points of your new career area. Ask to do some work experience if possible so you know what you are letting yourself in for.
  2. Don’t make your own barriers
    Don’t pre-judge employers thinking “Oh, there’s no point – I’m too old!” This may be your perception not an employers.
  3. Come across as flexible
    If you behave as though you won’t be flexible the employer will think that too
  4. Consider Costs: Time and Money
    If you are considering investing large amounts of time and money in a new career area, then make sure you look into how you are going to afford the time to study. How is this going to work practically. Work it out by ringing up to find out cost of courses, look at how much you need to live on, how far will you have to travel. Often the little things turn out to be very important and could jeopardise your plans.
  5. Be prepared to Sacrifice some things
    What I mean by this is that career changes are often quite hard work, and not everything will go to plan. You may find that you have to adjust things along the way, or the course is more demanding, or your new career area requires longer working hours than you thought. It is important therefore to keep the aim in mind and be resilient and know that it might be hard or you have to sacrifice for example things you might have had before but it is worth it in the long term.

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