Want to change careers? 9 tips on taking the plunge

Cpl Recruitment's Peter Cosgrove shares advice on successfully heading in a new direction...

The dark days of having to cling to any old job for dear life are, for many, finally coming to an end.

With unemployment at its lowest level since 2008 (falling to 6.4% last month) and Ibec predicting an "exceptional jobs surge" with 50,000 new positions created this year, there is security in offices across the country and fresh opportunities starting to appear more and more frequently.

A good time, then, to change career if you feel stuck in a rut. 

"There's a lot of employment," says Cpl Recruitment director Peter Cosgrove, "and a lot of people now looking to see what might be out there, where they were a bit concerned before looking around.

"You'll always find after a prolonged recession that people are wary to move... because they don't want to move to a new job and be last in, first out.

"People are now seeing that the recovery is here and, while it may not be felt everywhere, at least the reality is that people are most likely not going to [arrive] into a company and get bad news in three to six months."

There's evidence out there that, if it did arrive, such news might even come as a blessed relief for people frustrated with their current occupation.

A recent survey from Cpl showed that over half of Irish people are not happy with their current jobs, concluding:

"Many people have fallen into jobs either by necessity or due to the fact that they did not know what they wanted to do or perhaps never took the time to work out what their ideal job was.

"It is also hard for people once they have reached a certain level in their role to make a career change as they risk a drop in salary to start afresh which many aren’t prepared to take."

There's no doubt that doing a career 180 can seem like a daunting leap into the unknown, and that many people end up sticking with the devil they know instead.

Cosgrove believes that whether or not you're ready for a move comes down to "people's level of risk".

"I've seen people – and I wouldn't advise it – who just leave their job and get another job, and they're quite comfortable about that."

As for the rest of us, how can we properly brace ourselves ahead of taking the plunge? Here's Cosgrove's own words of wisdom...

1. Stand back and get objective

You need to be very objective about what your current workplace is like.

Most people can only see the negatives when they're in a bad frame of mind. They don't actually see the positives – that could be where they work, their boss, all the benefits.

When people leave a company they can only think of what was bad, but a year later they often have a very different view of their organisation.

So maybe if you're thinking of leaving an organisation, talk to someone who left a year ago. They might just go 'you know what, I thought what you thought but now being somewhere else, I couldn't believe all the things I did get at this company that I wasn't aware of'.

Talking to someone who's left and is past that period where they're maybe a little upset about it is a really good idea.

2. Outline exactly what you're looking for

Be very clear what you're looking for in the new job. I always say to people to write down what you've got in your current job and what you want in your next job. And when you actually put it down on paper, it can be a really good exercise.

If you're not learning at the moment, that's probably the biggest challenge. Because the way the workplace is going, in 20 years' time, there mightn't be a need [for example] for drivers with driverless cars.

The main thing is to make sure you're reskilling the whole time, to make sure you're constantly learning.

Most people realise after a couple of years in a job, if they're not pushing themselves, they could end up just doing the same thing every day. And then people are catching up with you in your own workplace.

3. Try to future-proof yourself

The first thing to do is just dip your toe in [if you feel your tech skills are severely limited].

It would take you probably about five minutes to work out how Twitter works but people have this huge idea that it would be really difficult and complicated.

If you get something that you can figure out in five minutes, that will give you a little fillip of 'oh gosh, this isn't as difficult as I thought'. People always start to think things are much more challenging.

Within your own organisation, you can learn a lot from the comfort of where you [currently] work.

If you work in a marketing job but you want to get into technology, it's a lot easier to say to the tech people in your own company: 'can I sit down with you and understand how this works and how that works?'

4. Make sure you're on LinkedIn

It is important. It's essentially Facebook for business...

Companies use it as a huge resource to find people. If you can't find yourself on there, chances are an employer can't find you.

So if you're looking for a job as a financial controller in Dublin with technology skills and you type in those words and you're not even on the fifth page, you need to update your LinkedIn profile to get on that first or second page. And there's lots of tutorials and ways to do that.

Type in exactly the words you think an employer would search looking for you and find out who comes up first, second, third, fourth and fifth. Then just look at their profiles. That's the simplest way to do it.

5. Escaping a job you've only recently started?

People are less concerned than they used to be about not being in a place a long time. It still is a concern to some employers. But if you're there eight months, chances are it'll be 10-11 months before you get a job, so that's the guts of a year.

You just have to be positive about it and say 'what I was expecting coming in here maybe hasn't come to fruition; I was looking for more learning opportunities'.

You can flip the positive: I want more learning, I'm ambitious, I want to grow, I want to thrive and I don't see this here.

What you don't do is focus on the negativity of the atmosphere, because they may know people in that organisation: 'If you're talking negatively about your current employer, what are you going to say when you're in with us?'

6. Returning to education can be worth short-term hardship

If you go into an area that you really want to go into, you will thrive. So there's lots of night courses to do it, but it's going to take you a bit of time.

A lot of people will potentially help you but you're probably going to be on a lower salary.

For the next two or three years, you're going to have to suck it up. To do something that you want to do really well for the rest of your life, you're going to have two to three years where you might have a bit of a dip.

But guess what? Five to 10 years down the line you will be a much happier person, so do it.

7. You're never too old for a change

In your early 50s and thinking you can't make a clean break?

You're going to be working for potentially another 15 or 20 years the way things are going, unless you have a gold plate pension. So I would tell most people to be thinking of 65/70 as a minimum.

Secondly, you probably don't want to give up work. Most people should want to work on a part-time basis even after they retire.

That comes back to how you come across: are you still learning, do you have a huge fear of change?

8. Selling your CV

The reality is, if you're not getting an answer, one of two things is happening: you're applying for the wrong jobs or your CV's just not good enough.

The five to six line email you send with your CV is absolutely critical. It's not about what you want, it's why you're good for the job you're doing.

The more you understand that job and the key targets around that job, the more chance you have of them getting in front of them.

9. Nailing the interview

You can't get a job in the first 20 seconds, but you can lose it. Firm handshake, eye contact, appropriate dress is really important but so many people can even get that wrong.

I would tell everybody to wear a suit regardless. Unless they literally tell you 'do not wear a suit to the interview', wear one. There's nothing worse than the person on the other side of the table having a suit, and you're in casual clothes.

All I would say of an interview is practice, practice, practice. The first question's always the same: tell me about yourself or talk me through your CV. No one's even prepared it! So just prepare all potential answers. It's boring but it's useful if you've done it.