This feature was written by freelance writer Jennifer Richards 

Every teacher tells you to plan. Plan essays, plan exam answers, plan your time. Plan, plan, plan. So what happens when you want to try something new, and don’t really have a plan at all? Perhaps you’ve built up a great reputation as a scientist, but are now starting to wonder if science is really for you. Maybe the glamour of TV is where you really belong? When you’ve planned for one career path, is it possible to just switch to another?

Alison Whealan, who went from managing pubs to working in Human Resources at the University of Kent, told us that she found her career switch a really exciting change. “I love to challenge myself, I work better when challenged by things and I love learning new things,” she said.

Though trying something new may be difficult, it’s also rewarding. So what does it take to make the leap? We took a look at the rules you need to follow if you want to swap jobs…

Don’t Panic!

We’re all guilty of freaking out when we don’t need to. So it’s worth remembering that it’s perfectly fine to change your mind. In fact, it’s actually a good thing as it means you’re open to possibilities.

Make a list of the reasons why you’re starting to doubt your chosen career, and what factors you’d be looking for in a new one. This will help you to find out if it’s just worries stressing you out, or genuine concerns.

If you jump ship to a whole new career but realise your heart was in the first one, you can always go back. You don’t have to settle for your second choice, and instead can keep going till you find the right thing for you. Emily Grimson, who has worked both as a model and a journalist, explained: “We work for such long periods of our lives, you have to make sure you’re making the right choice.”

She added: “That might mean trying on a few different careers before you find the right fit.”

Start Investigating

Instead of jumping up and quitting straight away, it’s good to have a search around first. We may all fantasize about doing a Bridget Jones, but it’s unlikely our colleagues will cheer us on whilst we insult our boss (pro tip: don’t do that). Take your time, and look into the new career field you’re considering. Think about organisations you could see yourself working for and have a browse on their websites and a look at what jobs are available.

Dip Your Toe In The Pool

Testing out if your new chosen career is for you doesn’t have to mean going full-steam ahead with a new job. We can sometimes get carried away with a dream without realising the reality, so it’s good to get some experience. Thinking about being a journalist? Get work experience at one of your favourite magazines. (Psst… GoThinkBig might just be able to help you out with that). Thinking about working in animal welfare? Volunteer some hours outside of your current job. Get a taster experience to see if it’s for you. Try it before you buy it!

Remember Those Transferable Skills…

Starting on a new career path doesn’t mean starting from square one again. Even if your new job seems entirely different to your last one, you’ll still have gained skills in your old job that are relevant. Emily told us about how her modelling experience gave her valuable skills.”[It] allowed me to really see the creative process behind shoots and gave me ideas for shoots that we could use in magazines,” she told us. When she scooped a role as Editorial Assistant at Girl Talk magazine, the skills she had gained as a model were a definite benefit rather than a set back.

Vanessa Dodd, who graduated with a Molecular Biology degree but now works as an Associate Partner Manager at Amazon, has a similar view. She told us that despite her degree being in a different field to her new job, it “involved problem solving and data analysis”.

“I think that was useful in the type of role I wanted to go into,” she added. “I think the most important thing is to spot what skills you’re learning, or contacts you’ve made that could actually benefit you down the line in a different field.”

Things like organisation, team work and reliability may just sound like a bunch of buzzwords, but they’re also useful skills for any job. You may feel like you’ve been wasting time in the wrong job, but it’s all helpful (even if you hate it). As Vanessa told us: “knowing what you don’t want to do is just as useful as knowing what you do want to do!”

Liked this? You might also enjoy…

Pharrell Williams On Decision Making

Making Tough Decisions For A Good Career

When’s The Right Time To Quit Your Job?