How to manage stress when changing careers

9 November 2023

Thinking of changing careers? This can be both thrilling and daunting. Taking on a role with new responsibilities and challenges often brings a mix of excitement and uncertainty. Learning new skills, adapting to unfamiliar work settings and getting to know new colleagues can be stressful. However, by implementing certain strategies you can effectively manage this stress and use it to your advantage.

How often do people change careers in their lifetime?

It’s most common for individuals in the UK to change careers between their late twenties and mid-thirties. According to a survey conducted by well-known recruitment firm Michael Page, out of a sample of 5,000 workers, the average age people were most likely to switch careers was 31.

“Job hopping” used to have negative connotations, but in recent years younger generations like millennials and Generation X have become more likely to leave their jobs when they become unsatisfied with them. The term has therefore started to lose its negative meaning. Between 2013 and 2023, there was a 0.9% increase in individuals moving between jobs, changing the total percentage from 2% to 2.9%.

Common reasons for changing careers include dissatisfaction with pay, not enough opportunity for career advancement, excessive workload or daily tasks, feeling underappreciated by management, and changes in personal circumstances that necessitate a change in working hours or schedule.

How to switch careers

What is causing you to consider a career change?

The first step in your career change journey is to think about the reasons you are unsatisfied with your current job and what your motivations are for wanting to change. It’s helpful to consider your current financial situation, interests and lifestyle. Do you want to move companies and keep the same job title, or do you want to move into a completely different career?

Research your chosen career path

Once you’ve determined what you’d like to change about your current position, you should look for new career opportunities that can help narrow down your search. It’s also useful to check out job and company websites to see what skills, qualifications and experience you might be required to have.

Assess your qualifications, skills and experience

Ask yourself if you already have these qualifications, skills and experience or if you need to take steps to acquire them. Bear in mind that you may already have transferable skills and experience from your current job that you can apply to the new position.

Gain new qualifications

You might need new or more advanced qualifications than you already have, depending on which career you switch to. These qualifications could range from having to take online courses, complete an apprenticeship or earn a degree. There are plenty of providers of online courses ranging from GCSE to degree level. The one you ultimately choose will depend on the subject or role you are studying for and whether you are happy to pay for the course or not.

Look for job openings

Once you feel you have the appropriate qualifications, skills and experience for the career you have in mind, start browsing job listings online to get an idea of how many positions are out there. Apply to as many as you can, ensuring you have a well-written CV that showcases your attributes. This will give you the best chance of being invited to an interview.

How to manage stress

Make time for self-care

Following a good self-care routine during stressful times can benefit your mental health. A simple daily schedule that includes regular wake-up hours, exercise and plenty of time to look after yourself can make you feel more motivated and less stressed.

Ensure you get between seven to nine hours of sleep a night to help improve how you manage stress and day-to-day tasks. To boost your chances of getting a good night’s sleep, create a healthy bedtime routine. For example, this could involve avoiding screen time in the hour or so before you go to bed, scheduling in time for relaxing activities like reading or taking a warm bath, and avoiding late-night meals and snacks.

It’s also important to look after your mind and body by eating a healthy and well-balanced diet. This can boost energy levels, productivity, mental health and brain function. Oily fish, whole grains, blueberries, eggs, nuts and seeds are all known to be beneficial to brain and body function.

Manage your time

When you’re starting a new job, it’s common to feel overwhelmed with all the new things you are expected to learn and remember. One way to give you a greater sense of control and to ease anxiety is to use effective time management strategies.

For instance, try to allow enough time in the morning to get ready, have breakfast and commute without being in too much of a rush. A more orderly start to the day can reduce stress and it will mean you arrive at work with a clear-headed mentality. It also helps to prioritise the tasks set for you in your new job. This will mean you feel more organised and find it easier to get through your workload more efficiently.

Think positive thoughts

Positivity can significantly speed up the way your brain processes change as you start on a new career path. When you embrace the idea that every experience can be used to learn and grow, you will feel a sense of empowerment that reduces stress and makes your new job more satisfying.

Thinking positive thoughts can also make it easier to approach problems with a solutions-driven perspective, which in turn can lower feelings of stress. Additionally, being positive can increase your resilience, enable you to bounce back from failures and boost your self-assurance.

Seek support

Make sure you find out from your new colleagues and superiors exactly what is expected of you within your new role and what support is available to help you achieve this. It’s also good to ask if there is any additional training for the role and to make sure you’re open to tips and feedback from more experienced co-workers.

Ask family and friends for support outside of work. After a long day, having people to talk to can be a great stress reliever. They probably have experience in dealing with job stress themselves and might therefore be able to provide emotional support, a listening ear and useful tips.

It is true that changing careers can be an exciting and uncertain time, and so a certain level of stress can be expected. If you’re thinking about whether a career change is right for you, are currently gaining new skills and experience or have just started work and are trying to cope with the changes and pressures that come with this exciting transition, using some of the strategies discussed here will hopefully make this change easier for you.

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