Deciding to change direction in your twenties can be daunting, but is well worth considering if you’re on a path that’s not for you, as Simon North explains.
Most people don’t have a clear vocation or an inspired career view at the start of their working life. For many of us, our first experience of the world of full-time work is our first job, so it’s unrealistic to expect to get our career calling right first time.
Often it’s relatively straight forward to move into something related or make a sideways move, but sometimes a more radical change is the answer.
It’s absolutely OK to want to do something else. The fact is, it’s quite easy to stumble into a particular direction by chance. Strength in certain subjects at school can easily set you on a certain course, influencing A-level and university choices and subsequent graduate job opportunities. Schools sometimes encourage certain subjects and professions, while parents’ and guardians’ expectations are often informed by their own experiences and knowledge.
All of this can keep us going down a particular route without ever really questioning if it’s the right one. With working lifetimes now lasting around 50 years, changing track in your late twenties means you still have over 80 per cent your working life left, so it’s definitely worth doing if you find yourself on a path that’s really not for you. But how can you bring this change into effect?
1. Don’t jump
Don’t rush to leave what you’re currently doing. You have a job and you’re earning, which provides you with the freedom, independence and resources to explore potential new avenues. The security of a job also helps with your psychological well-being and means you have a solid base on which to plan what next.
2. Assess your assets
Understand the assets that you have – not only your skills and qualities but also those experiences that have affected you positively. Look back to when you were doing extra curricular activities at school. Based on what you enjoyed then, what kind of career choices can you make now?
3. Research and plan
Research the various career ideas you come up with. Use the internet and talk to people in relevant fields who you know or know of to help inform your decision. Spend time making a good plan – what do you need to do to get to where you want to be?
4. Choose confidantes carefully
Consider who to ask for advice and feedback. Sometimes those who are closest to you are not the most helpful when you’re going through a change of direction as they’re being challenged to change their own expectations. Try and find someone or a small number of people who you trust and value, and who can be objective about you and the choices you’re considering.
Deciding to change course at this stage in your working life, after considerable investment in school and university, can be hard. Whatever you choose to do, you need to take it seriously and remember you are not throwing the baby out with the bathwater; you are building a professional life, not throwing it down the drain.
Simon North is the Founder of Position Ignition, one of the UK’s leading career consultancy companies which created the Career Ignition Club, a leading-edge online careers support and learning platform. He is author of the eBook Make Your Career Change Happen. Follow him @PosIgnition.