It may seem to some people like a really easy thing to do, but choosing a new career later on in life is not. When you are young and have few responsibilities you have the pick of careers, location is not a real issue nor are starting salaries. However the older you get the more responsibilities you take on. You may have children, a mortgage, or other financial commitments that will not allow you to take a cut in pay. You may have constraints on your spare time that may limit your ability to learn something new. You may even have a clause in your current employment contract that stipulates you cannot do certain things, or work for certain companies if you leave. So here is my list of 10 things you may need when choosing a new career:
Current & Expected pay;
Current financial commitments;
Costs to retrain;
What qualifications will I need;
Spare time to study;
What lifestyle do you want from your new career;
Do you want to be employed or self-employed;
Is there a demand for my chosen career;
What does the future of your industry look like?
Current and expected pay
Although we try to deny it money makes the world go round, so what is your current salary? What do you want to earn? Two vital questions, you may be on £40k but you want to earn £65k+, it could be that money isn’t of concern just as long as you earn over £18k. Either way, this information is vital to what career you can choose. There is no point saying you want at least £40k per year and want to be a baker because bakers do not get £40k unless of course, you own your own very successful bakery.
All I decided is that I wanted to earn more than I was on, with my skills I was never going to earn much more than what I am on now, unless I got into management, but that is never going to happen as I am not related to any bosses and I can’t bear to kiss anyone’s ass. Still that would mean being on little more than £30k, I would like a little more than that.
However I am aware that I will probably start on less than I am on now. For me this isn’t a problem as it should only be for a short time. But either way I have had to factor it in, for some people even the slightest cut in pay is not an option.
Current financial commitments
You may have a mortgage, loans, credit cards, car finance etc….All of which will have some restraints on your career choice. You need to research the typical salary for your career choice, both what you can expect to start on and what you could end up on. If you do have to take an initial pay cut then you need to make sure you can still pay your bills, if not then you will need to look at ways of financing this period on lower pay. If you can go straight into you chosen a career on a salary as good as, if not better, than your current one, then this is not going to be an issue.
However, does your career require that you go back to college, university or undertake some private training? My choice did, but I could do it part-time or through self-study (buy the books and teach myself). If you need to go back to full-time education are you able to do this and meet your financial commitments, if so I suggest you take that opportunity? Part-time study is the only thing slowing down my progress, I have tried to do more but it’s not easy with a full-time job.
Costs to retrain
How much is it going to cost to retrain? You may not need to retrain, what you choose to do may not require any specific training. You may be lucky enough to find an employer who will pay for all your training. If you need to retrain and do it off your own back then you need an idea of how much it will cost and how you can fund it. One option is to get a career development loan, but most training establishments will probably offer the ability to pay over the period of the course, I know that the Open University allow this and it is one of the main reasons I chose to study with them.
What qualifications will I need?
Like I have already said, not all careers require qualifications, there are no formal qualifications to be a web developer, but I have no knowledge in the subject so I need to study it. If you do need qualifications then you need to know if it is going to be possible to get them. Not all qualifications can be gained through part-time education/distance learning. The Open University cannot offer you a degree in every subject; a big part of my decision to get into web development was that I could learn the subject from home. Depending on what career you think you want to get into you need to know what qualifications you need and then how you can get them, if that fits in with your circumstances then you’re good to go.
Baby being cuddledNow I don’t have children, I do have many friends that do and many of my fellow students have too. I can see how much time and attention they need and this is not just limited to your children, don’t forget about your significant other too!
What you need is support from your partner, more so if you have children, so make sure to talk over your options with them and that you have their full support – which I’m sure you will.
Personally, I know how much time I need for study and it usually takes up most of either a Saturday or Sunday and a few nights during the week. On a recent module, I was on, with the OU, one of the students was really struggling as they had a young family, one of which was only 8 months old. Just the thought of trying to juggle all that and study sends shivers down my spine and I take my hat off to people who do it. Don’t forget that this is a major plus when you are applying for jobs, any employer should understand the commitment involved with distance learning and part-time study.
Spare time to study
Study book with a pair of glassesMost courses with the OU suggests you need around 8 to 10 hours study time per week, which is easily achievable. The problem is for some courses this can be way off the mark, if a subject is completely new to you then you can triple the time required, also the OU can get it wrong. My last module was not one of my favorites, I think it’s fair to say it wasn’t well received by many of the other students; I was easily putting 30 hours a week into it and still struggling. As you can imagine that didn’t leave much time for anything else. My study doesn’t stop there though, on top of the OU study I also have to delve into other books and study material.
What kind of lifestyle do you want?
What do you want from your new career apart from money? This is something you really shouldn’t overlook. This will mean different things to different people, so let me tell you what I wanted from my career. One of the biggest things was to have more flexibility with my hours when summer comes around and it is nice out on a Friday afternoon, I want to be able to knock off early and go to the pub, or take an extended lunch and go for a nice long walk with the dog.Surfer on the beach On the flip side I want to be able to put extra hours in to get a project completed, especially if I need a particular day off and need to make up the time elsewhere.
If you want a lavish lifestyle then money will be a factor, so again you will need to pick a career appropriate to fund a lavish lifestyle. You may want to emigrate, it is certainly something I would consider given the opportunity, so it is important you choose a career that is in demand in that country, most government websites will have that information.
Employed or self-employed
I personally want to be self-employed; the lifestyle I want is almost only possible if you work for yourself. Most of all I no longer want to be controlled by someone else, my work doesn’t control me outside of work but most of their rules do have an effect on my lifestyle. I have to run my holiday plans past them, you may work for a company that will only allow you two weeks off at a time – that means you can’t ever take an extended holiday abroad. My company limits the amount of holiday I can take between June and August, the time of year you want to take most of your holiday – I don’t want those constraints. My contract also has a clause that says they can demand I do overtime given 24hrs notice, as you can imagine this can really interrupt any plans I have outside of work.
Obviously it is not all bad being employed by someone else. I get 6 months sick pay every year and if I was self-employed I would get any. My company contributes to my pension; if I was self-employed I would need to make 100% of my contributions. There are many other pros and cons to being self-employed but they are probably best suited to a post of their own.
Is there a demand for your career?
This is an important factor, especially when you are changing your career later on in life. You need to give yourself every advantage possible the older you are, when looking for a new job. If there is a shortage of trained personnel you have a greater your chance of landing a job, when you finally start applying for them. If there are an abundance of people trained with your skills then other factors start will influence an employer’s decision on who to recruit. Also remember that he sector might look good, but your role may not be in demand.
What does the future look like for your industry?
The bigger the demand for a product the greater the demand for staff, to supply that product. For instance, I work in the telecommunications industry and if you have fiber optic skills then I would say the UK is the place to be right now, the current copper network is being replaced by fiber optics, which is a lot of work that will go on for many years to come.
Image of an iPhoneOne reason I chose to be a web developer is because the industry is buzzing and constantly evolving, the future of the Internet has never been so strong, with websites and applications now accessed from mobile phones, tablets, and the TV. Companies are building more and more software to run on web browsers via their intranet, even desktop software like word processors and spreadsheets are accessible online and you can store your documents there too – in the cloud!
So research your industry, make sure there is a future in it for you and your role.
There are many things to consider when choosing a new career; the fact is I wasted the first one to two years studying subjects that were fairly irrelevant to what I eventually decided I wanted to do. If you know that you need a career change but you’re not sure what to change it to then consider these 10 things and you should hopefully not waste valuable time in retraining yourself.