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How to Find a New Career Path

How did you end up in your current job?

Some people decide what they’ll do with their life before they even take their Leaving Cert. Others of us have a plan and leave it all behind for an unexpected opportunity. No matter how you go to this point, you might be now looking for a change.

Finding a new career path is all about getting to know yourself, your interests, and your goals for your professional life.

We chatted to Hollie and Gavin, who recently found new career paths, to learn more about how they knew it was time for a change, where they wound up, and the advice they have for anyone looking to take the leap.

Their best career change advice: don’t wait. Finding a new career path is easier — and comes with far more benefits — than you might think.

What Are the Signs It’s Time for a Career Change?

After a few years in work, you’re likely familiar with the feeling of needing a new job. Maybe you’ve lost your motivation, you are stressed out, or you can’t see an opportunity to learn and grow in your current role.

But feeling the urge to bolt out of your current employer’s door can be remedied with a job hunt in your current field. It doesn’t necessarily indicate that the solution is a whole new career.

So what’s the difference between itchy feet and the need for a whole new path?

As Christie Mims wrote for The Muse, there are two clear indicators:

  1. You can’t stay in your current job, but the idea of jumping into the same role somewhere else is even less appealing.

  2. You no longer see where you want to be in two, five, or ten years in your current line of work.

The second indicator resonated with both Hollie and Gavin, when we asked them what sparked the change. Hollie recently made the switch from make-up artistry to an operations role with an education provider. She loves beauty, but she says, “I knew what I was doing was not going to be for life.”

Gavin, who transitioned from a career in media and advertising to joining a customer success team at a multinational tech company, said essentially the same thing: “I knew I had to make a change when I realised I couldn’t see myself doing this in two years time, five years time, and ten years time.”

For both Hollie and Gavin, COVID-19 sped up their changes. Hollie’s job became difficult as retail closed indefinitely and working in beauty changed dramatically. And while Gavin’s job duties remained relatively the same, it became clear when he began to complete all his work from home that the career path he just wasn’t for him.

Neither were particularly happy in their roles, and COVID-19 intensified their decision to move

How Do You Find a Job that Makes You Happy?

Often, we look for a career change to reinvigorate our work lives and even bring us some happiness. While there’s no magic formula for how to find a career path you love, you might be surprised at what’s possible for you.

“I would have always said happiness at work is not possible,” Gavin says. “But work-life balance isn’t just a box-ticking exercise for companies. It can make a huge difference to qualify of life.”

So how do you achieve it? Hollie told us she found relative happiness by being very selective in the job hunt process. “I made a list of the pros and cons in my previous jobs and what I wanted to bring to my next job. I was very careful in what I wanted and being sure I could meet the business needs.”

If you lead with your strengths and interests and learn from your past, you’ll find it easier to find a job that gives you satisfaction.

5 Questions to Help You Find New Career Options

If you recognise the signs that you need a new career path, then the right time to start thinking about what comes next is...now. Why not?

The big question is: what will you do next? Ask yourself these six introspective questions to start looking for career change ideas.

1. What Motivates You?

Everyone has different motivations for their work and their career. And for most people, these motivations change over time.

Maybe you were motivated by a challenge or a lifestyle or something as simple as salary. Whatever it is, you should dig in deeper to figure out whether these motivations still ring true.

Don’t feel the need to iron this question out all on your own. Talk to the people you trust about these assumptions; your family, friends, mentors, coaches, and people in different phases of their career.

For Gavin, these conversations helped him narrow down exactly what he wanted to do next and focus the scope of his job search, landing him in a role he now loves. “Everyone can be their own worst critic,” Gavin says. “So, I spoke to mentors and had a chat with them to see what their recommendations were.”

Mentorship, in particular, can be a huge asset to career changers because mentors are experienced in the field you want to enter. They can share their insights and experiences and help talk you through what’s possible in your chosen career.

2. What Are Your Interests, Strengths, and Values?

Your interests, strengths, and values are what you bring to the table for a potential employer and what allow you to shine in your new career. Very often, these will stand out because they appear in the parts of your current job that you like most, like problem-solving, talking to customers, or working with figures.

