Career change – charity sector, teacher or journalist?

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 - candidate, career change, career coaching, career transition, Employment, Job Application, professionalism

Career Change

I am often asked to write a CV/resume, or see one in recruitment, where the applicant is looking to make a career change. With the credit crunch induced recession now coming into full swing, the most substantial career changes seem to be from business type people towards three areas: charities; teaching; journalism.

The three sectors prompt different requirements of the candidates, and the purpose of this blog entry is to note those differences and suggest ways to plan your career change.

The basics – think about the employer:
Any career change needs to be viewed from the prospective employers view point, not from those of your personal ambitions or future vision – those do count, but not primarily yet. This means that instant career change because of reasons of redundancy is probably best avoided, or if attempted at least accepted that the period to employment will be long and one of early set-back. The reason for this is found in what the employers main two questions will be:

  1. How committed to this change are you? Have you been doing some background work; getting involved with the area to make sure your enjoy it; advancing that interest through study or taking a position of influence, etc?
  2. How quickly will you be able to be productive in their organisation? Clearly there are risks with a career change candidate, particularly if its the first-post in the changed career. Have you gained qualifications, showed application in a part-time or amateur basis, or kept up with latest developments?

Both of these questions are answered by demonstration in the CV/resume of both APPLICATION in terms of personal time committed; and secondly LEARNING. Both of these take time, hence why instant career change is difficult, unless the skills to be deployed are the same/similar but applied to a different sector.

Charity Sector:

Cabo Lopez, in better days.
Creative Commons License photo credit: AmazonCARES

Probably the easiest is the move to the charity sector, where most people move to use the same transportable skills they deployed in commercial work to the charity sector.

Equally affected by the recession, charity jobs which were available six months ago are now rarer, but voluntary work is still available to boost the work record of those who have periods of unemployment of over six month, or seeking to substantiate a career change. The voluntary sector at one point was crying out for commercial skills in developing their marketing and reducing costs, but I know from friends who now work there that charity sector marketing systems are as fine tuned as those of many FMCG manufacturers. If a move to a charity sector appeals, then look at transferable skills.


0423 school
Creative Commons License photo credit: ★meg.Dai

The most difficult career change is that to becoming a teacher. It is not difficult in terms of the path required to be followed, in that no unvetted but enthusiastic amateur would rightly be let within the compound of a modern school. It is difficult in terms of the time required to become a teacher, which presently in the UK stands at 12months for a degree educated professional to gain a PGCE certificate, the basic teaching qualification. There is government grant money available to make the 12month transition, but those thinking of taking this route should accept that many colleges are already full with applicants who have made the first move before the latest crop of applicants. Teaching is a rewarding career, but requires application of the individual to a defined path.


Newsbox Makeover SG3
Creative Commons License photo credit: *eddie

The third most presently popular career change area is journalism. This seems to be because many of those contemplating this change are in the late 30’s/early 40’s, and it is one of the aims of most peoples lives to become more widely recognised. When our modern weekly diet of media is often to be found amongst the gossip laden columns of glossy magazines and endless satellite channels, most think: “I can do that – easily!”

Let’s think about the second area of an employers needs, with regards journalism. For instance:

  • Do you keep a blog? If so, how often and what does it focus on?
  • You can write and you can sell, but can you get people to read? Do you know about AIDA, or hook lines?
  • Have you ever had any professional articles published, in any format of media, or been a featured guest/expert commentator?
  • Have you ever appeared on stage, in any form of production?

Most journalists start off in local print media after a 12month post-graduate journalism course, which teaches the basics of writing to get people to read. After a couple of years of writing about WI events and car crashes, they advance to a city evening paper or sub-editors position to gain more experience under tight time scales. If they are then lucky – and some would say pretty enough – they might make it on to television.

If you can tick YES to the four questions above, then you might be able to make a career change to becoming a self-employed journalist within a three month plus period. Unless you have specific knowledge in an area – such as an ex-NASA astronaut, a high-level officer in the Police, or a research expert in a developing technology – then journalism as a career change option will look more like that of a teacher.

In summary:
Career change is always possible, but you have to be committed and accept the changed discipline of your new career choice. Think about answering the employers questions in defining your strategy and tactics, and all should work through – eventually

Good Luck!

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