Handle a career curveball

Handle a career curveball

Life doesn’t always pan out the way we expect but sometimes these curveballs can be great opportunities for change, especially when it comes to a new career.

Things don’t always turn out exactly the way we want them to. This is as true for our working lives as it is for our personal lives – and it’s why it’s so important to have a professional Plan B.

The world of work is changing, and we’re becoming more changeable. Already we only stay in a job for an average of four yearsby 2020, it will drop down to three.

Whether a change is voluntary or due to circumstances beyond your control, having a fallback strategy in place will ensure a smoother transition into the next phase of your career. It may also make you more resilient when dealing with youth underemployment – having a Plan B is a vital form of self-insurance.

Riding the waves of change

Whether your career path will be in a reliable or fickle industry, there are any number of situations where you might need to consider a back-up plan.

You might outgrow our original career choice, or find that it’s not what you expected, no longer makes you happy, or won’t support your desired lifestyle. Or perhaps your chosen industry is too small or competitive, and you can’t seem to get a foot in the door.

Major life events, such as starting a family, changes in the workplace and redundancy can also prompt you to suddenly re-evaluate your priorities.There are also global forces at play, which are creating job insecurity and disrupting whole industries.

In fact, the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) recently released a series of reports called The New Work Order, which discusses the way automation, globalisation and collaboration are impacting the modern workforce.

The FYA emphasises an urgent need for young people to focus on building up transferrable skills as we shift away from linear careers into a more dynamic future of work.

Establishing a back-up plan

If you’re still studying or have recently graduated, it’s important to keep your options open. Think about what motivates you, what you’re good at, and what you enjoy doing, and look for ways you could turn your interests into a fulfilling career.

A Plan B could be a fallback career in a completely different industry, or it might involve expanding your area of expertise so you can transfer into related fields if the opportunity arises. You might want to explore course guides for inspiration, or to seek guidance from a careers counsellor.

If you’re already part of the workforce, concentrate on developing a portfolio of transferrable skills, capabilities and knowledge to increase your employability in the future.

According to the FYA, we could apply the skills we develop in one job to 13 other jobs on average, so take as many opportunities as you can to explore different duties or tasks or ways and look for the learning opportunity in every experience. This could give you a significant advantage in a competitive job market.

Experimenting with side projects or doing some networking with people outside of the industry could also help you step up to new challenges in your current career, or lead to new opportunities down the track.

The same goes for short or post-graduate courses, either externally or through your organisation. Work Integrated Learning (WIL) and work placements in particular are designed to boost your employability. They provide practical experience and networking opportunities through clinical or professional placements or internships relevant to your area of study.

Looking to the future

As industries evolve and change and we move into a more dynamic future of work, we need to be prepared for more complex and uncertain working environments.

In the short term, a setback or career change doesn’t have to be demoralizing. If you have other options to fall back on, you’ll be able to refocus your goals and stay optimistic about the future. It may even lead to something bigger and better than you ever imagined.

Time for a change? Explore our featured postgraduate courses.