Coronavirus (COVID-19) and changing career

According to a recent Prospects COVID-19 survey, 32% of respondents were thinking about changing career as a result of the current pandemic.

Nearly half of those aged 35 to 44 and 45 to 54 (44%) were thinking of changing their careers, while a quarter (26%) of respondents aged 18 to 24 and two fifths (42%) aged 25 to 34 reported the same thing.

If you're thinking of changing career or embarking on a conversion course follow the below advice.

Switching jobs is a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. It could majorly change your lifestyle and routine - but may also be the most rewarding thing you do

A September 2018 study by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) revealed that the average worker in Britain considers changing career ten times per year, and nearly 20% are currently thinking about retraining.

If you fall into either of these categories, you'll be aware that career changing is something which involves a lot of thought, planning and effort. However, it's something worth considering - your job satisfaction and enjoyment levels are likely to increase in a role that you feel passionately about.

Reasons to change career

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, you may be considering a career change for a number of reasons.

Others may be searching for a change of scenery or schedule, such as those who transition into self-employment, to fit around other commitments.

Teaching and law are popular paths with career changers, as candidates can enter these sectors from a number of backgrounds. The nature of these careers means they're particularly suited to those with experience of engaging with a range of people.

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 sectors where your skills could be invaluable.

Finding a new career

If you've decided you'd like to change careers, the first thing you'll need to do is research. Get started by browsing job profiles, to find out more about what your chosen career involves and its entry requirements.

Once you know the path you'd like to pursue, you can start looking for 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. Look out for open days and events aimed at job changers, to meet recruiters and learn more about how to enter your chosen field. 

You may need to complete a conversion course to change 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, the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) will bring you up to speed with those who studied law at undergraduate level. 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. To see what’s on offer, search postgraduate conversion courses.

You may be able to gain the qualifications you need without studying for another degree. Sites such as Udemy and Skillshare offer 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.

Don't forget to update your CV and cover letter to reflect these changes - see our cover letter template for career changers for inspiration.

Handing in your notice

Once you've received a new job offer you'll need to hand in your notice. Your notice 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 have a number of outcomes - 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 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 Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and your new employer.

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 handover notes for your replacement - you're more likely to be given a positive reference for your next employer this way.

The benefits of career changing

'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 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 skill set, 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.

A career change may also open you up to travel opportunities, and the chance to develop new skills and meet new people.

Things to consider

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,' Natasha advises. '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.

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