How long will my career change take?
Yep! The million-dollar question.
Before providing an answer, let me ask one in return: How long did it take you last time you moved house?
They’re not dissimilar.
When you buy a house, you first work out what you’re looking for and what you can afford.
Next, you do your research to discover what’s out there and your favourite locations.
When you have all those variables sorted, perhaps you decide on a strategy – sell your existing house first or try to buy and sell at the same time? Or do you need to take a step back and think more deeply about finance?
Let’s say you know what you’re looking for and where. Perhaps you’re ready to view some promising properties.
But actually they’re not quite what you’re looking for – you’d forgotten about the garden, and thinking about it, a large and modern kitchen-diner is much more important than the number of bedrooms.
Back to the search.
You’ve put your house on the market and started a new search – two exciting prospects are in your sights! You have an offer on your house and put in a cheeky offer on the new one, which is just beyond your budget. No luck. You up the limit but it’s too late – someone else offered above the asking price.
And your purchaser has now pulled out.
Is moving house what you really want? Perhaps we could build an extension?
You get the picture!
When you have so many variables – and many of them are outside your immediate control, making a move takes time. In fact it often takes far longer than you’d expected.
In my experience, most career-changers underestimate the time it takes to make the shift. But if they know WHY this career change is so important to them and they’re able to accept it could take months rather than weeks, if they can be prepared to create and adapt strategy to suit the changing landscape – then, they will see it through. They will even learn to love the journey – because it’s taking them closer to fulfillment, meaning and purpose.
So, HOW LONG will it take me to change careers?
Partly it will depend on how clear you are on what you’re looking for.
If that’s clear, do you know why? What are you hoping this change will give you and what will you be giving up?
Then you’ll need to know what you have to offer (strengths, experience, knowledge, qualifications, attributes) and what gaps there might be. How will you fill these?
And why this matters – this one is most often about aligning your highest values to your career and finding the culture that feels right to you. You’ll then be able to go to work as yourself!
Or for you it might be about purpose – doing work that makes a difference or supports a cause you care about.
But let’s also look more broadly – what do you want your life to look like and how will your work fit into this vision? What would your ideal working day include?
You may not have a clue what else you can do or even what you want to do. You might have lost track of what it means to be ‘in flow’ in your work and to go home each night brimming with a sense that you have done something worthwhile.
You have no ideas. You have too many ideas. How can you choose?
Then when you’ve aligned YOU with your VISION of an ideal working life, how can you create a strategy to get you there?
Are you starting to see all the moving parts of this career change? You can read more about a structured career change process here.
Don’t give in!
All of these variables can be weighed up and placed in the right sequence to drive the career change engine. But unless your situation is very unusual and your career shift less a shift than a sideways hop, one thing is likely – it will take time.
Knowing that fact in advance makes it so much easier to look at setbacks in a positive way and means you will carry on.
The next question that arises fairly soon into a career change is: How much of this is actually within my own control?
Who’s in control here?
Well, doing the reflective work about yourself and what you’re seeking certainly is. If you do the work, you get the prize of focus and clarity.
Generating new ideas is also in your remit. Even if you have no clear options, if you follow a tried and tested system, you’ll be overflowing with ideas you’ve never considered before.
Being willing to research your options, go out and talk to people in your target industries is certainly something you can organize.
You can choose to keep going when the swirl of uncertainty kicks in.
You can also ask for professional support.
But some things will be outside your control:
· How quickly your industry insiders get back to you
· How soon they have time to see you
· Economic trends – recessions, crashes, Brexit – these things can thwart you
· Life events – ill health, family demands, extra work – all these are sometimes unpredictable and beyond your close control
· When precisely THE opportunity arises! You can do a lot to prepare yourself but you can’t make an ideal job come vacant when you want it to
So HOW LONG will my career change take?
When I changed from full-time employment to setting up my own business and then relying on it for my income, the whole enterprise took about 2 years.
There were clear steps along the way:
· Recognizing I was unhappy and unfulfilled and deciding to do something about it
· Exploring my new options
· Making a decision – which one is a perfect fit for me?
· Creating a strategy
· Putting that into action
· Moving from full to part-time, then leaping into my own business
Not everyone would have each of these career change steps, but most would have the majority of them.
It’s a long-term project. Knowing that as you go into it I hope will help rather than dissuade you from trying.
Knowing WHY is essential for making a successful career change. It helps you create the vision, which can then be so magnetic it fuels the whole journey.
I have no regrets about making this career change.
When you’re 93, will you?