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career 10 min read

Why changing careers isn't a big deal

By USQ 07 Apr 2019
Collage showing male student changing careers

Did you know that the average person will change careers between five and seven times during their lifetime?

Careers, not jobs, mind you. In addition to multiple career changes, apparently the average person is predicted to change employers 17 times during their working life (McCrindle Research, 2014).

That’s a lot of change!

Statistic - The average person will change careers 5-7 times during their working life

Why you might decide to change careers

There is likely a number of different reasons why you’d want to change careers. Maybe the industry you’re in wasn’t what you thought it would be, or maybe you’re looking for something different to reignite your passion for work. You might have just graduated from your first degree or you may be looking for a change in your 20s, 30s, 40s or 50s..

Some of the most common reasons people change careers include:

  • a new addition to the family
  • they’re starting a small business
  • they’re seeking more family-friendly work hours
  • their current industry or job is now at a dead-end
  • their kids are grown up and they have time to study
  • their current workplace has undergone dramatic change
  • their current job doesn’t provide much satisfaction or mental stimulation
  • they want a job in which they can make a difference and give back to the community.

If any of these sound familiar, you might be able to relate to Nick’s story.

‘I had a career in the performing arts; I had set a clear path for myself and knew what I wanted to do with my life. However, during this time I began to learn more about the unwavering need for strong relationships between organisations and their public. I particularly sought to understand what is required to produce successful arts initiatives and create prosperous entertainment organisations.'

I made the massive decision to go back to university as a mature-aged student and study communications with nothing but some grit and determination.
Author profile image of Nick

A new way of thinking about our careers

In the past, we’d spend our entire working life in the one career, but nowadays it’s becoming increasingly common to have multiple careers during our lifetime. While change may make some of us feel uncomfortable, it’s something to expect when it comes to modern careers, so it’s important to be able to accept it and adapt.

Statistic - 76% of Gen Z (born between 1995 and 2009) see constant learning as vital in their careers
Think about it: many of the careers and jobs that are available now may not have existed when you left high school. Similarly, many of the careers and jobs of the future haven’t even been imagined yet, and increasing automation means that many of the jobs people are preparing for now may not exist in the future.
Statistic - Only 6% of adults end up in the careers they wanted when they were younger

When you consider all of these factors and recognise that the world of work is changing rapidly, it becomes clear that we need to be prepared to change careers throughout our working lives.

The question is, how can you do this in a seamless way that doesn’t disrupt your entire life?

The new 7 job clusters

By looking at 2.7 million job ads published by employers, The Foundation of Young Australians identified 1000 different occupations in the Australian workforce, which can be grouped into seven new job clusters, based on similarities in the skills required to do these jobs. The seven job clusters and the types of job skills they require are:

The Generators: Require high levels of interpersonal interaction, such as customer service roles in retail, hospitality, and entertainment.

The Artisans: Require skill in hands-on, manual tasks such as those related to construction, production, maintenance or technical customer service.

The Designers: Require good problem-solving skills and deploying skills as well as knowledge of science and maths to design, construct or engineer buildings or products.

The Coordinators: Require good organisational and customer service skills and involve process-oriented, repetitive administrative and behind-the-scenes tasks.

The Informers: Require good interaction and problem-solving skills, involved in imparting information, business services or education.

The Technologists: Require skilled understanding of how to manipulate digital technology.

The Carers: Require good interaction, problem solving and organisational skills, involved in improving the mental or physical health and wellbeing of others.

Why job clusters are important to the way we think about career change

The most important and exciting thing about this research in relation to changing careers is that it has been identified that when you change careers, you’re not necessarily starting from scratch. That’s because you don’t need to acquire completely new skill sets to move within jobs or careers within a cluster, as the skills you develop in one job are portable to another, and many of the skills demanded by employers are similar within a cluster. According to this research, when you train or work in one job, you develop skills that can be applied (on average) in 13 other jobs (The Foundation of Young Australians, 2017).

Statistic - When you train or work in one job, you develop skills that can be applied in 13 other jobs

While you may lack industry-specific knowledge of the career you want to move into, you will already have developed strong transferrable skills that will give you a jump start into your new career, as opposed to someone just entering the workforce for the first time. Likewise, you will probably have already developed a strong network who may know of people who can help get you in the door at your next place of work.

