Ultimate Guide to Changing Careers in Northern Ireland
When Is The Best Time?
It is not unusual to spend years or even decades in a job before you realise that it’s no longer making you happy. In fact, a study by a UK recruitment firm showed that an incredible 48% of employees in the United Kingdom were unhappy with their job 1. If you are finding it incredibly difficult to motivate yourself each day, it’s time to sit down and ask yourself some searching questions:
- What do you like/dislike about your current job?
- Do you feel as if something is missing?
- Are you motivated by your colleagues and the actual type of work you perform?
- Do you feel as if your work/life balance is satisfactory?
There are also a number of reasons why you may be forced to leave your current employer. At this time, many employees feel like a change is necessary if their industry is experiencing a downturn. Other reasons for a career change include:
- Current employer on verge of bankruptcy
- Your company is moving into a different field
- Communication breakdown with colleagues/managers
Choose Your Moment
Timing is everything when it comes to leaving your job. If you have a large upcoming bonus, perhaps you should stay in the job for a few more months until you receive it. After all, you will need the extra cash to boost your bank balance as you search for new employment. Also, your cash flow might be affected depending on the time of month you get paid. It should go without saying that your new career journey should be taking place while you are still employed. Leaving a steady job without having something lined up is the definition of faulty planning.
It is also important to note that voluntarily leaving employment may eliminate your entitlement to benefits so please bear this in mind. If financial reasons are causing you to leave, ask for a pay rise before considering the change. Although many companies are taking austerity measures at present, you may get your raise if the company believes you to be valuable enough.
Finding the Right Path
If you opt to change your career, you are not alone. It is estimated that around 2.5 million UK employees would like a new career and only 20% of people are truly happy in their current job 2. However, don’t make one of the five most common mistakes made by individuals changing careers:
- Reliance On Money - This has briefly been mentioned but it is worth reiterating the point. Changing careers purely for financial gain or defining success by a pay cheque are huge errors. Those who seek a new career for financial reasons may find it difficult to find a suitably lucrative job and they might discover that their new career is completely unsuited to their talents.
- No Research - Hating a career so much that you want out is one thing, doing so without a plan of attack is quite another. You need to research the job market. It’s important to note that you’ll probably have to pay for independent career advice as free personalised services are usually only available for students and those who are unemployed for a long time. One of the best ideas is to perform volunteer work in a field you may enjoy or attend an evening class.
- No Self Analysis - Be honest with yourself and write down your skills and achievements. Ask yourself what you would be qualified to do and most importantly, what you would enjoy doing. There are a host of aptitude tests available that may help you understand more about what makes you tick. A frightening number of people meander through their working life without ever finding out where their talents lie. Self analysis could help you discover a career path you had never considered.
- Not Networking - After spending years in a certain career, most people feel as if they have a high enough level of transferable skills that will allow them to change careers with ease. They use the services of professional recruitment companies and expect immediate results. It is not enough to register with a few agencies. You need to do some groundwork yourself. Networking involves talking to people who can provide useful employment information be they old classmates, former managers or special business networking sites. Staying idle only keeps you on the sidelines longer.
- Not Going Back To School - Education doesn’t have to end after University in your early twenties. An increasing number of ‘mature’ students are returning to college in a bid to gain new qualifications. An additional professional qualification is a fantastic CV booster and it may be necessary to enter certain professions. In fact, some 45% of companies in the UK and Northern Ireland said that industry qualifications were essential in order to be considered for job vacancies. The University of Sheffield conducted a study which showed that vocational qualifications could boost an applicant’s salary by up to 23% 3. Still adamant that extra education is out of the question?
Speed & Strength
Once you have made the choice to change careers, speed is of the essence. You will probably work 35-40 hours a week in an average job. Imagine you still have 30 years of your working life remaining. If you are working 40 hour weeks for this length of time you will clock up more than 57,600 hours (taking 4 weeks of holidays per annum into account). That is an incredibly long time to be doing something you don’t like. Stop procrastinating and make the change. The longer it takes you to set the wheels in motion, the more likely it is that fear will take over and you’ll remain in the career that makes you so unhappy.
Although Northern Ireland has a lower unemployment rate than the rest of the UK; at 6.5%, it is still substantially higher than the 4.1% rate of November 2008 4. There is a real fear among the general population which suggests that they will remain unemployed for a long time if they quit their job. However, you need to be confident that the aforementioned transferable skills you have acquired over the years will get you a new career. The following skills are highly sought after by employers:
- Research & Analysis
- Foreign languages
- IT Literacy
- Problem Solving
It should also be noted that only 2.5% of the UK’s population are deemed to be long-term unemployed. ‘Long term’ in this case means being unemployed for more than 12 months 5. It is also important for you to realise that seeking new careers is normal behaviour. It’s estimated that the average person has 10-14 jobs and 3-4 different careers in their lifetime 6. If anything, staying in the same career for decades is unusual! Forget about fear and embrace the new career path you are about to take.
