Career Switch: Are You Stuck in the Middle?

Are you equipped with the experience and education required to be considered a qualified candidate in your desired career-field? If not, you must find a way to bridge the credentials gap by going back to school to receive additional qualification and training.
By Ananya Mukherjee

Common sense dictates that you cannot get there unless you are qualified for it. Needless to say, if you are tired in your current profession and have
a career switch in your mind, you will have to first find a way to bridge the experience, skills and most importantly, the education gap between your existing career and your aspired one. Whilst transferable skills that are applicable in multiple professions are an important part of the switch, it is absolutely necessary to upgrade and gain additional training and education in your new career field.

As Abhishek Bhati, Associate Dean, Business & IT, James Cook University, rightly observes: “Lifelong learning is about defining yourself. The information age provides several opportunities to an individual to pursue their interest and carve a niche for themselves. Lifelong learning empowers them to realise their goals.”

Get started with self-actualisation

Begin with the golden question. Are you happy with yourself as a professional? Are you doing what you always wanted to do? Or do you often feel the itch to switch to something else knowing fully well that you might have to face some challenges as you step out of your current comfort zone?

The primary indicators of a career switch are your own unwillingness to continue with the present job and the interest to explore other opportunities in a desired field. But what is the best way forward? Business leaders and market experts recommend that before you venture out in search of a new career prospect, always begin with evaluating your existing skills and talent.

GOAL SETTING: SEVEN ESSENTIAL TIPS

✔ Assess your likes and dislikes: Spend some time rediscovering yourself and use this self assessment to direct your new career search. It is just as important to know what you dislike as much as it is to know what you like in your present career
✔ Research new careers: Professionals must study the growth sectors in the economy and identify future opportunities. Government publications and news releases are useful in providing leads on growth industries. Look for a ‘FIT’ – match your interest, career aspirations and your personal life goals with the career you opportunity you are planning to explore. The fit is important to achieve a mutually beneficial relationship
✔ Transfer skills: Leverage some of your current skills and experiences to your new career. There are many skills (such as communications, leadership, planning, and others) that are transferable and applicable to what you want to do in your new career. You may be surprised to see that you already have a solid amount of experience for your new career
✔ Training & Education: Go back to school and upgrade your skills to fit the requirements of your new career
✔ Network: Consider sharing your interest in another career with your colleagues, friends and family members. Broaden your network by all means and explore opportunities and leads provided by them
✔ Find a mentor: Find a mentor who can help you through the rough patches. Your mentor may also be able to help you, exposing you to his or her network
✔ Change laterally: It’s more than likely that you will need to switch employers to change fields, but don’t overlook your current employer. You may find an opening with your existing employer

Ask yourself three preliminary questions:
1) What do I want to do?
2) What do I like doing?
3) What am I good at doing?

Now that you are certain of your strengths and weaknesses, you have to ask yourself if your current job gives you the satisfaction you desire and utilises all your potential.

Once you have identified your skills and decided on a new career, you will also be able to gauge how much of these existing skills can be transferred in your new line of work. Remember, the longer the list the easier the transition will be for you. However, if you have only a few or no transferable
skills, do not be discouraged. Always remember that new skills can be easily learned. The next logical step will be to talk to actual professionals in your considered fi eld. Arrange for face time with people who can be potential employers or have the capacity to hire you later. Informal interviews will
prove to be an additional advantage for you.

Get real. Get upgraded

Once you have browsed through all these essentials that match your interest, career aspirations and personal goals, be prepared to start from scratch as far as learning is concerned. Remember you will be competing with people who have experiences in that field for years. Make sure that you have the skills you need to survive and thrive in your chosen career. Research shows that you need additional training, education or certification to start a new professional life. “Most career switches demand acquiring skills and knowledge to be effective in the new workplace. Getting a new degree is a big step in that direction,” Bhati observes.

Take a course or two to ensure you really like the subject matter. If you are going for a new degree or certification, make sure you check the accreditation of the school, and get some information about placement successes. In Singapore, he says, high employment means greater competition for jobs. Candidates without relevant skills do not stand a good chance to compete with fellow job aspirants. Also, poor skill sets leave people with low-paying and unexciting jobs.

Thus, upgrading your qualification will make you more employable, improve your personal brand and give you the competitive advantage that you seek in the job market or in your present company. If the education you wish to get is one that will be useful in your present company as well, talk to HR about expanding your job scope and exploring new areas, or suggest a rotation to the department of your choice. HR would normally consider your ideas as it will be a win-win situation for the organisation and you. Besides, talk to your current employer about sponsorship for the upgradation. If
your employer is willing to support you, an internal transition within your organisation will be easier.

Alternatively, engage your extra time in volunteering as temporary staff or intern in your new career field. Some experts even suggest you develop a parallel career before quitting your current job and search for a full-time position in your new career.

• check local schools for courses and programmes that can give you a competitive edge
• start your lessons concurrently with your present career
• develop a rapport with your teacher. He/she can be a valuable reference when you are applying for a new job

The itch to switch: Top reasons why people change careers
1. Mismatched expectations
2. New interest in growth sectors
3. Declining industry demands
4. Changing financial needs
5. Chasing a dream
6. Overcoming current stress
7. Looking for a challenge

Network


One of the real keys to successfully changing careers will be your networking skills. Develop communication with those who will be able to give you job leads, offer you advice and information about a particular company or industry, and introduce you to others so that you can further expand your network. You can broaden your network by joining professional organisations in your new field and contacting alumni from your college who are working in the field you want to enter.

Talk to people in your desired field and explain your desire to switch career. Ask them for advice. Give them your contact information and stay visible in their radar for any future opportunities.

However, amidst all this, you will need to stay flexible about your employment status, relocation and salary. Whilst you may set positive goals for yourself, you need to be prepared to face setbacks. The journey may not be as easy as you dream, but it’ll be worth all the trouble if you are determined to pursue your dream and take a leap.

5 steps to career switch:
At a glance
- Have a plan
- Know your reasons
- Do your homework
- Assess yourself
- Upgrade your qualification

What will change with a higher degree?
- You are more employable with a degree
- It improves your personal brand
- A degree gives you a competitive advantage in the job market or in your current company
- You are creating the future
- Every company needs to develop sustainable practices and generate new business – your self-satisfaction is making that happen

Career Conversion: Government support
The Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) has been designed to help professionals, managers, executives and technicians to acquire new skills or to make a career switch and find a job in the growth sectors:
- Place and Train—Trainees are offered a job before the training commences, after going through the employer’s screening process. In this programme, trainees receive stipend and are expected to work for the employers in the respective sector for a minimum service period.
- Train and Place—A company sponsored initiative whereby a company sponsors a job seeker for a training programme. During or upon completion of training, trainees may have to undergo apprenticeships or work attachments with companies in the sector that they are trained for.

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