Time to move on?  If you are thinking of changing careers – just how do you do it?


With the significant decline in local government jobs –a  25% or even £30% reduction from 2010 levels predicted, story the slimming of management structures, information pills the reduction in Chief Executive roles through abolition or joint appointments,  the future of your local government career might look like it is going nowhere fast. Lack of exciting prospects can lead people to wonder if there is greener grass elsewhere. And the same thought might occur to those who fall prey to the axe of redundancy before they had planned to retire, and don’t want or can’t afford to hang up their  briefcase and blackberry. So if you are feeling stuck in a career, facing  redundancy or just feeling out of love with local authorities what are your options and how do you go about realising your new career?

Classic career change strategies (suggested by Bolles, john Crystal, Lees, Holland etc) are lots of self analysis and lots of research in the market place. Understanding your skills, your knowledge, your attributes and your motivations are critical steps towards deciding what it is you want to do. Reconnecting with early dreams and ambitions, looking at the wealth creating possibilities of a hobby or interest are ways of generating more ideas.  Recognising what your values are and what role you want work to play in your life will enable you to set some parameters around your choices. Thinking about what sort of organisation or culture you will thrive in will give you a steer towards or away from certain careers.  This is serious work and analysing your truly transferrable skills and being realistic about them is a great start.

If you are clear about what you think you would like to do, then the research into that option kicks in. Learn everything you can about it, talk to everyone that you know that does that job, everyone that you know that comes into contact with that occupation. Really get to understand what you would be doing on a day by day basis, on an hour by hour basis. Learn what is challenging about it, what is boring about it, learn what new skills you will need and how your performance will be judged.

Once you have decided a direction: experiment. Successful career changers get a taste of what they want to move to through secondments, temping, work experience, or volunteering. If you need to retrain and have the luxury, do it part time whilst staying in your current role.

Less than 5% of people who consider changing careers actually do it. Because it is hard! It is hard to understand yourself, to understand what the new role might be like and then making the jump  takes great courage and great resources.  You will probably need a financial cushion whilst you change careers: you may need money to buy a business or get one up and running. You may need money to fund re-training or to give you an income whilst you are job searching.

Given that most career changers have to go back to lower point in the hierarchy, you will need to consider loss of status, authority or support. You may, without a secretary, have to embrace admin tasks you have not done for years. The loss of status will also impact on those around you, your partner or children may have a view about a family member embracing a very different lifestyle. It will take enthusiasm, courage and persuasion to overcome opposition.  Changing our own self image  is one of the biggest barriers to be overcome.  The career changer has to develop a different identity if they are to be successful in changing careers.

But the biggest reason that people don’t actually change careers is self doubt. Lack of confidence can create chronic indecision and paralysis. And after all we don’t know if we can be as successful or more successful in a different career until we have tried it. That’s why experimentation is  so crucial, it gives you a chance to ‘try before you buy’.  Our own self doubts and hesitations create barriers and stop us from moving forward. So career changing takes courage, real courage. And if you are not successful immediately it will take determination and perseverance.

So if you are forced or determined to change careers where could you move to? The ten most common second careers are: plumber, florist, chef, teacher, nurse, web designer, PR officer, interior designer, garden designer, chef and complementary medicine practioner. They may not be the highest paid jobs in the world but these are not the only options they are only the most popular.  (and there are lots of people trying to exit those professions as well!) And age discrimination legislation means that it is easier to start that second career later in life than it used to be.  Self employment is an attractive route for many career changers and there are all sorts of opportunities.

Once you’ve decided, once you’ve acquired the training where should you go for the opportunities?  Career  are predicting expansion in: infrastructure projects, retail, pharmaceuticals, technology (start ups, cloud computing, computer security) aerospace, tourism, travel insurance and care homes.  Some of those opportunities will require experience or are in specific locations but it is food for thought.

Key advice for any career changer is that they need to leverage off their networks to find opportunities and they may well find those opportunities in small firms rather than big organisations. Large firms have formalised recruitment processes and lots of gatekeepers, small organisations may well be prepared to take a chance on someone because they see the potential and the owner makes the decision.

So if you do want to bale out of local government can you do it? Yes  you can. You may fall on your feet easily and find a new life but for others it is a longer process and a real challenge.  The grass may or may not be greener – but it will be different!  If you feel you are ready to swop one career for another, gird your loins, garner your courage, your perseverance and your confidence and start working out what you’ve got to offer, what you are really interested in, what you want to put in and get out of work  and get  planning  your exit strategy.


Mary Hope is  a career coach and counsellor who has personally  changed career several times! More information can be found at