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How Long Does It Take to Transition to a New Career?

Business woman working from home

Whether they're seeking higher pay, a better work-life balance or simply a more rewarding role, the number of professionals looking to transition into a new career has skyrocketed in recent years - and shows no signs of slowing down.

Popular wisdom suggests that changing careers is difficult and dangerous. According to one study, 69% of workers who would like to make a career transition believe they don’t have the necessary skills. Other concerns - such as a fear of a reduction in pay and a perceived lack of opportunities - keep many from taking the leap.

In this article, we explore the process of changing careers, looking at the key factors which will determine the viability of a career transition and how long it is likely to take. But first, it’s important to emphasise a simple point:

A successful career transition is possible.

This is especially true today, as the digital age has opened up an extraordinary range of opportunities for professionals to develop new skills, make new connections and find roles that are right for them. So making a successful career transition is possible. But what does it actually involve?

The process of changing careers

We can split career transition into three distinct phases:

  1. Determining what you want to do

  2. Laying the groundwork for your new role

  3. Making the transition

The first step may be the easiest or hardest, depending on the individual. Committing to the pursuit of an entirely new career can be daunting, and many will toy with a potential new path for months or even years.

Once you are settled on a new career, you will need to make yourself as appealing as possible to prospective employers. That might involve retraining, attaining professional qualifications, developing a relevant portfolio or simply building a new CV that will convince an employer to take a chance on you.

Finally, the transition itself will take some time. You may have to serve notice at your current employer; you may be expected to undertake further training as part of your onboarding; and in more extreme cases, you may have to relocate for your new position.

The truth is, career transitions can happen relatively quickly or take multiple years. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution, and every experience is unique. There are, however, a number of factors we can look at which will dramatically influence how quickly you can make a successful transition.

Seven factors that determine how long a career transition will take

Autonomy and freedom

How much time and energy do you have to pursue your new career? Do you have responsibilities that may get in the way of reskilling? Do you have the financial resources to invest in reskilling or even personal mentorship? These are vital factors that create a huge advantage. Many career transitions have to fit around personal and professional responsibilities which means being unable to fully embrace retraining, networking, or applying for roles. If you can put in the extra time, it will hugely accelerate your transition, as well as signalling dedication to prospective employers.

Transferable skills

How many of the skills used in your current job can be leveraged in your new career? Perhaps more importantly, how easily can you bridge the gap between what you do now and what you want to do in the future? This will determine how much reskilling you will require and how easily you will be able to land a role in your desired industry.

Network and connections

How many people do you know in the industry you hope to enter? How good are you at networking? How many networking events in your new industry can you go to? This will determine how easy it is to get your foot in the door, how much advice and guidance is available to you, and how many opportunities you will be presented within your new industry.

Nature of the industry

What kind of industry are you looking to enter? How open are companies in the industry

to taking chances on new employees? Are there any expectations around experience, age or background which may make entering your new industry more challenging? This will determine how long the hiring process takes, as well as how much extra effort you will have to make to be taken seriously by employers. Some industries are more open to outsiders than others, and some pride themselves on forcing newcomers to jump through hoops.

Professional reputation

How much status can you carry over from your current role? How many of your current or previous employers and colleagues will vouch for you? How well-documented are your successes? This will determine how you appear to prospective new employers and how confident they are about taking a gamble on you. If you can show an employer that you are a fast learner and a hard worker, with demonstrable success in other roles, they will be far more likely to believe you have what it takes.

Access to resources

Do you have access to reskilling programmes and professional guidance? Are there people in your network who will be willing to offer you advice? Is there content online about how to break into your chosen industry? Professional development platforms, reskilling programmes and direct guidance from others in your chosen industry can be invaluable in speeding up a career transition. Not only can they help you build vital skills and increase your confidence, they will help you understand what your new career will actually be like.

Personal dedication

How much do you want to change careers? Is the decision driven by a personal passion or simply a desire for change? Are you willing to dedicate a great deal of time outside your current job to laying the groundwork for a successful transition? This may be the single most important factor in determining the speed of your transition. Almost nobody has a fantastic new opportunity in their dream role handed to them. You have to make your own luck, and that generally involves a great deal of work and giving up your downtime in pursuit of your new career.

If you require any support or general guidance in your career transition, you can book a complimentary development call to discuss your goals here.


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