Career changes can be so difficult when the requirements for roles evolve in constantly shifting employment cycles. At one point the requirements for a chosen position or career path might be qualification-based, within five to seven years that may well have changed to experience-based elements of the job. At times of high competition in the field, you may well need both qualifications and experience even to secure an interview. Demonstrating both ability and expertise in a new career change is the most troublesome aspect of making the leap from one field to another.
Combating the evolving employment cycles when attempting career changes
The obvious answer to this question is to study while working, and possibly even squeeze some volunteer work in there, too. I am not going to pretend that this is easy because I have been there.
Most people want to make career changes because they are suffering burn-out, or are sick and tired of the field they are in, and when you feel burnt out and exhausted by your current employment energy levels are low, as are motivation levels and mental capacity. It is a terrible time to try studying, and the very thought of using what little energy you have for free seems completely idiotic.
I tried it. I studied after work, in my lunch break and tried to break into writing for my local paper as an after-hours project. Already tired after a full day of customer service and admin tasks (I’ll not go into my employer, it isn’t important), when I got home all I wanted to do was recharge and enjoy time with my fiancé (and later, husband). My mental energy was depleted, most of the information from my studies I couldn’t retain, and my relationship began to deteriorate in correlation with my short temper and irritability. It probably didn’t help that we were also planning a wedding.
Career changes need altered circumstances and mindset
Sometimes a change in mindset can be the catalyst for changing your circumstances, sometimes it may be the other way around, and at other times the change may be simultaneous. If you are lucky, the simple act of deciding on the career path of your choice and visualising a development route to reach your goal can be the change in mindset needed to jump-start your motivation, mental energy and determination. Yay! Lucky you! It is not always so simple.
If deciding your chosen path, and visualising the route you will take to get there, isn’t enough to motivate your personal development, you might need a bit more self-discovery and self-care. It isn’t self-indulgent to make sure you are healthy both in body and mind; it’s necessary. In the spirit of including the broadest of possible circumstances, if you aren’t healthy in your mindset how can you be sure that your chosen career changes will be right for you? Are you sure that a change in career will be the change in circumstance that you need? Is it something other than the work that is leading you to feel burnt out and exhausted?
The change, for me, came when I got married. It wasn’t the act of getting married but the fact that I was no longer planning a wedding, in addition to the fact that I had then visited Cyprus. I saw a possible future and a way to make it happen. I wanted to come back, for good. It was the kick that my mind needed to begin studying with conviction and actively looking for possible remote working opportunities.
Hitting a Wall of Experience and Employment Cycles
You can study as much as you like, but when you make career changes at a later stage in life (in my case, in my thirties), experience is something employers expect when you apply for roles. To a certain extent, you need to be willing to put in the time to get some experience. In some cases, this isn’t really an option. If you work a regular 9-5 job and want to be a teaching assistant with a view to taking a teaching degree, you had better hope you have an understanding employer that will allow you to work a flexible schedule. But other career changes can allow you to volunteer your time.
For me, as an aspiring content writer, volunteering my time to non-profit organisations with shocking content on their websites and in their literature (okay I didn’t tell them it was terrible, but suggested they may want some assistance improving their content). My only request was to offer them as a reference for my future employers. For non-profits and charities, the offer of free services is a benefit they need, and for me, it was a chance to develop my craft and technique, with the bonus of a reference at the end.
I was managing to gain the qualifications on my own, and beating the experience brick wall with my freebie work. The next step, to gaining enough experience to satisfy the dual elements of the employment cycles, was to get a paid gig, while still working my day job. This was the hard part.
I don’t have all the answers…
For me, fate stepped in and changed my circumstances drastically. A company offered my husband a job in Cyprus. Within four weeks of returning to the UK after a holiday in Cyprus we had packed up and moved out of our house, and I was on my way to Paphos. Circumstances being what they were, there was no immediate need for me to find work. Whoop whoop! I could get ahead of the employment cycle and get to grips with the industry.
Now I am living here with my husband, and the cost of living and his salary combine to mean that we don’t need both wages. I am in a position to offer my services free to whoever wants me or work for peanuts. I get the opportunity to prove my skills, add to my résumé, and gain experience in my chosen field without having to worry about keeping a roof over my head and food on the table. It is an enviable position in which to find myself.
I am still searching for the answers. I’ve finally begun attracting higher paid gigs, it’s not going to make me wealthy any time soon, but it’s improving.
So how do you go about getting the experience you need to move into a new field when you have to hold down a job? I’d like to know the answer to this question because I was trying for years, and I’m sure several other people want the answer too. Previous experience has shown me that doing voluntary work (enough to mean something to a future employer) and holding down a full-time job is exhausting and you don’t perform well at either task. Who has time to study, think, and ‘do’ (write) when you have a 40 hour work week?