I’m 35 and feel ready to start a new career. Where should I start?

Ask Brian: Reflect on what you think are your key strengths and competencies

The further education sector can be a great route to secure additional skills. Photograph: iStock

The further education sector can be a great route to secure additional skills. Photograph: iStock


It’s a new year and I want a change. I’ve worked in a variety of jobs since I lost by job as a trainee electrician during the recession. I’m now 35, have a young family and feel ready to return to education to help find a more challenging and fulfilling job. Where should I start?

Simply writing this letter to me shows your intent - and that is the best start possible. At this time of year, as we make plans for year ahead, I find the key to bringing about real change is to do the least possible thing - but do it well.

A good start is to reflect on what you consider to now be your strengths from a skills perspective. Over the past 35 years of your life you have met and overcome a whole range of challenges and therefore possess a wide ranger of skills which can be deployed in todays ever changing labour market.

The problem is that you have probably never stepped back and reflected on what you now have to offer in a role that is more demanding and fulfilling than what you have done to date.

Take out a blank sheet of paper and list your competencies. This process is not an easy one and won’t be completed in one sitting, but if you persist with it and discuss it with your partner and others within your close family or friends, you will begin to see your potential.

The next step is to see a professional in this area. The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection operates an excellent service. They provide access to straightforward advice from experts, as well as tips on CV and interview preparation. They also offer the very latest in automatic job-matching and notification.

Bring in your “skills” document you drafted, outlining your perceived strengths and experience to date, and they can match them against current vacancies and notify you of the results.

They also have an online website, which will connect you with thousands of employers of all sizes and sectors. Last year they advertised over 120,000 jobs in Ireland.

It may be the case that you will need to engage in further education to secure some additional skills to enable you to compete for the kind of higher order job you desire. Your local Education Training Board (ETB) has a variety of colleges in your region which may offer you the course you need.

If you can demonstrate that you have acquired through practice a skill you don’t have a formal qualification for, there is a process called “recognition of prior learning” or RPL, which can be formally or informally recognised in admitting you to a course to enhance your existing skills.

The key is not to hesitate now. Take out that sheet of paper and start writing.

Do you have a query? Email askbrian@irishtimes.com