What to consider before making a change

If you’re thinking about making a career change, here’s a list of the things you should consider:

  • Is it possible that you just need a new project to sink your teeth into and challenge you, or a holiday to reinvigorate your enthusiasm for your current career?
  • Are your goals and values aligned with your current career, or the career path you’re considering moving towards?
  • What’s more important? Title, salary or location? Keep in mind that your priorities may change throughout your working life. It’s also important to note that when transitioning into a new
  • career, you will probably need to take a pay cut while you develop experience in your new industry.
  • What makes you happy at work? Research has shown that an employee’s productivity can be linked to their happiness at work, which can be affected by things like work culture and your relationship with colleagues.
  • Who will your referees be and what is your current relationship with them?
  • What are the transferable skills you’re taking from one career to the next?
  • Do you have the 60% of skills you’ll need to succeed in a new career, or can you upskill prior to changing careers by returning to study?
Statistic - When looking for a new role, you should already have 60% of the skills and strengths required, but 40% can be skills or experience you'd like to develop

When thinking about your answers to these questions, try to be objective and take your time. Making the decision to change careers is not something you have to rush into.

How to test the water before making a change

If you are thinking about making a change, there are a number of ways you can test the water without jumping in the deep end. These include:

  • Talking to friends and family who have also made a career change about their experience and recommendations.
  • Talking to someone who works in the career you’re interested in to get a feel for whether this is really the direction you want to pursue.
  • Doing volunteer work. In addition to helping you see whether this truly is the new career path for you, you will have the opportunity to develop a new network, develop directly relevant industry experience and maybe even discover job leads to help you launch your new career.
  • Talking to USQ’s Careers & Employability team, who can set you up with an industry mentor as part of the Career Mentoring Program.
My advice to anyone reading this is to embrace the paths that life leads you to.
Author profile image of Gavin

USQ alumnus Gavin changed his career path from the Defence Force to mental health nursing, after studying a Bachelor of Nursing. His advice is to ‘have the conviction to let the skills, interests and understanding that you develop while dealing with life events inspire you to push your career into new directions. Because when your career is fuelled by deep-rooted motivation, that’s when you’ll feel fulfilled.’

Advice about changing careers from a career professional

Lou Bromley from USQ’s Careers and Employability team shares her advice for anyone thinking about changing careers:

‘The Careers and Employability team have extensive contacts across all industries and can assist you to find experience with an employer to complement your studies. We also help students tailor their CVs and job applications to their new industry and show you how to demonstrate your transferable skills. We also keep statistics on industry hiring trends including starting salaries across industries.

‘If you are feeling confused about the degree you are studying and about its graduate job outcomes, or feel that it’s just not right for you, the Careers and Employability team offer career counselling sessions to help you gain insight into your strengths and alternative career choices.

‘You can also listen to career advice while in the car, on the treadmill at the gym or getting bub to sleep by downloading the Unleash Your Career podcast. And be sure to check your student email each month for your copy of Careers and Employability News, which contains graduate job listings related to your degree along with helpful career tips and information.’

How to be confident about your decision to change careers

Even though it is becoming more common to change careers throughout our working lives, it is still a big decision to move on to something new. It’s normal to have some hesitation about taking the plunge, especially if those closest to you also have a lot of questions or concerns about your decision. This is why it’s important to be really clear about why you are making the change in the first place.

Bachelor of Business graduate Lisa has experienced several changes of career throughout her life so far. Her advice for anyone considering a career change or is in the process of changing now is to ‘remember that changing careers is a learning curve. With each new professional adventure comes the chance to learn more about yourself, build your resilience and acquire new skills you may never have developed otherwise.'

If your career change doesn’t work out as planned, remember that there is always something to learn from every situation, and the skills and experiences you’ve gained on this venture are only making you a stronger, more dynamic and interesting person.
Author profile image of Lisa
Bachelor of Communications student Nick returned to study after previously having studied a Diploma in Performing Arts and travelling the world as a performer so that he could begin the next phase of his professional journey. He admits that ‘to start a new journey is a scary thing and one that takes both courage and determination. Have faith in what you‘re doing, and know that you are only widening your knowledge by changing careers.’
There will be times of self-doubt. Self-doubt has plagued my mind, poking me with a big ugly stick, as if saying, ‘What on earth have you done?’ As I have assured myself many times before, I can assure you now that this is completely normal.
Author profile image of Nick

Change is inevitable and is only going to become more common in the future world of work. Embrace this phenomenon and prepare yourself for long-term career success by acquiring skills that will translate to whichever job or career path you choose.

Want to talk to someone about your career plan?

Learn more about Graduate Employability and what it can mean for your future career.
Banner - Change is inevitable


Derus, L. (2017). Is an EMBA or part-time MBA worth it? And how to leverage the degree. LinkedIn. Retrieved from

Koehn, E. (2016). Generation Z: What you need to know about Australia’s youngest workers. Smart Company. Retrieved from

McCrindle Research. (2014). Job mobility in Australia. Retrieved from

McKenzie, Y. (2017). 7 questions to ask yourself before changing careers. Career FAQs. Retrieved from

The Foundation of Young Australians (2017). The New Work Mindset: 7 new job clusters to help young people navigate the new work order. New work order report series. AlphaBeta, Sydney.