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How to manage a New Year’s career change

Swapping careers is never going to feel like an easy call. But that doesn't mean it's not a good idea.

How to manage a New Year’s career change

When you sit down and really think about it, January is an arbitrary month to change careers. There’s nothing particularly magical about New Year’s Eve. The fact that the Earth has completed one more celestial rotation should not, really, dictate your long-term career strategy.

It might not be logical, but there’s a definite mental rip tide around the holidays, pulling people towards new horizons. Data tends to back this up: according to surveys, nearly 60 per cent of US employees want to make some sort of professional change in January, while Glassdoor reports that one in five people consider January the best month to switch careers. There’s just something about New Year’s…it feels like a fresh start.

So how do you manage the New Year career change? Especially if you’re pivoting into a different field or role? We’ve got a few tips to help ease the transition.


Pause and take stock

If you’re considering a New Year career change, it’s useful to take a step back and frankly assess your motivations. Why are you really restless? One bad manager, or shadowy office rumours about company layoffs, probably aren’t good reasons to pack up and change careers. On the other hand, if you’re feeling unchallenged and unsatisfied, if you’ve learned everything you can in the current role, perhaps it’s time for something new. The key is to move towards something you love, not just away from something you hate.


Do your research

Changing careers isn’t usually a spur of the moment decision. Research suggests that the average time between deciding to change careers, and actually following through, is between one and two years. And that’s okay. Switching roles or industries is a big decision. It often requires a significant investment of time and money, not to mention the psychological burden of starting your professional life from scratch.

Research is always a good idea. Look up company reviews on sites like Glassdoor, attend local networking events, reach out to professionals on LinkedIn (getting a mentor is a proven leg-up when breaking into a new industry), and research tech developments and working conditions within your new field.


Start small

The greatest virtue of the modern workforce is flexibility. This applies to upskilling and online study – learning the tools you’ll need to transition into a new career – but also to work more generally. If you’re looking to change jobs, start with an online short course: they’re short, comparatively cheap, and you can fit them in around your existing full-time role. A good career plan is all about setting realistic short term goals.

When you feel confident with your new skillset, start looking into freelance opportunities. According to recent studies, the number of people freelancing jumped to 28 per cent in 2019. Freelance income now contributes around $1 trillion to the US economy (that’s more than industries like construction and transportation). Freelance is a great way to dip your toe into a new career, build your resume and portfolio, and get some practical experience. It’s low risk, but high reward.


Set job alerts

January might be an arbitrary month to change careers – numerically speaking – but there are other reasons people tend to start fresh in the New Year. For one thing, job openings tend to skyrocket in January – US company ZipRecruiter has put the jump at 15 per cent. Even if you’re not ready to transition just yet, it’s worth setting some job alerts on sites like LinkedIn, Seek and Indeed to get a feel for what’s out there. You should be reading job descriptions and key selection criteria, noting things like average salary and relevant experience, and keeping tabs on the major employers. Google Alerts can also be used to keep track of upcoming positions.  


Work on your personal brand

According to a recent survey, about 70 per cent of employers screen potential candidates on social media during the hiring process. If you’re thinking about a career change in the New Year, you have to assume that your personal brand will be rigorously scrutinised – by potential employers, recruiters, and even future colleagues. Depending on your new industry, getting a website or online portfolio might be useful, but at the very least you should dedicate a few weeks to working on your resume, polishing your LinkedIn profile, and combing your social media profiles for anything that might compromise your chances.



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This article was originally published on 18 December 2019