Posted On 8th July 2012

Aspiring politico, you dream of meeting people known to most us only through our television screens … how do you feel about taking a turn at the washing up and photocopying? Would-be international aid champion, you want to give something back … but does that still have the same appeal if you’re told that people from your professional grouping are based at a UK head office with only rare chances of trips to the field?  As for running your own business, don’t doubt that it’s rewarding but work/life balance takes on a new meaning – your work is your life and you are your business, especially in your early days.

There are many reasons for a change in career: boredom, redundancy, the hope of a different life. And as you stare out of your window contemplating this all, there are some things which have a certain magnetic quality for people who consider they have fantastic skills to bring to bear. Classics of the genre include not just politics, international development, and running your own business, but also archaeology (the Indiana Jones factor), law and medicine, to name but a few.

Some of these require commitment to a long game. Unless you’re already qualified but not practicing, you can’t just start applying to be a doctor or a lawyer. You’ve some studying to do first. Archaeology is similar. The only person I know who actually gets paid to be an archaeologist paid her dues in time, getting a doctorate and spending long periods at excavations to get the requisite experience. To my knowledge, she’s never had any delusions about it either.

The others generally require no particular qualifications (beyond those you might need to work as a professional in other sectors) and are among the sectors where there is no shortage of applications, even at times when other lines of work are struggling to find new candidates. Why? They’ve always had a certain cachet about them, so much so, that some people will work for virtually nothing, if need be, to get into that line of work.

And I’m afraid that’s what you may have to do, if you’re determined to make the change. Look up the internship programmes, organise your own work experience, shadow someone for a while, volunteer. Not only will this give you something of solid relevance to your chosen sector to say on your CV, it will also give you a taste of what you’re in for.

We’ve blogged before about transferrable skills and being careful about their deployment in a CV. To recap, remember that the person who is interviewing you may have spent many years acquiring the skills for the job and doesn’t want to hear that anyone can just walk in and pick it up – so you need to demonstrate why your skills are a good match for their role.

Similarly, when you wish to move sector, you need to establish credibility. There are plenty of candidates out there, especially at a time like this, who have worked hard to do just that. Not only will they have got themselves known in their new chosen field by dint of their efforts but they will sound more convincing both on paper and in person when it comes to applying for jobs. There’s nothing like rolling up your sleeves and doing some hands on research if you are determined to make a change.

Heidi Nicholson

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