Career Changers – making the move

19 January 2012

Written by: Mary-Lou Ciampa

The average graduate will change careers seven times in their working life.

Sound familiar? Well, it’s an urban myth.

No data – here in Australia, in the UK or the US – have been collected regarding the number of times a person changes professions in their working life. For one thing, it’s hard to define a career change. Is it a change in occupation, job title, or field? Does a promotion count?

And yet, it has a certain ring of truth to it. After all, we all agree that gone are the days of the job for life, right?

The rapid rate of change in technology and lifestyles, among other things, is often given as a reason for the shifting nature of the work force. Jobs become redundant as new techniques are developed. The automatisation of many manufacturing industries is a prime example of that.

Careers experts like Jim Bright will say it’s a complex and shifting world, and will cite the ‘chaos theory of careers’. Events like the GFC also impact on career trajectories, with more and more competition for fewer and fewer jobs in certain fields.

Five years from now, will you be working in the same job you’re in now?

Will you even be working in the field in which you initially studied?

What we do know is that, in a ‘Beyond Graduation’ survey run by Graduate Careers Australia in 2010, the majority of full-time employed graduates from 2007 surveyed were working in fields related to their long-term professional goal – 95 per cent of those working in education, 93 per cent of those in health and 90 per cent in engineering and related technologies, for instance. However, there were still a significant number of graduates who were not: 22 per cent of those working in creative arts, 17 per cent of those working in IT and 15 per cent of those working in agriculture and environmental studies.

In the same survey, only 63.7 per cent of graduates admitted to taking their current job because they felt it fitted in directly with career plans. I say ‘only’ because that’s close to 40 per cent who potentially aren’t working in an area leading to their dream job. Does that signal a long haul ahead, a revision of goals or a change of heart?

An ABS survey stated that in February 2010, of the 10.9 million people shown to be working at the time, 2 million people (roughly 18 per cent) had been with their employer 12 months or less. A further 963,000 of these people had changed jobs in the past year, with 28 per cent changing ‘industry division’ and 22 per cent changing ‘major occupation group’.

Interestingly, the age group with the highest proportion of employees reporting a change in work were those aged 25-34 years, followed by the 20-24 year age group.

Rethinking your career pathway may be thrust upon you by way of a retrenchment, but may equally come about by a latent desire to fulfil long-held dreams; a need for new challenges or an unforseen opportunity. Maybe you find your calling later in life. Or maybe it all starts to feel like ground hog day and you can’t face working another 30 years in that particular industry.

And it’s not always about the money.

In this short series, we interview people from all walks of life on their decision to take the plunge and change what they do nine-to-five.

We kick off the series with:

1. Regan Sterry – from sports manager to lawyer.

2. Andrew McCarter – from primary teaching to priesthood.

3. Nyree Walshe – from medical scientist to marketing manager and back.

 4. Paul O’Leary – from pharmaceuticals to the environment.

Mary-Lou Ciampa is a Graduate Diploma in Journalism student at La Trobe University, and upstart’s co-editor. You can follow her on Twitter: @zialulu.