How to switch careers even if it’s not the ‘right’ time

Young mother in home office with computer and her daugher

Is 2016 going to be your year?

The year you finally change careers, stop hating on Mondays and start doing work you love?

If the answer is yes then I’m sure you’re feeling excited but there might be some doubt creeping in too.

Maybe you’re thinking now is not the right time, you should wait til the kids are older, or you can’t afford a drop in salary and you have no time to study unless you give up sleeping.

These concerns are totally understandable.

But the truth is changing careers is like having a baby: there is no right time.

You can make it happen anyway

If you really want this you’ll find a way to make it happen no matter what. I should know. When I changed careers my timing was terrible. I was over 40 with an 18 month old and, to top it off, I had recently separated from my husband. So I dealt with a house move, a new job, part-time study and single parenthood in one hit.

It was daunting at first but I managed just fine. I certainly never regretted changing careers. It turned out to be one of my better decisions.

How to switch careers

Here are five big lessons I learned about changing careers, whatever your circumstances:

  1. You have to really want it. Your desire for change must be stronger than anything that gets in your way, so get crystal clear on your goals first. You will face challenges. There will be times when you feel raw and exposed. But if you are focused on what you want, whether that’s more time with family, more money or more meaningful work, you will be motivated to push through any resistance.
  2. Work with what you’ve got. When you move into a new field there’s a tendency to focus on the skills you lack. But you need to concentrate on what you already have going for you and how you can leverage those skills to get a foot in the door. In my case, I was moving from copywriting into career coaching, so to begin with I got a job as a resume writer. If you’re having trouble figuring out what you have to offer do a skills audit. List each of your roles, the responsibilities you held and the skills necessary to carry out those tasks. Here is a list of the most sought after skills by employers to get you started. Now brainstorm how you could use those skills in your new career. List them on your resume and boom! You’re already on your way.
  3. Become a strategic networker. As a hard-core introvert, the idea of networking used to make me break out in hives. But the decision to change careers was a big one and I knew I had to talk to people. The trouble was I didn’t know too many career counsellors so I literally cold-emailed people in the industry and arranged calls and meetings. I was surprised and relieved at how many of those people were happy to take time out of their day to answer my questions. It turns out people like to help people. So don’t be afraid to reach out.
  4. Be open to opportunities. While you’re having those conversations, don’t be surprised if an opportunity or offer of work crops up (it happened to me). Consider any offer of work that might help you transition into your chosen field even if it’s not your dream job. You never know where it might lead. If you really can’t use your existing skills as leverage think about volunteering to get the necessary experience. There are many organisations looking for volunteers and you don’t have to give up that much of your time to get started. Check out Volunteering Australia or Seek Volunteer.
  5. Don’t underestimate your abilities. It’s okay to work for minimum wage when you’re 17 but not when you’re 35 and raising a young family. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to start out on rock bottom wages just because you’re new to this. It’s highly unlikely that your prior experience is completely irrelevant to your new job. So don’t sell yourself short in wage negotiations. Check out salary guides like this one by Hudson to find out the kind of salary you can expect in your new career.

What is stopping you from changing your career?

Written By

Denise Mooney is career coach who helps women switch careers and find work that suits their lifestyle and meets their true aspirations. Learn how to manage your career like a boss at


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