4 things to do to make that career switch less daunting

There’s a lot of talk about finding and following your passion, relentlessly, just as how there’s also a lot of talk about how to get to the top of the ladder.  But what happens when we realize that we aren’t quite on the right ladder, and don’t have the luxury nor courage to jump on the next one with total abandon?

Let’s say you already have an idea of what it is you want to try next.   Here are some points to help you make that switch without losing your mind to fear and anxiety.

1.    What do you already have and what are the gaps?

Before you go about hitting the job portals in frenzy, first work on understanding what skills you already have that are transferrable, and what are some of the new skills you need to work on.

Don’t just think about it, but actually put it in words. You need to be able to articulate in words, written and spoken, about what it is that you have learned from your current job that will be valuable to your new career.  Beyond the transferrable skills, are there competencies that you have gained that will allow you to add a new dimension to the job that the usual cookie-cutter hire may not have?

For example, a coach may be able to bring his experiences of communication and people management to an IT role that requires a good level of stakeholder management.  Being able to confidently voice these skills and giving real –life examples will come in useful during interviews.

After which, look at what are the gaps that you need to fill.  Are they technical in nature? Some gaps may require you to sign up for courses, while some require hands on experiences. Make a list of what are the gaps you need to close, and have an estimate of the resources (e.g. time, money) required to address them.

2.    How can you go about closing the gaps?

Depending on how drastic the change is, the amount of prep work that needs to go into making that switch can seem very daunting.

Taking courses (with Government Aid!)

Yes, you may be surprised but the government actually does provide some support for career- switching into selected industries.  The Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) offers Singaporeans a chance to sign up for subsidized courses either to upgrade their existing skills, or to prepare them for entirely new careers.

The Professional Conversion Programmes help jobseekers to obtain the necessary knowledge and competencies to take on new jobs. Some even include work attachment so you can gain some actual experience and develop your confidence.

There are also the Scholarship Programmes in selected industries (e.g. aerospace, retail, manufacturing) targeted at employees who want to further deepen their skillset, or those who are new to the industry.

career change

Broadening your existing role

Whether or not the skills that you require are technical or soft skills, you can find a way to pick them up within your current job.

For example, you can volunteer to plan and execute a company event if you’re looking to move to a people-oriented job or one that requires a logistical and detailed mind.  Or, suggest shadowing the sales people and take part in negotiations, if what you want is to transit to a commercial role.

Taking on additional responsibilities and broadening your current job is a relatively safe way to learn new skills while scoring some brownie points with your boss (before you leave).

3.    Network and find supportive people

While the term ‘networking’ doesn’t usually sit well with every one, it can play an important role in your career switch.  Beyond the obvious of getting leads on new job openings, meeting new people in the industry enables you to get insight on the good, bad, and ugly.  If you’re lucky, you may even find a willing mentor to show you the ropes.

And for some, a career change can be emotionally challenging.  As you make a major transformation in your life, it is helpful to seek support from people who can understand your decisions and be ready to provide a listening ear to your new job woes.

4.    Take a good look at your finances and lifestyle

Before making the switch, you need to know if you’re able to meet your financial obligations.  Set aside a budget for taking whatever courses you need to, and also put aside an emergency stash for the possible period of unemployment.

Beyond the current numbers in your bank account, take a look at your current lifestyle and examine if any of these may have to be adapted in the future.

Have you gotten used to a comfortable lifestyle of weekly spas and fine dining? Or perhaps, you may decide that a car may be too much of a luxury with your new salary.  If your new job indeed entails a pay cut, at least at the start, then it’s time to also scale back on the excesses to make way for your new life.  

Last but not least, remember that most of us would be working for a few decades; so switching careers is hardly an unusual or impossible thing.  With some sound planning and patience, your career transformation could be less daunting than you imagined.


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