Hollie’s strengths helped her land her current job. “My biggest interest is beauty and I studied beauty in college,” Hollie says. “I always wanted to give customers the best experience possible. Now I work in accounts and that desire plays a big part of my role here. Even in operations, it’s still important that we give a good level of customer service.”

Gavin had a similar experience when he revaluated what helped him succeed in the past. “My natural ability was always dealing with people,” Gavin says. “I never realized that this is a natural strength to have. Once I realised I had it, I wanted to leverage it rather than focus on a new skill. Customer Success is really about working with customers on a day-to-day basis and that’s all about serving people.”

Are You Still Feeling Stuck?

It can be hard to take a close look at these parts of yourself if you are someone who feels burned out or is in a job you hate.

If this is you, try taking some career tests or personality tests to help you identify your strengths. And don’t be afraid to rule out what you don’t want to do first if you’re having trouble getting started.

3. What Do Your Future Peers Think?

You have an idea of what you’d like to do, but before you put an application in, you’ll want to do some research. But don’t be daunted by the task. Of his own experience, Gavin tells us that “once you have a seed of an idea, then the research isn’t hard.”

Internet sleuthing aside, one of the best ways to get to know a role is to meet the people doing it.

Go out and network with people in the industry or career role you’re interested in. Reach out through formal means or ask your friends or colleagues to introduce you. If you’re already in work, ask someone in the department you’d like to join to tell you about their job over a coffee. However you choose to do it, just be sure to talk to as many people as possible.

4. What Are Your Long Term Goals?

Every plan needs a goal, especially your career plan.

Goals are about more than the end result. Setting career goals will help you better identify the right initial opportunities for you and give you a clear idea of what needs to happen next. They can also help you make the most of your resources, like mentorships, courses, or volunteer opportunities, so you can get started with your new career faster.

Remember that career goals and plans don’t need to look like a ladder. For many people, career progression can be more like a jungle gym that allows you to try out different roles and opportunities.

When Should You Update Your Career Plan?

Your life and goals aren’t static, so your career plan shouldn’t be either. Ideally, you should update your career plan whenever you have new information, whether that’s a new skill, a financial goal, or something else that’s important to you.

Need some inspiration on some exciting new career paths? Here are some articles to get you started:

5. What Do You Need to Do to Upskill or Retrain?

Upskilling is a key part of making a career transition, but it comes last on our list of questions. Why?

Because you’ll find more purpose and value in upskilling when you have thought strategically about why and how you want to make that career transition. Upskilling won’t replace that strategy; it helps you put strategy into place.

Gavin’s career story illustrates just how effective upskilling can be once you have that plan.

“My CV was quite strong with ten years of experience in my field,” Gavin says. “But my CV at that time was targeted to advertising and marketing. I knew that if I got in front of people then they’d see my people skills. I thought the best way to do that was to upskill.”

Gavin chose to upskill at UCD Professional Academy with the Project Management course. How did he make the decision in the end?

“Once I settled on the UCD Professional Academy Project Management course, I chatted with mentors and people that have been in the industry to get their opinion on it and see how they’re using it and whether it made a difference in the job hunt. I wanted to make sure the course offers transferable skills. I looked at the different project management courses, and I knew I didn’t want to do full time so I weighed it up that way. I was looking for a way to stand out and having UCD Professional Academy on a CV is a great way to stand out.”

Ultimately, Gavin says he’s very glad he did because his current employer absolutely noticed his commitment.

“To be honest it made such a difference,” Gavin says. “The interview process at my current role was six stages long. Every single round I did the UCD Professional Academy course was brought up unprompted. It showed that I had a growth mindset, I was willing to do the work I needed to to get the roles I wanted.”

Feeling inspired to make a career change? Browse our wide range of Part-Time and Evening courses that will help you make the switch to your exciting new career path! Check out our article on How to Job Hunt Effectively in Ireland for more great job hunting tips. And once you get called for an interview, why not Hone your Interpersonal Skills and give yourself the best chance at success!