Spring-clean your career

Feeling a little stuck? Looking for a fresh start and new challenges? We have the information you need to start thinking about changing your career.

When it comes your career, doing the same old thing may no longer feel satisfying and you might find yourself chomping at the bit. Or it may be that you’ve been job-seeking for a while, filling in job applications and getting nowhere. Either way now is the ideal time to freshen things up and cut out the dead wood – in short, to spring-clean your career.

Define yourself
The place to start, of course, is your CV. A successful CV isn’t just a list of roles and responsibilities. It needs to reflect who you are and where you want to be. Make sure your CV stands out from the pile on the recruiter’s desk, with top-line information that really grabs attention and gives your potential new employer a reason to keep reading. The same applies to your profile on career websites like LinkedIn. Check out A Physicist’s Guide to Writing a CV for more advice.

Broaden your reach
Are you registered with any recruitment agencies? If not, sign up. Arrange a face-to-face meeting with one of their consultants, bring your CV and ask for their honest advice on what you could do next. If you’ve already been registered with an agency for a while and haven’t had any interviews lately, phone and ask for a face-to-face review. The answers you get may not be perfect, but the more you get yourself out and about, the more you’ll learn about your career potential.

Use your contacts
Consider networking to get a better sense of what’s out there. Attend industry-specific conferences and other networking events. Often these will be organised by recruitment agencies, so make enquiries with the ones you’re signed-up with. Existing contacts could be equally useful. You might want to consider networking more generally with ex-colleagues and the people you studied with. What are they doing now? What would they recommend?  If you’re feeling brave, ask them what they think are your strengths and weaknesses: the characteristics you should bring to the fore for a potential employer and the things you need to work on.

Get trained
At this point, you may wish to consider whether you need to up your skills with extra training or new qualifications. Or it might be a question of getting extra experience in certain areas. If you have a sympathetic line manager, tell them that you’re interested in widening your skillset (without mentioning a job change) and ask about training or experience at your next one-to-one meeting.  

Once you get the interview
If it’s been a while since you’ve been to an interview, you can’t be too well-prepared. As well as doing background research, you should anticipate likely questions and practise your answers. Almost every interview will centre around two basic questions: Why do you want this job and why are you the right person for it? Make sure you cover these two bases with some compelling evidence. If you’re nervous, you could practise with your partner, a friend, or even in the mirror.

Final thoughts
With the sap rising and your energy levels up, it can be tempting to throw the baby out with the bathwater with an unnecessarily radical career move. But don’t rush into a major switch without thinking things through. Very often, relatively modest changes can get you back on track doing something you enjoy and care about. Your career may need a gentle dust-down rather than a radical shake-up.