Have you fallen out of love with your job? Maybe you’ve taken a career break and feel it’s time to reassess your priorities and values. Or perhaps you’ve just decided that the path you started down when you left school or university no longer inspires you. You may even have a great business idea you want to pursue.

Despite fond memories of your college days, giving up the day job and going back to study full time might not be an option. You probably have a mortgage or rent to pay and maybe a family to support. So how can you follow a new career path without burdening yourself with debt?

Here are five ideas you can use to seize new opportunities or just make a fresh start.

1. Take small steps, but start now 

Leaving one job just to fall into another trap is the last thing you need. Building a rewarding career takes self-knowledge and a clear strategy. If you’ve just got a vague feeling your job’s making you unhappy but aren’t sure what comes next, my advice is to start small.

Work out what career would be a good match for your skills, ambitions and personal values. Here’s how:

  • Research a career you find interesting.
  • Look up companies in that field and follow them on social media. When you find a blog about your area of interest, follow links to other posts, podcasts or webinars.
  • Check out career and business meet-up groups in your area to find learning opportunities and like-minded people.
  • If there’s a part-time class you’ve always wanted to take, now is a good time to go for it.
  • If you don’t have time for evening or weekend college classes, try a MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses). They offer loads of flexibility and can be a great introduction to a new topic. 
  • Share your work and expertise online and at networking events.
  • Start a blog or communicate your ideas on Medium or LinkedIn. At the very least it will help clarify your thoughts. You never know, you might just connect with the ideal person to help you with your next steps.

Over time, your reading, researching and networking will turn you into a subject matter expert. You’ll also get lots of ideas to create content and build your professional portfolio. This will definitely help your CV stand out.

2. Don’t overlook your existing contacts

If you’re looking for a career change, at the very least you should let everyone in your current network know. Although, you might want to skip your current employer at this stage.

A polite, private message to a former colleague on LinkedIn may well lead to invaluable nuggets of advice.

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Someone you know will probably know someone working in the sector you’re interested in. Most people are happy to help. My advice is to prepare two or three focussed questions to ask them. That way, you’ll get what you need and they won’t feel you’ve wasted their time with a vague, rambling conversation.

Not everyone takes naturally to networking. But, if you want to change your career, you’re going to have to be your own brand ambassador and cheerleader. The more passionate you are about what you’re doing, the easier you’ll find it to promote to your friends, family and network.

3. Start a side hustle

You (and your bank account) may not be ready to ditch the 9-5. But, you can start following your dreams while continuing to pay the bills. It probably won’t happen overnight but a side project that makes the most of your skills and talents can be life changing.

4. Try before you buy

Ideally when going for a career change, you’d get some experience of the new career path or business before taking the plunge. There’s lots of evidence that suggests this leads to better choices. But, typically, we apply for jobs or set up businesses without the benefit of experiencing them firsthand – a recipe for misery not to mention loss of lifesavings.

When you’re ready to go beyond the research stage, try shadowing an expert in your chosen field. This is the ideal way to get a genuine flavour of what you’ll be up against. If you don’t have a friend or contact to help you out with this, ViewVo does the legwork for you. Whether you dream of becoming a journalist, opening a coffee shop or forging a career in fashion, they can put you in touch with an expert who is willing to mentor you.

5. Finally: Give your CV a makeover.

If you’re looking for a completely new role in a new sector your old CV isn’t going to work. You’ll need to carefully craft the copy to highlight your transferable skills. Then tailor your achievements to meet the needs of each company you apply to.

In many fields, such as marketing, project management and IT, your experience can work across most sectors. But you will still need to illustrate exactly what benefits you’re going to bring to your new employer.

You’ll certainly have to make some sacrifices in terms of time to develop a career or business you love. But you don’t always have to head back to campus full time. Do your research, be resourceful and patient – you’ll get there. 

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