How to Use Upskilling for a Career Change

By Hania Syed

A career change is an exciting, yet daunting, prospect. If you’re looking to take go down a completely different career path, you’ll have to develop new skills and “level up” your existing knowledge and experience for the best chance of success.

Here’s our ultimate guide on how to use upskilling to meet your new career goals.

What does it mean to change careers?

Changing careers is fairly common, whether it’s among recent graduates who realise their “dream job” wasn’t exactly what they thought it would be like, or among seasoned professionals who have developed new passions.

Australian statistics show that the average person will change careers 5-7 times throughout their working life, and we can expect a similar trend in New Zealand as well. With all these career changes, there is also a need to learn and adapt along the way.

Before you can dive into learning new skills, however, it’s important to recognise why you feel the need to change careers.

Signs you should change careers

If the thought of changing careers has crossed your mind, it’s important to identify why you’re really feeling compelled to make a change. Some signs you should reconsider your career pathway include:

  • Your current job does not suit your lifestyleIf the career you started in your 20s involved a great deal of travel, shift work or long hours, you may find that the role is no longer compatible with your lifestyle once you are in your 40s or 50s. Perhaps your job is simply too exhausting for you now or keeps you away from your family. Lifestyle incompatibility is a strong sign that you should be looking out for a new career.
  • You feel burnt out or uninspiredSpending years in the same occupation may have you feeling listless and bored. Perhaps you’re feeling physical strain in the form of headaches, back pain and lack of sleep. Or perhaps you’re simply bored in your current role because you feel you have outgrown it. Whatever the reason, feeling burnt out or bored means you should be thinking about making a career switch.
  • Your career path is becoming obsoleteTechnological advancement is fast making some jobs redundant. If automation has affected, or will soon affect, your line of work, it’s important to start preparing for a new career path. It may be time to look into some short courses to help you upskill in other areas.

Research your new career path

Now that you know you’re ready for a career change, it’s time to start researching your desired line of work to identify what skills are needed. This will help you make the switch with confidence and have the necessary skills to succeed.

It’s important to have an “Instagram versus reality” moment, diving deep into what the job actually entails. Here’s how to thoroughly research your potential new career path:

  • Talk to people in the industry to get a true idea of the job, warts and all.
  • Try volunteering or taking a crash course in something industry-related for first-hand experience.
  • Read industry-specific blogs and books to gain valuable insights. If the dense content intrigues you, it’ll likely be a great fit for you.
  • Attend conferences and professional talks to see if you enjoy the topics and conversations, and get along with the other attendees.

Keep your transferable skills and previous experience in mind as well, and try to determine which would be applicable to your new field. For example, will your skills as an administrative assistant carry over wonderfully into a new career as an event manager?

Now that you’ve identified what it takes to get into your dream career, it’s time to start upskilling for the big switch!

All about upskilling

Upskilling refers simply to expanding one’s skillset, typically by developing skills that the job market demands. If you’re looking to change careers, especially later in life, upskilling allows you to develop the current skills that employers are looking for.

According to the latest NZ Government statistics, 30% of students today are over the age of 40.

This shows that more and more people are seeing value in lifelong learning. However, remember that in this day and age, upskilling doesn’t have to mean going back to university full-time – there are in fact a plethora of ways to develop new skills, which we’ll elaborate on below.

To work out which new skills are worth learning, start by researching what skill shortages exist in the field you are looking to enter.

Are there any coding languages you might want to learn, or will you need to get a good grasp on social media to excel in your new role? It’s also smart to build general skills for the digital age, from soft skills like creativity and communication to hard skills like data analysis and cloud computing.

So, how do you actually go about developing new soft and hard skills for your big career move?

Developing soft skills

Soft skills are personal attributes that allow an individual to work well with others and can often be developed without study. Try to:

  • Show initiative: Approach your current employer and ask for more responsibilities to allow you to develop new skills. If your employer does not want to give you new responsibilities due to gaps in your experience or performance, you will have gained valuable feedback on how to improve. You may also wish to offer help to your coworkers.
  • Hone your leadership skills: Large companies may be willing to pay for leadership training, especially for project manager training. Project management is a skill that is needed in practically every industry, setting you up for a successful career move.
  • Get a mentor or cross-train: Try approaching coworkers that you admire to see if you can learn from them. You may even want to formalise this arrangement by asking someone in the office to be your professional mentor.
  • Work on your emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence is all about nurturing a deeper awareness of emotions and understanding the needs of others around you. This could be done through seeing a therapist, practicing meditation or yoga, or frequently reflecting on your emotions.
  • Get creative: Creativity can prove handy in practically any role, so why not have some fun with it by picking up a creative hobby like painting, sewing, upcycling or digital art?:

Developing hard skills

When it comes to what will make you employable on paper, it’s all about the hard skills. Hard skills are teachable and measurable and should be updated frequently by way of upskilling to stay abreast of industry and job changes.

