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Deciding to change career could be the best move you ever made, but it is a big step. And as with all big steps, it pays to make sure you've thought of everything so you've got a good idea what to expect. When you change career, as well as thinking about things like location, salary and the job market, you may need to look into updating your skills and qualifications.

After you've drawn up a shortlist of potential careers, there are a number of things you'll want to consider before putting your plan into action.


Location

If you're not prepared to move, you’ll need to consider location. While you can probably find work as a travel agent in most large towns, if you're looking to get into TV production there are likely to be more opportunities in London and other major cities.


Salary

You'll have opportunities for promotion in most careers, although this doesn't always mean lots more pay. You may have to choose between doing something you love or going for something less appealing with more pay.


Time commitment

Changing career can eat away at your free time – you might need to work long hours, do voluntary work or study a course. Think about how this will affect others – possibly your partner, your children or anyone else you live with. Make sure you talk it over with your loved ones – if they know about how much time you need, they’ll understand and can support you more. If doing a full-time course isn't possible time-wise, you could consider a part-time or flexible course.


The job market

There's competition in most careers, but some are more competitive than others. Careers that are seen as glamorous can be difficult to get into without plenty of unpaid work experience, enthusiasm and a certain amount of luck. If you're attracted to a career like this, are you prepared to put in the extra effort?


Career progression

What opportunities are there to progress within the careers you're looking at? Once you're in, how would you get to the next stage - either within the same line of work, or in a related field? What training is likely to be on offer?


Working conditions

What will doing the job actually mean day-to-day? If it involves meeting lots of people and that's not your thing, you might want to think again. Would you prefer a job indoors, or wouldn't you mind being outside in the depths of winter?


Your circumstances

Your circumstances needn't limit your career options. There may be extra support available if, for example, you're a lone parent or you have a disability. If you want to learn new skills but have work or caring commitments, a part-time course could be an option for you.


What's important to you in a job?

Once you've considered the factors listed above, making a list may help focus your mind. Try listing those which are essential, and those which are nice to have. An example might look like this:

Essential
  • involves dealing with people
  • close to your current home
  • earning at least £15,000 in your first year
Nice to have
  • in public or not-for-profit sectors
  • opportunities to travel abroad
  • linked to a favourite subject you've studied

Which qualifications do you need?

Looking at the job profiles should give you a good idea of the qualifications you'll need.

Adult learning or higher education can be a great way of opening up new career opportunities. Remember it's never too late to return to learning.


Plan your finances

This is the big one. Switching careers usually involves a drop in salary, as you try to establish yourself in a new field. Can you lower your outgoings, do without holidays, share a car, use some savings for a few years? Would you be comfortable doing without those holidays, meals out and regular new clothes?

If you want to do a course, have you investigated all the funding options? It can ease the financial cost if you spread out your learning - by doing a part-time or flexible course, for example.

Make sure you talk to your loved ones, as this financial sacrifice will affect them too.


Investigate different routes to the same goal

If you’ve identified the career you want to move into, are there different ways to get there? For some jobs you’ll need a specific qualification. For others, experience can carry greater weight. Sometimes there are different courses to get you into the same job – one classroom-based and one work-based. You might prefer to commit to a full-time course, or prefer to study part-time so you can continue working, for example. Pick the route that suits you best.


Have a back-up plan

If you’re trying to get into a competitive job area it can pay to have a back-up plan. Your plan could consist of some ideas of different jobs in the same sector or maybe jobs in different sectors that uses the same skills. If you're dead set on a particular career but you hit a stumbling block, you could also consider taking a different training route or going in at a lower level and working your way up. Having a back-up plan means you’ll have some ideas for what to do if your first job choice doesn’t come off.