Are you considering a career change? With recent industry disruption, increasing automation and digitalisation, you might be wondering if now’s the best time.

You’re not alone. In fact, one study reported as many as 3.3 million Australians are rethinking their careers post-pandemic (ING Future Focus Report, 2020).

So, where do you start?

We spoke to two experts from The University of Queensland (UQ) Business School, futurist and management expert Associate Professor Nicole Hartley and careers and employability expert Remi Descamps, to get their advice. We also sought some first-hand tips from someone who successfully changed careers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Suzanne Wood is a UQ MBA alumna who transitioned from working as a Registered Nurse to a business transformation consultant working with the Royal Flying Doctors in 2020. 

Is now a good time to change careers?

“In an evolving career landscape, individuals and organisations must quickly adapt”, Remi says. “We have all heard that change and crisis breed opportunity. That’s why it’s now more important than ever to invest in developing new skills.”

“Now’s also the perfect time to consider a career change because the need for new skills has arisen so quickly.”

Nicole agrees, saying, “The pandemic has offered so many people the opportunity to ‘go after’ the job or work conditions they want as we reprioritise what is important to us.”

So, if you’re considering changing careers, here are four tips to make the transition as smooth as possible.

4 tips to change careers successfully, according to the experts

1. Take time to do your groundwork.

Before switching paths, you need to pave the way by:

  • Doing market research about the industry you want to move into
  • Reflecting on and articulating your unique values - what are you truly passionate about? How do you want to contribute? 
  • Working on your value proposition by making a list of your skills, experiences, and accomplishments
  • Ensuring your new career path aligns with this purpose.
2. Network to establish new connections in your new industry.

Did you know between 60 to 80 per cent of roles aren’t advertised? Many opportunities arise from existing contacts and networks. That’s why it’s crucial you connect, talk and gather information from someone working in your future industry.

Suzanne agrees, saying, “Networks are just as important as your qualifications. When people are hiring, they’re looking at what sort of network you’re bringing with you.”

3. Identify your transferrable skills.

Often the most challenging part of changing careers is explaining how your prior experience translates to an industry you haven’t previously worked in. That’s where transferable skills come in. Transferrable skills, like critical thinking, creativity, communication, resilience and teamwork, are useful to employers across various jobs and industries. Identifying transferrable skills relevant to the field you want to move into will help employers see what you’ll bring to the role.

Nicole says, “I’ve transitioned a few times in my career, starting as a marketing manager and then into consulting (and back again!), with a final transition to academia. I’ve also transitioned industries from telecommunications to online platforms, education, hospitality and insurance.

“What I learnt is that most of the skills and capabilities that are valued by employers across industries aren’t necessarily technical.

“Most of the time, your biggest assets are your personal skills: the ability to contribute to an organisation’s culture, how well you collaborate and work with others, and your ability to communicate clearly and effectively.”

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4. Recognise skills gaps and how to bridge them.

You can fill skills gaps between your current experience and new roles through:

  • Internships
  • Volunteering
  • Joining relevant professional clubs
  • Attending industry conferences
  • Reading blogs by people in your new industry/role
  • Connecting with people in the industry/organisation you want to move into
  • Completing a professional development short course
  • Undertaking university study
  • Mentoring
  • Networking at personal events
  • Tap into university professional development support opportunities

How professional development can set you up for a successful career change.

One of the most effective ways to bridge knowledge and skills gaps in preparation for changing careers is education and a commitment to lifelong learning.

As Nicole says, “If I could give one bit of advice to my younger self, it would have been to continue to engage in active studying and education. We should never stop learning new things or expanding our knowledge. Whether this is through formalised learning programs or not, never stop asking questions and being curious for the answers.”

Suzanne chose to study a Master of Business Administration (MBA) when she felt like she was professionally at a crossroads. “I’d reached a point of minimal returns for effort. I needed some way to jump the ladder and have more influence.”Suzanne

After completing the UQ MBA, Suzanne used her skills and experience in the health industry to begin her consulting career with awith the Royal Flying Doctors. “The UQ MBA gave me a level of comfort I didn’t have previously, as I moved into this new world. Now, I have access to senior executives and C-suite, which I wouldn’t have otherwise.”

“It’s overwhelming how much your horizons expand so quickly. The MBA gave me the skills to design and craft the rest of my life, which is amazing.”

According to Remi, 70 per cent of the students enrolled in the UQ MBA program change careers during their studies or shortly after graduation. In addition to learning in-demand business skills that translate across industries from experts, students can access a range of personalised employability programs.

If you’re considering a career change but aren’t ready to commit to an MBA program, there are also many short professional development courses that can help you fill knowledge gaps quickly, both online and face-to-face. 

Whenever you’re ready to make the change, following the four expert-tips tips discussed in this article will help you put your best foot forward.

You might also like to check out these things to avoid when changing careers.

Prepare to change careers with a short course or MBA program at UQ.