I am a trainer and talent development specialist and experienced career consultant. I currently work at the University of Manchester Middle East Centre, where I support mid-level to senior-level professionals in various industries, to help them achieve their professional and personal goals.
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It is never too late to make a change. And although it can be challenging to go through a career change when holding a senior position, it is not impossible. The secret to making a successful career change when you are at an advanced stage in your career is to know that you can and to have a solid plan of action. It is important that you approach career change possibilities with the right attitude. If you stay positive and keep an open mind, you will realize that it is not as impossible as it may seem.
Below are some things to consider when creating a plan of action for your next move.
One of the biggest challenges for people looking to make a change later in their careers is that they have more personal responsibilities compared to when they were starting out. If you have a family, a mortgage, or other debts on your shoulders, salary becomes a major consideration.
In this case, review your finances and identify how much risk you can afford to take. If you are hoping to move industries and go into something new, that often means taking a pay cut or benefits drop—can you realistically afford that?
If you are not in a position to trade off salary or benefits, then look at ways to increase your income and diversify revenue streams to allow for a career change. Maybe that means staying put for some time, saving money, securing yourself a bit more, then making a change. In the meantime, you can continue to explore career options and upskilling yourself to prepare for the move.
If you are looking for a change in your career, the chances are you are not fulfilled by your current career. Sometimes we can pinpoint those reasons, while other times it is not as clear. This is where the challenge of self-assessment comes in. Taking time to self-reflect and do some self-assessment can help to ensure that you are making the right step. When unsure about what the next step should be, ask yourself the following questions:
If you have decided to go into a different profession altogether, you need to get yourself better equipped with knowledge and expertise in that area. Take time to look at your expertise, education and other activities over the years and write out your transferrable skills to have a broader view of your overall value proposition. Learn and adapt with the latest technologies in your areas of interest, get someone who is tech savvy to mentor you. If needed, pursue a course or hire a career coach to help you with the shift.
Volunteer or offer pro-bono work on a project that might be of interest to you. This will allow you to gain experience, expand your network and identify whether it is the right move for you. Do not discredit pro-bono opportunities; yes, they might take away from your time and time is valuable, but it can be a potential door opener for you or a reality check that can help you avoid a career change you may not necessarily want. By testing the waters, you can minimize the risks.
Some career shifts require a lot more investment than others. For example, a career in medicine requires years of practice, training and knowledge. Be realistic about your career change. Look at how you can use your previous years of experience and understand your own strengths and limitations.
Speak with people in different fields and get a real feel of what other job roles are like. We aim for a career change for different reasons, some of which do not require us to completely change our work. Sometimes it is simply about adding something more or alternative to our current work or lifestyle that might give us the fulfillment we are aiming for. Be mindful of your choices.