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Do your research before striking out in a new direction

Sometimes people do not have a lot of choice when it comes to changing career

“Do something that you like, that gets you out of bed in the morning, and something you are good at”

“Do something that you like, that gets you out of bed in the morning, and something you are good at”


It may not involve running away to join a circus but sometimes a change in job is just not enough – nothing short of a complete change in career will do. The career that seemed suitable and promising when you were 18 or 21 can be downright disastrous by the time you reach 25 or 30, and you’ve just got to get out and start all over again.

“You’d be surprised how many people come to us who want to make a change and are miserable in their current careers,” says Eoin Connolly, a director with recruitment firm Mason Alexander.

But changing career is easier said than done. People who have spent years getting qualifications for and experience in one particular line of work can find it quite difficult to change course.

Paul McArdle, joint managing partner of The Panel recruitment agency, advises people to take a long, hard look at what it is they really want before embarking on any change.

“Ask yourself what the motivation is for the change. If you don’t like your boss or the company it might not be a new career you are looking for. Are you looking for a new job or career? If it is a career, do an audit of your skills and find out what you are good at.”

After that he advises people to do some research.

“Go to jobs boards online and the jobs pages in The Irish Times. Make a list of roles that attract you. Decide which ones you like, and find out what you need for them and if upskilling is an option to get them. But you have to be realistic. I might want to play for Liverpool, but I know that’s not going to happen.”

Your strengths

Happiness comes into the equation, according to Connolly.

“My advice to anyone is to consider what they like and what they don’t like about their current job. Do something that you like, that gets you out of bed in the morning, and something you are good at. One tends to follow the other.

“ I think it was Richard Branson who said that if you do something you like and enjoy you will tend to be pretty good at it. Play to your strengths, that’s where you will find success. People who are not doing that can find themselves at a crossroads where they want to move on and change career.”

Sometimes people don’t have a lot of choice when it comes to changing career. They can be working in an industry which is vulnerable to automation or global competition, and have no option but to strike out in new directions.

The Solas Skills to Advance programme has been specifically designed to assist people who find themselves in that situation.

“It is a joint initiative between Solas, the Department of Education and Skills and all 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs) around the country,” says Skills to Advance director Mary Lyons. “It is a national initiative to address the upskilling and reskilling needs of people in the workforce who are working in jobs that are vulnerable to change.”

Solas plans that by 2021 over 40,000 workers will be increasing their resilience and capability as a result of the programme. In addition, it is hoped that over 4,500 SMEs will benefit from improved productivity and innovation, and that Ireland will improve its global competitiveness.

“There are 1 million people in the workforce with a highest educational attainment of leaving cert or below and they are mainly in low skilled jobs which are more vulnerable to change,” Lyons adds.

“These are the people least likely to be offered upskilling and reskilling opportunities by employers or to seek them out for themselves.”

Additional modules

Workers can apply directly to the programme through their local ETB, while SMEs can also apply to their ETB.

“SMEs which have identified skills needs can come to their ETB for support,” says Lyons. “Training opportunities can be created to suit their needs by adding additional modules to existing courses, for example. In all cases the courses will offer a qualification. Courses are also being developed for particular sectors or regions, and a quality assurance course has already been developed for the pharma industry.”

There is no cost to employees for courses up to level 5. They do have to make a contribution of 30 per cent towards the €300 per term cost of level 6 courses. Different rates of subsidy are available to employers depending on size and can range up to 70 per cent, but the employee release costs are counted towards the employer’s contribution.

The overall aim is to prepare people for emerging opportunities. “We want to help people to look at their skillsets and identify what they need to do to be prepared,” says Lyons. “The ETBs will help people with that, and assist them to choose the courses most suited to them and their needs.”


A recruitment agency is not necessarily the first or best port of call for advice on a change in career.

“Going to a recruiter trying to change a career would not be high on my list,” says Paul McArdle. “Recruiters are asked by clients to find people already experienced in the area. It’s really about connecting with your own network, people from work, colleagues, people who stand beside you at the GAA pitch at weekends, who you play golf with, former colleagues. Be open to looking at network, ideally people from different backgrounds to yourself.”

Eoin Connolly concurs. “As a recruitment business we are often not the best people to talk to. Our clients come to us to find people with expertise directly relevant to the role. But we do give a lot of career advice to candidates regardless of whether we place them.

“It’s about utilising your network,” he adds. “If you want to move into the technology sector, look at your contacts in LinkedIn to see who is already working there and reach out to them for advice and help. Find roles online and find people who are doing them and ask them if they can help.

“Don’t be afraid to reach out. Ireland is a village and people tend to be very helpful. My advice to people is to be quite brazen when it comes to looking for help.”

McArdle stresses the need to get different perspectives.

“You might go and get mentored by someone younger than you who is more in tune with careers of the future. Try to meet people from different backgrounds to help you think differently about things. If you are in insurance go and meet an artist, someone with a different view of life. It gets you thinking.”

Above all, he says act on the advice. “Don’t fall victim to paralysis by analysis.”