Thinking about changing careers? Here’s how to start

Q: I’ve been drifting in my role for a few years, and now feel the time is right to consider changing careers. But where do I even start? (AC, email). 

A: There are times we should work on, rather than in, our career. Whether you’re at the start of your career, or in the middle of it and feeling disillusioned, making the best possible decisions will have an enormous impact on your future, writes Petrina Mitchell, Talent Coach & HR Consultant.

Petrina Mitchell, Career Coach

Days off around Christmas and New Year are a great time to reflect on your career and start the process of steering it in the right direction.

Your question is pretty broad and there are many options available to you. I always recommend that you start with an analysis of the most important entity in the world, You Ltd.

Consider what is really important to you, professionally and personally. Identify your career drivers such as security, recognition, autonomy, structure, creativity, expertise and so on. Document what you ‘need’, rather than what you ‘want’.

What are your values and beliefs? Values are the guiding principles that permeate everything you do in life, work, with friends and others.  Everyone’s interpretation of values is unique to them.

Identify your values in words, (e.g. trust, harmony, directness, humour, connection…) or by using phrases (e.g. freedom to choose, lack of pretence, or others). To achieve a great career fit, there should be a strong overlap between your values and those that exist in your ideal workplace.

Another key factor to consider is your personality type. By analysing your personality, you can discover the key ingredients that your work must offer you to be successful and to enjoy a fulfilling career.

There is little point in working in a career based on the person you would like to be, rather than the person you are, as you will deplete your energy trying to be that person.. There are many personality tests available online.

One such test, which focuses on careers, is the Holland Occupational Codes which broadly groups people based on six different groups of activities and provides you with a high-level indicator of the types of work you may enjoy.

It’s important that the career or job you choose will play to your strengths, talents and abilities. Many people tolerate a job because the location is good or the money is right, but end up exerting too much energy trying to improve their weaknesses, simply to function in the job. Frequently , these people experience the Sunday evening dread.

So take your time and document your unique talents (e.g. I connect with people easily, I absorb facts quickly…), skills you love using (initiating projects, improvising under pressure…), and any workplace preferences (large or small company, quiet workspace…), so that you may experience great career flow.

The secret to career satisfaction is to do what you enjoy doing most. The career identification process can be time consuming. It requires in-depth analysis and true commitment to identify a career you will love. However, it can really be worth it, as any happy career-changer will tell you.

Concentrate first on who you are, and then you can move on to next stages of analysing what you can do, where you can do it and what opportunities are out there for you. Best of luck, AC.


Listen to Petrina answering this question on The Grapevine on CRC-fm.