Naturally, you need to pay the bills so ensure you have enough savings put away to cover all expenditures for at least 6 months in case the job search takes longer than it should. A good rule of thumb when it comes to determining how long it will take you to get a new job is to divide your desired salary by 365 and divide it again by 5 to discover the number of weeks it will take you to get a new job. A simple example is if you hope to earn £36,500 a year. Dividing by 365 gives you 100, dividing this figure by 5 gives you 20. Therefore, it should take you 20 weeks to get a new job at this salary 7. You may have to accept a part time job to keep the money coming in but remember, the next full-time job you find will hopefully be your true calling and you’ll never go through the process again.
Be Prepared To Take A Step Back
A common reason for seeking a new job in the same field is disenchantment at the lack of promotion opportunities at a company. Therefore, there is a reluctance to change careers as this would probably necessitate a fall down the career ladder. Most people prefer to stick out their current job rather than look for a new career because they don’t wish to experience a reduction in responsibility and salary.
Yet you need to look at the bigger picture. What if your current employer is not promoting anyone for a long time? You could be stuck at the same level for years. By changing careers, you could work in an organisation that offers far faster elevation through the ranks. Although you may be earning less now, in 10 years time, your position and salary could dwarf what you would be receiving in your current career. It may seem like you’re taking a risk but in actual fact, working for a company in an industry with long-term growth potential makes far more sense than being stuck in a dead-end career. Use the knowledge and skills you have acquired during your life to become an invaluable part of the team in your new career. Did you know that only 10% of the largest chief executives in the UK have followed a single career path?8 Career experts firmly believe that those who hold future senior positions in major organisations will come from diverse backgrounds.
What Am I Worth?
Employment is essentially the same as any other form of business. It is a deal performed on the basis of supply and demand. Clearly, if you have a rare skill set that is in hot demand, you can almost name your price (within reason!). There is various salary calculators online which can help you determine what the market rate is for any particular profession. For example, a legal secretary with 10 years experience can expect to earn £2,000 a month 9. Look through job descriptions and compare what they are looking for with what you can provide.
If you come across openings that don’t advertise their salary and look for your wage demands up front, play it cool. Don’t provide your salary expectations. Instead, use terms like ‘negotiable’ and ‘competitive’ to neatly sidestep the issue. Worthwhile companies won’t mind your evasiveness and will invite you to an interview if they feel you are suitable. If you get to the stage where salary is being discussed, quote a price 10% above what you’re looking for. If you find a career in a field you enjoy, you may be willing to sacrifice your initial salary for promotion opportunities and increased pay down the line.
If you find a new career that is a perfect fit for you but it involves relocation, what will you do? In some cases, relocation may involve leaving Northern Ireland entirely. In this instance, you have to ask yourself if your career path is more important than being close to friends and family. If you are married, is your partner willing to relocate with you? You also have to thoroughly research the company and ensure it is not some ‘flash in the pan’ operation. The last thing you want is a failed venture and a return home within a year or two.
If you do move to a new neighbourhood, it is important to try and make new friends as life in a new city or town can become extremely lonely and offset the happiness you feel in your new career. Get involved in local community activities. If you have children, you’ll probably meet other parents through a variety of school activities. Naturally, you should also look to become friends with your colleagues if possible.
When changing career in Northern Ireland, you may have to completely revise your CV. After all, most of the work experience and qualifications on your current CV may not be relevant for your new career. As always, you’ll need to tailor your CV to each particular job application in your new career field. While chronological CV’s are the best choice for most applicants applying within their field of expertise, career changers may be better served submitting a functional CV which emphasises their skills and strengths relating to a specific industry. It is the ideal CV type for people embarking on a different career path in Northern Ireland as they won’t have the requisite experience in that particular field. Above all, your CV needs to look into the future rather than delve into the past.
We hope that the above information has been useful. Seeking a career change in Northern Ireland or abroad is a scary prospect. After working for a single company or in a single industry for so long, it can be difficult to welcome the prospect of working outside your comfort zone. However, a few months or years of discomfort is better than spending your working life in an industry you are not suited to, offers no promotional opportunities and most importantly, fails to excite, motivate or challenge you. Below is a quick summary of what has gone before.
- Instigate change if you’re unhappy
- Carefully plan an exit from your current industry
- Research the job market
- Analyse yourself
- Go back to college for additional qualifications
- Take a step back if necessary
- Create a functional CV for your new career
- Seek out a new career for the sake of money alone
- Assume that recruitment agencies will get you a job
- Stay in a career solely because of fear of not finding future employment
- Immediately blurt out your salary demands when applying for jobs
- Be afraid to relocate if the right opportunity arises
- Rely on your old CV to get jobs in a new sector