How to have a successful career transition

Have you been feeling frustrated at work? Have you reached a point where you want to do something different with your life? Perhaps, after finishing your education, you weren’t sure what you wanted to do and simply stumbled into a career you now realize was wrong for you, or perhaps you’ve always nursed a career ambition that you didn’t feel ready or able to pursue? It may not be too late for you. An increasing number of people are now changing their careers in their thirties, forties or even fifties, and making a success of it. Coming from a different background from other applicants, with a different set of skills, can even increase your attractiveness to an employer who likes the idea of bringing fresh ways of thinking to a business. If you’re itching to make a move, these tips could help.

Change your role

Before you prepare to leap into the unknown, it’s worth thinking carefully about why you’re dissatisfied with the job you have at the moment. Could it simply be time for you to move into management or take on a different role in the field you’re familiar with? Is your employer the real problem, so that finding a new one might renew the inspiration you once felt? This won’t be the case for everyone, but it’s worth exploring your options because sometimes finding job satisfaction takes a lot less effort than you might think.

Understand what you want

If you do want to switch careers, what will you be switching to? If you’ve already made your choice, look at the different roles available and solidify your broader ambitions into a clear set of goals. If you’re not sure, take the time to explore different areas and speak to people who work in them. Social media is great for this and you’ll find that people are often happy to help when you start asking around. You’ll get a much clearer picture this way than by reading career profiles or job ads. You can also try taking aptitude tests to find out if there’s a career you might not have thought of that you’re naturally well suited to.

Identify transferable skills

Even if you’re moving into a new sector, there are probably skills from your career to date that will still be useful to you. Admin and IT skills, for instance, are useful in most office jobs, while good lifting and handling skills are useful in most manual occupations. There may also be more subtle things that cross over. For instance, if you’ve worked in a customer-facing position in retail, you may have developed good interpersonal skills that can be transferred to negotiation or marketing in another profession. If you’ve worked in data analysis, you may have strong organizational skills that are well suited to a role in logistics.

Get new qualifications

If you’re moving into a whole new sector, the chances are that you’ll need additional qualifications to make yourself employable. They won’t just boost your knowledge – they’ll send a clear signal that you’re committed to this new direction and won’t easily give up and return to what you were doing. Correspondence courses and night classes are good options if you need to fit study around work. Even major universities now offer courses of this sort and many professional qualifications are available this way.


Finding good job openings, especially in a new sector, is as much about who you know as what you know. The easiest way in is through a friend who understands what you’re capable of and what you have to offer. If you don’t know anybody in your target sector, find out if your friends do, and seek out opportunities for introductions to be made. The more people you meet and befriend, the more people you’ll have the chance to meet, and in the meantime your knowledge of the sector will grow.

Take the plunge

When you’ve built up your connections, strengthened your skills and done your research, it’s time to take the plunge and start applying for positions. Don’t let your nerves hold you back – this may be a bold move, but it’s something that people do successfully all the time. Just ask Mark Green, who went from serving as an army medic to working in business and subsequently moved into politics. If you’re confident and enthusiastic about your new direction, you’ll appeal to employers, who will see all the passion of a newcomer coupled with maturity and useful skills.

Developing a new career halfway through your working life takes effort, but if it’s really what you want to do, it’s well worth it. Make a good choice and you’ll be a lot happier afterwards, and you’ll never be one of those people who reach old age full of regrets about what they didn’t do.