When I reached my mid-50s I decided to make a radical career change. I’d spent 25 years in industry in a series of increasingly senior HR roles with high profile companies and I had no real reason to abandon a career that was developing very well. No real reason, that is, except one, crucial one. I wanted something different.
Much to the surprise of my friends and colleagues, instead of being a senior executive in an international company, I decided to become a teacher. It could, as many of them pointed out, have been a disaster, but it hasn’t. I’m now an affiliate professor at HEC Paris. So should you be following me into the “career unknown” even if you’d started to think that it was too late to make such a move? And, if you do, how can you make sure that it’s a success?
Here are five reasons why you should consider a move:
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Reason 1 – Take control. Making your own decision about changing career is a very different prospect to someone else making it for you. You know better than anyone else what is right for you, what you really want. So it’s critical that no-one else is allowed to make that decision for you. Taking control can also give you the confidence to make a genuinely ambitious, even audacious change. And that confidence is crucial to impressing potential new employers or investors.
Reason 2 – Are you getting the right rewards or just the ones on offer? Many people stay in a career comfort zone simply because it feels comfortable. You know the role, the people, the business. The pay is good, promotion comes along regularly – it’s all so easy. But are the rewards on offer really the ones you want?
Reason 3 – Don’t ignore the signals. Has your career slowed down? Are your appraisals less positive, salary rises less common or less generous? Is your role moving slowly, but surely towards the sidelines? Don’t wait until things get really negative before you act and a move is forced upon you.
Reason 4 – Establish your value in the wider world. If you work in one place for any length of time there is always the risk of becoming “institutionalized,” of coming to believe that you only have real value in your current organization. Stepping outside that company can be frightening at first, but it can also help to boost your self-confidence in the medium and long-term by showing your real, overall worth.
Reason 5 – The surprise of the new. When you take on a new job you start a new life: new problems, new challenges, new people. And while it will almost certainly be stressful initially you’ll find yourself surprised – and delighted – by just how much you can take on and succeed at.
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And here are five tips to ensure that it all works out:
#1 Move at the top of your game. Yes, funny as it sounds, the very best time to move is the hardest time to move. The point where everything is going great, when no-one wants you to leave, you’re at a career pinnacle. But this, of course, is the time when your all-important self-confidence will be at its strongest, you’re upbeat and ready to tackle new challenges.
#2 Act, don’t react. Move to go somewhere you want to be, not to get away from somewhere you don’t.
#3 Always be aware of the outside world. It’s very easy to find your career horizons limited to the four walls of your office. Make sure you always keep tabs on what is going on outside them and what new opportunities await you.
#4 Know when it’s time. So when is it time? When you are 40, 50, 60? All and none of these – it’s the day when you can’t answer the question: what did I learn today?