  • Look at short courses, online courses or other training opportunities. As an alternative to higher education, you may want to look into courses that help you quickly develop a desired skill. These courses are often very flexible, allowing you to learn while you’re at your current job. From LinkedIn and Google online learning modules to entire degrees at accredited institutions or registered training organisations (RTOs), your upskilling options are endless.
  • Attend professional development, training or networking events to learn new skills in a casual environment.
  • Volunteer or participate in a hackathon to develop hands-on experience and skills, as well as get a taste for the industry you’re looking to move into.

Proactive upskilling

Aside from upskilling in order to enter a specific career path, proactive upskilling is also necessary to keep up with the ever-evolving job market. This means staying on top of industry trends and requirements and developing new skills in order to future-proof your career.

According to a Hays survey, employers are 77% more likely to shortlist a qualified candidate who upskills regularly, with “upskilling always” quickly becoming the new normal.

Even if you don’t have plans to change careers just yet, developing new skills in your current role could set you up for promotions and lateral career progression.

What skills should career changers consider?

In order to future-proof yourself and pivot seamlessly into a new area of work, consider developing these in-demand skills:

  • Creativity
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Critical thinking
  • Active learning with a growth mindset
  • Judgement and decision making
  • Interpersonal communication skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Diversity and cultural intelligenccce
  • Technology skills
  • The ability to embrace change

Consider a lateral career move instead

If your current role doesn’t suit you, you don’t necessarily have to move into an entirely different industry. Look at the current company you work for and see if there are any other areas in the business that you could move into.

Some transferable skills you may already have, or wish to develop to make yourself as indispensable as possible, include communication, analysis, leadership, management, teamwork, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and adaptability.

Start by speaking with your HR department to explore the possibility of making a lateral move into a different area and seek advice on how best to approach this with internal stakeholders, including your current manager.

If it’s possible to move from career A to career B at your existing organisation, then you might want to consider corporate training or having your employer partially pay for study to prepare you for the move.

Best jobs for career changers

Wondering what roles are particularly well-suited to career changers with plenty of life experience? Here are some popular ideas:

  • Real estate agent: Real estate is a popular industry for career changers, as it can be done as a side job and eventually turn into a full-time endeavour. Obtaining your real estate license usually takes 60-90 hours, with some related job opportunities including underwriting, loan processing and brokerage.
  • Teaching: Given that you’ve now built up a great amount of experience in your previous career path, why not consider teaching in your field? From tutoring on the weekends to becoming a full-time lecturer, teaching is a great pivot for passionate professionals.
  • Writing: Similarly to teaching, a career in writing can be pursued based on what you’re already an expert in. Technical writing, grant writing, finance writing, medical writing, education writing, parenting writing and science writing are all highly sought-after industries that need your expertise.
  • Social media: Similarly to teaching, a career in writing can be pursued based on what you’re already an expert in. Technical writing, grant writing, finance writing, medical writing, education writing, parenting writing and science writing are all highly sought-after industries that need your expertise.
  • Recruitment: With a long career history, you’re in a great position to work on the other side as a recruiter. You’ll know exactly what to look for in a strong candidate!
  • Consultant: Again, consultants are professionals who offer a wealth of knowledge in a specialised field, meaning your work experience will go a long way. If you’re after project-based work instead of a full-time job, consulting will be ideal.

Overcoming challenges during your career change

When changing careers, it’s normal to have some doubts and concerns. However, remember that there are plenty of advantages to making a career change later in life. Many employers actually prefer older workers due to the life experience they bring. This is especially the case in leadership and management positions, as well as roles which involve counselling and mentoring younger workers.

Set yourself up for success by exploring our online courses perfect for upskillers and career changers.

Originally posted on for Candlefox.

Recent Posts

About Hania


With an education in Creative Writing and 7+ years of professional writing experience, I have the skills necessary to create content that is both beautiful and effective.

From onboarding flows to thought leadership pieces, I've got the words you've been searching for.

Let's Connect!