Career change

Five truths about changing your career

October 7, 2020
4 min read

Photo by NeONBRAND

Everybody on the Wojo team has dramatically changed their career at least once: going tech from non-tech, becoming a people manager after diligently growing her career as an individual contributor, becoming an entrepreneur after climbing a corporate ladder. And this is not to say about changing industries and countries. Here is what we have learned so far (and what science says about it).

It may be your first career change, but not the last one

If you were thinking about transforming your career this year, you are not alone —currently about 9% of people change jobs (ONS, 2019). With more old jobs disappearing and new jobs emerging (check WEF “Future of Jobs”), it is expected that is that between 75 million and 375 million people additionally may need to consider up-skilling or switching careers in the next 5–10 years (McKinsey Global Institute).

The growing number of career changes (driven by personal desires or disappearing jobs) leads to an emerging trend of having 5–7 careers during your lifetime (FT), so if you are considering to change your career — you better watch and learn — as it won’t be the last time you are doing that!

It’s a skill that you can practice on the job

Career adaptability is the capability of an individual to make a series of successful transitions where the labor market, organisation of work and underlying occupational and organisational knowledge bases may all be subject to considerable change.

Career adaptability plays a crucial role in successful labor market transitions of mid-career changers that need to deal with risk and uncertainty in the fast changing world (meta-analysis).

5C of career adaptability are control (increasing influence on career situations), curiosity, commitment, confidence (self-belief) and concern (a positive and optimistic attitude to the future). They all may be learned and practiced on the job (stretch assignments, learning through others, networking, exploration, etc — more on that in our next articles).

Photo by Redd

Positive attitude is key (no, really)

Academic research reveals people take one to two years before making a career change. Based on another research, the average person who switches careers is 39 years old (and not 16–24 as people believe) and it takes around 11 months to get a new role.

With the timelines like this, it’s only logical to feel anxious and lost. However, positive attitude is one of the important predictors of success.

Career adaptability (from above) is directly fuelled by several things:

1. Adaptivity: cognitive ability, big five traits, self-esteem, core self-evaluations, proactive personality, future orientation, hope, and optimism;

2. Adapting responses: planning, exploration, self-efficacy;

3. Adaptation results: self-reported work performance, entrepreneurial outcomes, life satisfaction, and positive and negative affect.

And as we know from The Growth Mindset book (summary), brain plasticity does exist and the characteristics of our abilities are not exactly fixed, yay!

New behaviours create new narrative that creates a new career, in that order

Remember your last small talk at a party: most likely you’ve had a quick exchange related to your profession. We define ourselves by our work: “I am a product manager/consultant/marketer.” It means that by even only thinking about a potential change, we create a possibility for us to lose a sense of identity we have invested a lot of years in.

However, we are not able to understand in advance what the new working identity will be, so the only way to move forward is to act our way into a new way of thinking and being (more on that in our next articles).

“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” — Steve Jobs

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