Don’t get stuck, get help

Catherine Sermon’s latest blog

Career changes – don’t get stuck, get help

“What do you want to do when you grow up?” It may seem like a harmless question but I used to dread it when I was younger. Because I had no idea. Then later, at work, came the “where do you see yourself in 4 or 5 years’ time?” questions. And then they waned after a while of not being able to answer.

We spend a huge part of our lives working, yet many of us probably put more time into planning our last holiday than we did our last career move. In fact according to new research, from Phoenix Insights conducted by Ipsos, 40% of us have done nothing in relation to our careers in the last 6 months. This figure rises to 48% of 45-54 year olds, and 68% of 55 – 75s.

It’s like changing a tyre

And I’ve come to think that knowing what you want to do for a living, and how to get the right job at the right time, is one of those things that everyone just assumes adults know how to do. Like changing a tyre.  Or as I have recently been told, more accurately, like changing a wheel! And like this even if you know what to do in theory, it doesn’t mean it’s easy or always successful in practice. In fact – and in danger of over-stretching the analogy – if you don’t know what you are doing, it can feel like you are taking a big risk.

Why have so few people ever received careers advice?

The jobs we do and the skills we need to do them are constantly changing.  And as society grapples with big issues like labour market participation, skills shortages, productivity, and changing demographics – we have to ask ourselves why have so few adults ever received careers advice?  The Gatsby Foundation have estimated that 11m adults in the UK would benefit from adult careers advice, including 4.5m that are at risk in their current occupation, a further 3.5m who are actively looking to make a change and 1.3m who are very unhappy in work. According to our survey whilst 28% of adults have received careers advice in the last 3 years, this varies hugely by age:

  • 68% of 16-24 year olds
  • 15% of 45 – 54 year olds
  • 8% of 55 – 75 year olds 

Untapped demand for help

Our research found that common reasons holding people back from making career changes are confidence and feeling that they are ‘too old’ or that ‘it’s too late’.  Yet those who have had careers advice said it helped them realise that there are many different work opportunities available to them, to recognise their strengths and skills, as well as to identify what they want to get out of work and improved their confidence. 

These are all things people working in careers industry, whether government funded, private or social enterprise, know how to do. Yet so many people are not aware of help that is available, and unsurprising perhaps, therefore not looking for it. The potential of getting this right, and the downsides of getting it wrong are heightened in the context of longer lives, which mean that more and more of us are managing what might be 50 or 60 year careers. And bring an increased need to plan and manage our incomes and finances for the times we are working and when we aren’t.

Careers can change

This is why we at Phoenix Insights, with an amazing collaboration of partners, are on a mission to help people realise that careers can change, whether small incremental shifts or total pivots, and that help is available to do this.  

We want to showcase the scale of successful ‘squiggly’ career moves people make and learn from these experiences. And we need to raise awareness of amazing and diverse support that is out there for people, so they aren’t flying blind as they navigate change. Which career changes have been most meaningful for you? We are really keen to hear your stories, from making a career shift with the same employer to changing industry, or a complete pivot. What prompted, helped or hindered your move? Share your story here.