Making a career change is a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly, but whatever your reasons for wanting to do something different, a carefully planned move can turn out to be incredibly rewarding

According to research from international learning design and development specialists Quadmark, nearly three-quarters (70%) of UK employees considered making a career change in 2022.

Despite this high proportion of the working population assessing their options, Santander found that the average worker felt that it was too late to change careers by the age of 45, due to a lack of digital skills.

While changing career is something which does involve a lot of thought, planning and effort, it's worth thinking about - as your job satisfaction and enjoyment levels are likely to increase in a role that you feel more passionately about.

If you're wondering about the practicalities of how to change careers, including how to keep pace with the latest technology, there are some key things to bear in mind as you consider your next step.

Reasons for a career change

Whether you've reached your limits and are unable to progress in your current role or would like to challenge yourself by putting your skills to use in a different setting, there are various reasons why you may be looking to make a career change.

For instance, you may be feeling the need for a change of scenery or schedule due to the transition into self-employment, ensuring that it fits around your other commitments.

There are also certain professions which have proved popular with career changers. For instance, you can enter areas of teaching and law from a range of backgrounds. The nature of these careers means they're particularly suited to those with previous experience of working in other sectors.

If you'd like to try something new but aren't sure where to start, consider taking the Job Match questionnaire. In just a few minutes you'll discover the roles where your skills could prove to be invaluable.

The benefits of changing career

'Finding fulfilling work can have a positive impact on your physical and mental health, your relationships, your self-esteem, and even, over time, your bank balance,' says Natasha Stanley, head coach, writer and experience designer at Careershifters. 'The average person spends a third of their life at work. If you're miserable in your job, it matters.'

You'll have the freedom to pursue what's important to you. 'Rather than being limited to what you think you 'can' do based on your current skillset, look at what you're naturally drawn to, in and out of work,' Natasha says. 'This could be as broad as being creative or active.' Approaching work this way will increase your motivation and overall job satisfaction.

Things to consider

However, in going ahead with this decision, it's likely that you'll have to make sacrifices. For instance, you may incur extra costs from relocating or changing your commute - you may even need to take a pay cut to move companies or sectors.

A new career is also likely to bring with it a new routine, which may affect your work/life balance, particularly if you're entering a career that requires you to study for a qualification beforehand or alongside work - you'll need to factor in time to study.

What's more, you'll be entering an unfamiliar working environment, and will have to build new relationships and a good professional reputation from scratch. It's therefore crucial to have a good support network around you.

'Career change takes time, and big journeys are much easier with a team of supporters,' explains Natasha. 'Surrounding yourself with other career changers, trusted family and friends, experts and mentors can inspire you, help you find solutions to obstacles, and stay accountable,' she says.

If you're happy with your current work conditions but you'd like a new challenge, you don't necessarily have to change jobs - enquire with your HR or personnel department about any available continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities.

Finding a new career

If you've got your heart set on changing careers, the first thing you'll need to do is research. Get started on coming up with suitable career change ideas by browsing job profiles, to find out more about what's involved with different roles and their entry requirements.

Through your research, you may find that you can gain the qualifications you need without studying for another degree.

When looking at short courses, you'll find that microcredentials offer some excellent options, while sites such as Udemy and Skillshare list thousands of online courses in a range of specialisms, from digital marketing and nutrition to audio production and public speaking.

Course prices start from as little as £10 - some are even free - and you'll be able to fit studying around other commitments.

Once you know the path you'd like to pursue, you can start seeking opportunities. Update your professional social media profiles to clearly state your intention to change industries, and give details of the skills and experience you have that will be well-suited.

Career retraining

For some careers, you may need to consider further study or professional training. You may need to complete a conversion course to change to some careers - you'll need sector-specific qualifications to work in industries such as engineering, healthcare, IT and teaching.

If you've set your sights on the legal profession, you can take a conversion course such as the Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PGDL) and a preparation course before taking the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). If you'd like to become a barrister you'd need to do a conversion course then take a Bar course before completing pupillage.

Aspiring psychologists will need to take a psychology conversion course, in the form of either an MSc or postgraduate diploma (PGDip).

It's never too late to retrain in another field - in fact, having life experience behind you when heading back to university can work to your advantage. Look out for open days and events aimed at job changers, to learn more about how to enter your chosen field at postgraduate study level.

To see what's on offer as you look to forge a new career, search postgraduate conversion courses.

Writing a career change CV

Don't forget to update your CV and cover letter to reflect this career change.

Employers won't view this as a negative move as long as you provide solid reasons for your shift in focus.

View our cover letter template for career changers for inspiration.

How to hand in your notice

Once you've received a new job offer, you'll need to hand in your notice. This is a formal letter of resignation, stating your intention to leave your current position, and you'll typically hand it in to your line manager.

Your notice should be succinct, positive and respectful, and include your date of departure. This will be in relation to the length of your notice period, which will typically be at least two weeks - however, this could be shorter if you're still on probation, or longer if you're in a senior position. Your contract should include details of how much notice you're required to give before changing jobs.

Be prepared to discuss your reasons for leaving with your manager. This could lead to various outcomes - for instance, you may be offered an incentive to stay, or be required to negotiate a longer notice period than you were expecting. If you're joining a rival company, you may be placed on gardening leave - a situation that results in an employee being suspended on full pay while serving their notice period - and asked to leave the premises immediately.

By law, your employer is required to issue you a P45 once you've handed in your notice. A P45 is a document detailing how much tax you've paid so far in the present tax year (which runs from 6 April to 5 April), made up of four parts. You'll keep one part for your own records - the others are split between His Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and your new employer. For more information, see GOV.UK - PAYE forms.

After your notice has been accepted, focus on making a good lasting impression. Keep on good terms with your colleagues and managers, and compile comprehensive handov'Read the Prospects blog to stay up-to-date on news, insights and opinionser notes for your replacement - you're more likely to be given a positive reference for your next employer this way.

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