Thinking of changing jobs mid-career? Digital is not just for the tech elite. EDEL CORRIGAN talks to some of the women who’ve risen to the challenge.
Madonna may have lived in a material world, but it’s clear in 2017, we live in a digital one. Technology has opened up a wealth of opportunities for us all – from ordering our dinner on the commute home so it can be delivered to us when we arrive, to finding the love of our lives online. Nearly everything you can do now has a technological or digital element incorporated within. These developments have also opened the door to business and career innovations like never before. If you’re thinking about changing career into a digital field or starting an online business, here’s what you need to know to make the leap…
CLARITY IS KEY
Business coach Liz Barron of Realize Coaching (realize.ie) has herself changed careers midway, moving from an IT and software development background into business mentoring, coaching and consulting. She approaches job hunting and career change in a slightly different way than the norm, advising her clients to treat finding a new job or making a career change like a “marketing campaign” for yourself. And a key aspect to marketing is knowing your audience – in this case, that’s you. To know yourself, you need to ask yourself questions.
Here are some questions Barron uses with her clients to help them find out what it really is they want to do:
1. What does success mean to you – if you were to consider yourself successful in the future, what would your life and work look like?
2. Do you have a dream job or dream employer(s)?
3. What do you have in life/work at the moment that you love and want to keep?
4. What do you have in life/work at the moment that you want to let go of?
5. What do you not have in life and work that you want more of?
STICK YOUR NECK OUT
By far the most common challenge when changing career is fear. Pamela Newenham, co-CEO of GirlCrew – the online friendship platform, but formerly an Irish Times business and technology journalist, advocates trying out your new career or business idea part- time if possible before making the leap. “Do an internship, work part-time at nights or weekends. You’re going to have to love it, and that’s the best way to find out.” She herself spent some time double-jobbing as a journalist and scaling GirlCrew at the same time, before deciding the business was strong enough to support her and her two co-founders. Barron agrees, saying, “If you know what you want, and you’re prepared to go out there and start talking to people, you’ve a much better chance than people who are just sitting at their keyboard.” Sarah Martin, CEO of MamaBud, a tech start-up that helps international companies enter the Chinese market, favours the “feel the fear and do it anyway” method. She knows all about changing careers – she used to work in international marketing for brands such as Unilever and Digicel before returning to college to do an MBA at the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.
Martin had always wanted to be her own boss, but still found leaving behind a steady paycheque hard to do. However, the passion she felt for her new business idea and the excitement she got from being an entrepreneur made it impossible not to take the chance. She advises writing down what needs to be done and doing it. “It gets easier.” She still lives with fear every day, but has found the original one of “sticking my neck out and getting my head chopped off” has definitely lessened.
USE WHAT YOU KNOW
No matter what job you have or what career move you want to make, your skills are transferrable. You may need to up-skill or get a further qualification, but that doesn’t mean all your previous years’ efforts mean nothing. See where you can adapt your skill-set to suit your new ideal. Ciara Garvan of WorkJuggle used her own experiences to come up with a new business that helps people find remote or flexible working situations. As a former IT business analyst and mum of three, she realised there had to be a better way of doing things. She used her technology background and experience of working contract and freelance to devise a technology-driven solution to a common problem – finding flexible work that suited both employee and employer. “Technology has advanced the recruitment process. You don’t need someone [at a recruitment agency] to represent you. You can log on and represent yourself.” Garvan acknowledges there’s still a lot of learning on the job and stresses the importance of starting even if you’re not ready. “I knew nothing about sales and marketing, but I saw a gap in the market. You learn by doing. You’ll never start if you think too much.”
EXPLORE TECHNOLOGY – AND OPEN DOORS
Maryrose Simpson of MyLadyBug.ie, but a graphic designer originally, felt that a technology- enabled business just made good sense when she was searching for a business idea. To her, there were too many downsides to a brick and mortar store. Her mother is a businesswoman and that has always inspired Simpson to see business opportunities and innovations wherever possible. With an online business, her business is working “365 days a year, even when I’m sleeping.” Her advice is, “Don’t worry about being original. See what others have done and how you can twist it or innovate it to create a new product or idea.”Martin agrees – for her, a technology-based business was a no-brainer: “Technology is the real equaliser in international business… opening the world up to any company with the ambition to grow beyond the boundaries of their home market.”
RISE TO THE CHALLENGE
Pamela Newenham found there were challenges with starting a new business that people don’t really talk about – such as how being the boss means having no one to fall back on if things go wrong. “In my previous job, if I made a mistake, or if I needed help with something, I could just ask my boss. As the head of a start-up, I’ve no one to turn to. There is no one higher up. We can’t turn to anyone and say, ‘Oh no, this happened, how do we x it?’” Regardless, she’s glad she made the leap. “If GirlCrew had failed, I wouldn’t regret it not working out because I learned a lot.” “You can’t do it for the money,” says Martin. “You have to do it for the passion. Choose you. Choose happiness. Go for what you want. You only regret what you don’t do.”
BEFORE YOU LEAP…
Four tips for anyone thinking of making a career change:
1 Clarify what you want If you’re looking to make a change, really consider why you are unhappy or what the change you want to make is. Is it the company culture that’s getting you down, or your actual career?
2 Do the research Find out as much as you can about the career you want to move into, or the company you think will be a good fit. Road test your idea if you’re thinking of setting up a new business.
3 Embrace technology Investigate how your skills plus new technology could be combined to create a great business idea. You could be the one to fill a crucial gap in the market.
4 Believe in yourself Even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll still learn and be better able to take on the next challenge.