Considering a career change in 2023? Here’s how to do it

The end of a year is a time that often invites reflection. It signals a break from our busy day-to-day working lives to look back on the year that was and how we want to spend our time. For many people, particularly those experiencing burnout, this means reflecting on their profession and considering a change.

So how does one go about a career transition?

Dr Kirstin Ferguson, company director and resident Got a Minute? columnist, and Alex Kingsmill, a life and career coach and founder of Upstairs, weigh in.

The end of the year is a good time to reflect on how you want to spend your time – at work and beyond. Credit:iStock

How do you know if it’s end-of-year fatigue, or if you actually need a change?

Whether you need a career pivot, a break, or simply need to introduce some changes to the way you work, Kingsmill recommends taking stock of how you feel as the first port of call.

“If you’re getting up every morning and you’re crying then that’s a fairly good sign it’s time to make some tweaks,” she says, adding, “some people will know they’re depleted and cannot face another day.”

Ferguson agrees. “Whenever you start to feel that you’re dreading going in to work is when it’s time to make the change,” she says.

If you don’t quite fall into that camp, Kingsmill suggests trying a few things such as asking for more flexibility or new projects to see if it gets better. “As you gather more data that will help you make a decision,” she says.

Think about your ideal working day

Making positive changes to your working life in 2023 starts with envisaging what your perfect day looks like.

“It’s about looking for that intersection of what makes you happy, what makes you feel like you have the most value, and where you can earn money,” says Ferguson, adding the job itself may or may not come into it.

“Don’t get locked in to thinking you need a full-time job either,” she says. “You might go from full-time to a few different roles. It’s never been a better time to have a gig approach to work.”

Start by ‘doing’

“From a very young age we’re asked, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’,” says Kingsmill.

But she says it’s more effective to “do” your way into what you want to do. Getting out there and speaking with people, shadowing them at work, volunteering, or even trying a job on for size can all help you figure out your direction.

“It’s all about gathering information, and seeing what you’re good at and what resonates,” says Kingsmill.

Plan ahead

Once you’ve decided where you’d like to go, Ferguson recommends making a clear plan for the year ahead. Think about how you can build your network, whether you’d like to be in a new job, or if you’d like to take some time off to travel, for example.

Next, think about what you want your life to look like in the next five years. “I realise that’s a long way out,” says Ferguson. “But if your longer-term goal is to move into a new industry, you’ll find you’re making conscious and unconscious choices that might lead you there [if you have that five-year plan in mind].”

Speak to people

“So much of making a change is based on speaking to people,” says Kingsmill, adding that despite this, people – women in particular – are often reluctant.

“They don’t want to be a bother or they don’t want people to feel obliged to help,” she says. Instead, we should be thinking about if the situation was reversed, and whether you’d want to help someone out.

Kingsmill suggests mapping your networks: “If you sit down with a texta and a big piece of paper, you’ll find that you actually know heaps of people, and they know people. Think about who you might know in a specific field, or who they might be able to connect you with.”

Get a career coach

A career coach is someone who helps you think about who you are and how you might want to live (this differs to a career counsellor, who will offer more direct advice about potential pathways.) Career coaches like Kingsmill can help with everything from boosting your confidence, to strengthening relationships, to suggesting strategies to get where you need to go.

While Ferguson says that career coaches might be helpful for some people, they’re not the only way to find guidance. She recommends looking at LinkedIn or digging around online and approaching people in the industry you’re interested in. Ask if they’d be happy to spend 15 minutes on Zoom or over the phone. “You might feel uncomfortable asking, but most people are generally happy to help,” she says.

Being green isn’t always a bad thing

It can be scary to move towards the unknown and make a big change, acknowledges Ferguson.

“But there are Lots of benefits for employers to hire people coming from a different industry – and not knowing everything can actually be a benefit,” she says.

Kingsmill says that clients often lack confidence when it comes to changing careers. “People will often say, ‘I only have eight of the key selection criteria, I’m sure that I’m not good enough’.”

Overcoming this requires you to think about yourself differently and pairing that with practical action, says Kingsmill. Making the shift to a positive mindset, and putting yourself out there in situations that may seem scary, can also lead to a boost in confidence.

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