How to switch careers in your 20s and 30s

That feeling when you have achieved something!

Do you feel as if your career is drifting in the wrong direction? Take the initiative and make a change. Here’s how

By Charlotte Bean

Do you dread another day at the office? Do you travel through life wondering if you’ll ever find the right job? Do you resent the hours put into a career that simply doesn’t make you happy?

Turns out you’re not alone. Research released in 2018 shows that 43pc of people in their 20s and 30s plan to leave their job within the next two years.

If you are feeling this way, it’s time to take the initiative and change the direction of your career.

"It can seem like a big step to change career in your 20s and 30s," says Emma Kershaw, a director at Just Recruitment Group Ltd. "But if you can take the time to evaluate what you want to achieve, it's well worth taking the plunge. You're still young, so now is the time to secure a career that you'll find fulfilling and enjoyable."

Before you quit your job and dive headfirst into the unknown, consider these five practical steps towards a smooth career transition.

1. Experience your favoured career at first hand

Contact a company or workplace and ask if you can shadow an employee who currently has the job you want. You’ll find most companies will be accommodating, particularly if you promise to make a few teas and coffees in return. And maybe take in some cookies.

    "43% of people in their 20s and 30s plan to leave their job in the next two years."  

While it would be great if we could all bag our dream job with a sizeable pay packet and copious amounts of holiday to boot, realistically all careers have their downsides. Seeing your choice of career at first hand can help ensure you’re not simply suffering from a case of “greener grass” syndrome before you take the plunge.

2. Volunteer

Many jobs require that you have experience, but to get experience you need a job, but to get a job you need… you see where this is going.

Volunteering gives you the opportunity to attain that vital experience around a full-time job, and there are links between volunteering and a greater likelihood of gaining employment,

3. Make use of your existing skills

Identifying her transferable skills allowed Sonia Bateman to leave her 12-year career in HR to start a new one in events management. “I didn’t want to leave my employer, but in terms of career progression I felt like I had gone as far as I could in my role,” she says. “When a position came up as a project manager within the events department, I realised I had a lot of transferable skills.

“Having worked with the manager before, they were also familiar with my skill set, meaning they knew I could be trusted with the job even though I was new to the field.”

Which leads to our next point…

4. Take advantage of your connections

Like Sonia, you may find that the company or organisation you already work for has a role for you, meaning you can play on their existing knowledge of your work if you’re lacking experience compared to other applicants.

If you can’t stay with your current employer to land the job of your dreams, remember those workplace visits and volunteering opportunities mentioned above: these all help to build a network of contacts.

Since graduating, Steven Egan has tried several different careers, something that he feels he has been able to do due to the relationships he has built along the way.

Making a choice a good choice isn't just luck.

“I have always been a firm believer in keeping an open door,” Steven says. “This means I can always go back to agencies and companies when hunting for new career prospects because I’ve established a good rapport with them.”

5. Break up your plans into smaller goals

Putting “Start new career” on a to-do list is enough to make anyone feel like giving up before they’ve begun. So think about the small steps you can take to realise your dream.

Make a list that breaks your career plan down into mini-goals (for example, email a potential employer, look for volunteering opportunities, update your CV, gain a vocational qualification) and give yourself deadlines for each one.

After five years, Sonia’s career in events management has soared: she has won three awards for her work.

Despite having concerns about changing careers and, inevitably, facing challenges along the way, she has no regrets. “I’m now in a role that I’m much more suited to and enjoy every day,” she says. “I never knew what I wanted to do after school and fell into a career in HR. But changing careers has meant I have found my calling in life.

“It’s so difficult to decide on a career when you’re younger with little previous experience, so changing roles in your 20s and 30s gives you the opportunity to find the right path. You spend a lot of your life working, so getting it right really is important. And, if it doesn’t work out, at least you can say you tried!”

Just leaves one question: what are you waiting for?

First Published 22 July 2019

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

If you enjoyed this article, you may like: The Just Recruitment guide to interview dressing

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