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How to change career

Looking for a new job? We’ll break down steps you can take to build the skills and experience you need for a career change.

Ready for a new challenge? You're not alone. According to the Learning and Work Institute (L&W), one in three adults say they want to change career. There are lots of reasons why you might feel this way.

You may want:

  • to do something you're passionate about
  • to do more fulfilling work
  • to make more money
  • a better work-life balance
  • a career with more progression opportunities
  • something less physically or emotionally demanding

Whatever your reason, we're here to support you. There are opportunities out there waiting for you, let's look at how you can grab them!

Weigh up the pros and cons

Changing career is a big decision. It's important to think about the benefits it could bring but also some of the obstacles you might face. Don’t rush into anything just because you want to get away from what you're doing now. Moving to a new career, one that you can thrive in, isn't always an easy transition. It can take years.

Make a list of pros and cons based on your situation. This is information that can help guide your decisions, but don't let it be a barrier to doing what's right for you. Besides, something you think is a negative could work to your advantage.

Take time to figure out what you want to do and what it'll take to achieve that. Your next job doesn't have to be your chosen career change, it can be one that'll do until you get where you want.

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A common fear is that you've 'left it too late'. Whether you're changing career at 30, 40 or 50 – you haven't! Being more experienced means you've had longer to develop skills and insights that you could bring to a new role.

Discover your transferable skills

These are skills you have that you'd be able to use in a variety of careers. We can help you work out what you have to offer, even if you're coming back to the workplace after a career break.

Use Skills Discovery to identify skills you've used in previous roles.

You can also look at our job profile for the role you're currently doing. It'll show you some of the common skills for that career, ones you'll use every day. You might realise you've got skills you didn't know you had. 

Knowledge is power when it comes to changing career. Once you know what you're good at, you can look for roles that suit your skill set. Job adverts can also help you figure out where there are gaps in your skills or experience that you can work on.

Using transferable skills: Kirstie's story 

Hear how Kirstie went from the big screen to computer screens!

After studying musical theatre in London, Kirstie moved into a career in acting. But later found something that was more her scene. She found a passion for teaching others digital skills.

Using her transferable skills, she pursued a new career and has found the role she was born to play.

Explore upskilling and reskilling options

There are lots of ways to gain new skills and experience. Here are a few options to consider: 

  1. College. Explore college courses where you can build skills and get qualifications. Courses with pathways to university study are a great way to work towards a degree.
  2. University. Browse degree courses and their entry requirements using our course search. If you already have a degree, postgraduate conversion courses are a great way to change career direction.
  3. Volunteering. There are voluntary roles at all levels, from shop assistant to board member. All develop transferable skills and experiences useful in a wide range of sectors. Search for volunteering opportunities on Volunteer.Scot.
  4. Online learning. Upskill or reskill on a schedule that works for you with free online learning. Use our course search to see what’s available.
  5. Modern Apprenticeships. You'll gain a qualification, get work experience and earn while you learn. Check out apprenticeships.scot for more about MAs and to see what's available.
  6. Graduate Apprenticeships. Work for a company and get paid while you study towards a degree. Discover more about GAs on apprenticeships.scot and explore your options.

At 37, Gavin went from working nightshifts in a supermarket to becoming a surveyor thanks to a Graduate Apprenticeship.

It was a great relief to find this option where I could get fully qualified and gain hands-on experience, without having to do the night shifts and weekends anymore. Work life and studying can be a balancing act at times, however I'm now following my own career path doing exactly what I want to do. To anyone who’s having doubts, I’d say you’re never too old to retrain and switch careers.Gavin BurgessTrainee Building Surveyor, Thomas & Adamson

Freshen up your CV

Is your CV a bit dusty, or even non-existent, because you've not needed it in so long? We can help you create an up-to-date one that'll appeal to employers in other industries. You might want to highlight your transferable skills or speak about the areas that interest you as a career.

We've created an example of CV for someone looking to change career. It might give you some ideas and inspiration, you can even use our CV Builder to create your own!

Build experience and contacts

Getting some experience in an area you’re interested in will:

  • show employers you’re interested
  • grow your network and develop professional relationships
  • give you a better idea of whether you’d enjoy a career

You could ask for an informational interview with an employer. This is a chance to sit down with someone who works or has worked in a role and chat to them about it. You'll get a better idea of what a career looks like and can ask about anything you're not sure about. It might seem daunting to ask for someone's time but if you're polite and friendly, you've got nothing to lose.

Follow organisations and people that you want to connect with on LinkedIn. They may have newsletters, events, webinars or blogs that you can engage with. This can be a good way in when approaching them about work experience opportunities or informational interviews.

Some companies also offer virtual work experience. This could be a great option you have limited opportunities near you.

Volunteering is a way to help out in an area you’re passionate about. It comes with the bonus of giving you a chance to develop skills, meet people and gain experience.

Search for volunteering opportunities on Volunteer.Scot.

Get inspired about possible careers

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It’s okay if you know you want a change but haven’t figured out what that looks like yet. We can help you get some inspiration!

A good start might be chatting to people in the company or industry you're in. There might be other departments you could move into or training and development opportunities. Your organisation may offer Modern Apprenticeships that'll allow you to start in a role.

In 2023/24, more than 25,000 people started an MA. More than 10,000 of these were aged 25 or older and many were already employed in the organisation where they began their apprenticeship.

Reach out to your line manager or HR team if you're curious about what's possible.

If you want a career that’s future-proof, we can point you in the right direction. Discover where the opportunities of the future lie and the skills employers are looking for.

We also have more than 600 job profiles to browse. They'll tell you more about what a job is like and the skills and qualifications you'll need to get in. Filter roles based on your interests or use our job categories to explore areas you think you'd like to work.

Events like careers fairs are another way to get a flavour of what’s out there for you. Check out events happening in Scotland on the UK Careers Fair site.

You can also find online and in person job fairs across the UK listed on Eventbrite

Speak to a careers adviser

There's a lot to think about, why not chat it over with one of our careers advisers?

You'll get free, impartial, confidential advice and guidance on:

  • making career choices
  • routes into careers including jobs, apprenticeships, training and learning
  • help with CVs, application forms and interviews
  • insight into local labour markets

You can call on 0800 917 8000 from Monday to Friday, between 9am and 5pm. Or pop in to one of our centres for a chat! Find your nearest one using your postcode.