How to plan a career change: Exploring Qualifications, skills and Experience

Last November, in a meeting with a client, we were discussing potential ideas and directions in which she could develop her career following a period of unemployment. During our meeting I had invited her to volunteer career ideas regardless of how achievable she felt they were at that moment. Hesitantly at first, she began talking about a career interest linked to a past personal experience. It was clear that this mattered to her and also clear that this might have been the only, or one of very few occasions, she had said the words aloud. I listened to her and then offered: ‘well let’s explore that further’. Almost immediately her eyes lit up and a broad smile broke across her face.

For me this was a lovely moment and a clear validation that the client had reached a momentous turning point in her career. By the end of the session she left armed with lots of thoughts and ideas to consider ahead of our next meeting; and at that meeting she returned, empowered by her ideas, and had already taken steps to begin her new career journey. 

Not everyone will experience such a hallelujah moment. For some it might simply be a combination of matching their skillset or experience to career ideas that interest them the most. But for all it’s a personal journey of self-assessment and reflection.

In my previous blog in this series I offered guidance as to how best to go about your own self-assessment and reflection; and so you might by now have ideas and goals of your own and be wondering how best to explore them. Which is handy because that’s what this blog is about.

For me the first of those definitions evokes the adventures of explorers of the past, or those space explorers of the future, and perfectly articulates the actions of your career search: to enter an unfamiliar territory in order to learn more about it. The second definition offers a suggestion of the action you can take to learn more about the subject matter. I’ll come on to this in more detail shortly. 

I find the exploration of career change a really exciting subject; and so should you. It’s an opportunity to identify and research a career path that could influence your whole future. Some are long-held ideas, passions, or role models, that you may have identified from early childhood; and your  starting point should be taken from your own assessment and reflection. 

In my previous blog you will recall that I offered six areas of focus for your own reflection, each of which can be the catalyst for your own journey of career change: 

  • experience; passions; values; qualifications; skills; goals

Let’s look at these, starting with qualifications, skills and experience.

Qualifications often denote the areas of career you can enter. For instance, you can’t become a doctor or accountant without the necessary qualifications and training. However, less regulated professions can offer greater flexibility. For example, in my past work as a recruiter, some employers requested graduate level applicants (often for the benefit of their clients and candidates) and yet this was no guarantee of success. I know many successful recruiters without degree level qualifications; I know I used to be one of them! 

Exploring professions that suit your qualifications can be a good place to start and is easy to research. Skills and experience are slightly different in that you’re seeking suitable job types that match your own to those required by an employer. Look at any vacancy and you will see the skills that are essential and those that are desirable.

A good resource for searching against skills is the National Careers Service website. Here you will find resources to match your career ideas, your skills and courses to help you achieve your career objective. 

Another entry route could be via an apprenticeship. This could be useful once you’d identified your chosen career. For many years apprenticeships were only available to younger workers but recent changes have opened the door to older workers. In 2018/19 just under half of all apprenticeships started in the UK were by those over the age of 25. You can find more information on apprenticeships here. 

Other resources, such as John Holland’s RIASEC model, offer an opportunity to match careers to your personality type. The RIASEC model focuses on six personality traits: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional. You will find online resources for this and other personality matched career suggestions.

Turning to passions, values and goals. It’s not always easy to identify a route into a career that matches these as there could be a number of things to consider. Look out for my final blog in this series, where I will offer suggestions as to how you might tackle this type of career search including how to go about networking to make successful career change.

As always, if you have any questions regarding the information within my blogs you can reach out to me here. 

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