Feeling stuck in your career? Don’t have the confidence to start again? Scared of making the wrong choice? Overwhelmed with the number of possibilities to explore? Don’t know where to start your search? 

Thinking about changing careers can be a mind-boggling experience, but don't worry, you've come to the right place and we are going to hold your had every step of the way. 

Before you dive into the deep end, you'll first want to think about what careers will suit you. We'll do this through a number of ways. Firstly, thinking about what you like about your current career, secondly, through understanding your core values, thirdly by thinking about what you enjoy outside work and lastly by considering what's known as your 'vocational personality'. 

So make yourself comfortable, preferably in a quiet space where you can be with your own thoughts, grab a pen and paper, and a cup of tea to keep you going and let's begin. 

What do I like about my career?

One way of thinking about a future career is to recognise the main reasons why you like your current job. Most attributes that people find important fall under seven categories, and what’s most important to you will depend on your circumstances and personality:

  • the enjoyment of day-to-day work
  • the impact on others and society
  • life outside work, for example being able to live in the place you choose
  • having a short commute and family life
  • gaining security and earning money
  • using your current skills, abilities and talents
  • developing your skills, abilities and talents

You can also be more specific in thinking about what you like about your job. For example, you might enjoy:

  • The ability to leave work at the end of the day without it bleeding into home life so you can spend quality time with your family.
  • The way you are pushed out of your comfort zone to learn new things.
  • Having you think on your feet when things go wrong.
  • Being part of a company that values your need to progress and develop new skills formally.
  • Being able to put your talents to good use and being seen by others as having a unique expertise.
  • Seeing new talent that you are mentoring grow into something you never expected.
  • Seeing a project through from beginning to end, and the satisfaction it gives you on completion.
  • Being able to bring people’s ideas into something tangible.
  • Seeing people getting better and recovering.
  • Encountering people from all walks of life.
  • Working for a company with an ultimate goal which underlies any work they do.The ability to work on your own, organising your own time, with trust from your line manager.
  • Working in a team with lots of different skillsets, where there’s value in what everyone has to offer. 
  • A flexible working day.
  • The ability to travel and see the world.
  • A varied, fast-paced environment.
  • The challenge of encountering problems and working to solve these.

Thinking through what you like about your current career and job gives you the ability to assess new opportunities later. For example, if you are thinking about a complete career 180 and you currently work in publishing, your favourite aspect might be nurturing the relationships you have with authors and developing new relationships. Equally, you might not enjoy sitting at a desk in an office and working your way through your never-ending admin pile. These insights might lead you to consider a career in counselling, with seeing clients improve their mental health and nurturing relationships with them being your main focus.

It can also help you answer the questions you’ll ask yourself when thinking about whether a new position is right for you. For example, does your new position give you the ability to manage your time and workload flexibly around the needs of your family?

In this way, you should also think about why you don’t enjoy in your current career and job. This can also help you filter jobs and careers that may be unsuitable for you.

What are my Core Values?

Your core values are the beliefs that are most essential to how you view the world. Articulating your core values is a great way to help you understand yourself better, lead you to make better decisions, and give your work and home life direction. Specifically in the workplace, they can help you answer difficult questions such as:

  • What job should I pursue?
  • Should I accept this promotion?
  • Should I start my own business?
  • Should I compromise, or be firm with my position?
  • Should I follow tradition, or travel down a new path?

But how do you discover what core values you should live by? Here’s our three-step plan to help you find yours:

1. Self-Reflect

Think about what has made you especially happy in your life. What experiences have you found meaningful? What was going on? Who were you with? What were you doing?

What makes you happy on a day-to-day basis? Is it spending time with friends and family? Completing a difficult task in the office? Helping others less fortunate than yourself? Or learning new things?

Alternatively you can think about the times when you’ve been angry or frustrated. What was causing the frustration? Was a value being suppressed? For example, have you been miserable in a job where you were micromanaged and monitored constantly? This may help you realise that you value autonomy and a sense of freedom.

2. Consolidate your Themes

Write down your findings from your self-reflection and come up with some themes you think are appropriate. You can certainly have more than one - it’s likely that you’ll end up with about five - enough to define your individuality and help you focus when working towards goals and personal development. For example, you may value having autonomy and freedom in the workplace so that you can support your children and their wellbeing. 

3. Identify your Core Values

Once you have your themes in place, you can use them to identify your core values. Here’s our nifty guide of over 200 core values to help you narrow these down. Which values that you’ve listed are a fundamental part of your life? Which ones define your everyday actions and long term goals? Do the values you’ve chosen make you feel good about yourself? Do these values represent things you would support, even if your choice isn't popular?

Remember that your choices have to be right for you, as you know yourself best, and ensuring that you choose your personal core values can help you make decisions which will impact your future happiness and satisfaction. Once again knowing your core values can help you assess whether a career is right for you. 

What Other Things do I Enjoy?

Life goes beyond your nine to five, and it’s also good to consider what you enjoy from outside your working life. Whether you are entrenched in a hobby, or also look after your children when they come home from school, you may find tips and inspiration from everything else going on in your life.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What do I like doing outside my nine to five day job?
  • What is it specifically about my hobbies or responsibilities that I enjoy?
  • What do I like learning?
  • What activity do I get so absorbed in that I forget to eat and sleep?

What is my Vocational Personality?

Another aspect to help you identifying alternative careers is your ‘vocational personality’. In the 1950s, an American psychologist called Dr Holland, came up with a way of describing what people’s work preferences are. 

These preferences are organised into six categories, and it’s likely that you are dominant in either two or three. Here’s our version of the quiz to help you identify yours. 

Realistic people enjoy activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of these occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others. 

Investigative people enjoy involve working with ideas, and jobs that require an extensive amount of thinking. Investigative occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.  

Artistic people enjoy working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules. 

Social people enjoy working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others. 

Enterprising people enjoy starting up and carrying out projects. Enterprising occupations can involve leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk taking and often deal with business. 

Conventional people enjoy following set procedures and routines. Conventional occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow. 

Now that you know what your vocational personality is, you can then think about what work you’d enjoy. In the same way that your personality is a combination of two or more types, careers are also combined. For example a physiotherapist will be made up of Social, Investigative and Realistic, as they have to communicate with a patient to find out what’s wrong, employ common and tested methods to improve the patient’s physical health, and do this partly through trial and error.

Using our career guides, you can find out the combination of vocational personlities for a whole range of careers. 

Putting it All Together

You should now have a better understanding of what you are looking for in your career, whether that's via your core values, your vocational personality or what you are trying to achieve from your new position. With that in mind, the next thing is to narrow down you career choices and consider whether it really is the right move for you.