Changing career

If you are feeling stuck in your current job, or feel that it is no longer right for you then start by asking yourself whether you want a different role in your current organisation, a change of employer or whether you want to change career direction completely.

Time for a career change

Considering the following points may help you decide if a change of career is right for you.

Work enjoyment

If you no longer enjoy your job, you may want to think about moving to a different department within your organisation or to a different employer. However, if you’re not happy with what you do, changing department or employer may not improve things

Consider what's making you unhappy - you could just be bored with the work and need a new challenge. Or you may  be frustrated with a lack of progress or promotion within the organisation or with the culture of the workplace.

Work-life balance

Do you need a different work-life balance?  Most employers now recognise that it makes good business sense to give flexible working opportunities for their staff. If your work-life balance is affecting your family life then a change of job isn't always necessary. It may be possible to work from home or have a flexible working pattern.

Retrain or change level

Are you prepared to retrain or start from the bottom again? If you’re committed to a complete career change then you'll need to think of the implications for you and your family. You may have to start from square one again and live with the consequences of that, such as a decrease in income, a change of status, responsibility, prestige and perhaps a change in lifestyle and location. Talk through your ideas with your family and friends.


Consider how much money you want or need to earn. Changing career can have financial implications both in terms of earning while retraining and in terms of future earning potential in your new job.

You should also ask yourself whether, in two years, five years or 10 years time, you will regret not having made a change .

If you decide that a change of career is the right thing for you then it's important to stay positive and enthusiastic throughout the process of applying for new jobs.

How to start making a career change

Effective career decision making becomes easier when you're better informed. If you decide that you want to change career, find out as much as you can about all your career options before making any decisions. 

Before looking at specific careers, it’s a good idea to spend some time thinking about what motivates you as a person: what are your interests, skills, values and preferences? You can then start building a picture of your ideal job and explore which careers match it most closely.

The career matching tool for adults can help you match your interests, skills and values with careers. This tool will give you a list of career suggestions based on what you like and/or what you are good at. You can also get career suggestions based on your current or anticipated qualification level. The tool allows you to explore suggested options by type of work, working hours, industry, your qualification level and average salary.

There's plenty of information and guidance available to help you change career. See Choosing a career to get started.

Take time to find a job

When you’re unsettled, it can be easy to rush into the first job you’re offered, but you should take your time. The key is choosing a job that matches your interests, values and skills.

Once you have a career in mind, it’s important to research the specific skills and qualifications you need for that career and then decide how you're going to turn your career plan into reality. This involves comparing your options, narrowing down your choices and thinking about what suits you best at this point in time.

You should ask yourself:

  • what skills you need
  • what your best work / training options are and how do they match your skills, interests and values
  • how your options fit with the current job market
  • what the advantages and disadvantages of each option are
  • if there's anything which could help or hinder you achieving your goals

A good way to start is by recognising your own transferable skills. These are the skills, abilities, aptitudes and qualities built up over a working lifetime which can be transferred from one job or activity to another. 

For examples of skills that employers are looking for see Getting that job: make the most of your skills.

Take a broader approach in your job hunt

Think about the things you enjoy such as your interests and try to relate these to work areas. 

When matching your skills with new job roles don’t limit yourself to just looking for jobs in your skillset as you may miss out on wider options. It’s worth looking into new sectors which might suit you.

Sector Skills Councils regulate their industry and have lots of information about job roles and current and future employment opportunities. Contact someone within the sector, go to talks and ask to shadow work in different workplaces.

Labour market information may help you make decisions by highlighting trends in employment such as jobs that are currently in demand and jobs that have surplus supplies of qualified people. The Skills Barometer has information about trends in employment and predicted growth areas in Northern Ireland.

Update or create a CV

A CV (curriculum vitae) is a short list of facts about your education, work history, skills and experience. A good CV is essential when looking for work and it is worth taking the time to get it right so that you can sell yourself to an employer.

For tips on how to write a good CV, or to create an online CV visit CVs and cover letters.

You don’t need to explain why you left your last job in your CV cover letter. It may be better to leave this for interviews when you can explain the reason in full.

It’s important to focus on the positives in your CV by showing off your strengths, what you have achieved and what you can bring to a prospective job.


If you're unemployed, prepare to be asked about it at interviews. There's nothing to be ashamed of with redundancy or leaving a job so you shouldn’t feel defensive.

Talk about how your previous career has helped you develop a range of transferable skills which you can bring to the new job and say how they can benefit the employer.

Develop a career action plan

Once you've decided on your new job / career, you’ll be in a position to develop a career action plan.  A good career action plan will detail your specific goal, along with the tasks to be completed, such as job shadowing, training requirements and drafting a CV, to  achieve that goal.  

Include timeframes for  tasks to help you keep on target and stay positive and enthusiastic throughout your chosen path.  You’ll also need to think carefully about when to leave your current job to avoid becoming unemployed.  You may want to save some money, especially if you're going to be training, or take a decrease in salary. 

Have a back-up plan

Having a back-up plan means you’ll have some ideas for what to do if your first job choice doesn’t work out. Your plan could include different jobs in the same sector or jobs in different sectors that use the same skills.

If your mind is set on a particular career but you hit a stumbling block, you might then consider taking a different route, such as training or going in at a lower level and working your way up.

Careers guidance

The Careers Service provides an impartial, all-age careers information, advice and guidance service throughout Northern Ireland. 

Find out how the Careers Service can help you.

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