Changing careers

This is a guide for people in NSW who are thinking about changing their career. It provides information about different career paths, training and upskilling options, and how to find work.

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First steps

People decide to change careers for a variety of reasons, including:

  • dissatisfaction with their current job
  • a shift in interests, career goals or values
  • the desire for a more flexible lifestyle

Whatever the reason or motivation, there are some things you can consider to help make any transition to a new career go as smoothly as possible, including:

  • talking to people who have the job you want
  • assessing what skills you have that are transferable to other industries and careers
  • examining your financial and family commitments
  • determining whether your current location is the best place to find new work
  • enrolling in courses or classes of interest
  • seeking out a mentor or road-testing a volunteering role
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Understand your strengths

Identifying your strong points and being aware of any gaps in your skills and experience can help you:

  • plan a direction you’d like your career to take
  • shape your employment focus

myfuture is an Education Services Australia initiative between all state governments and territories.

It aims to captures your interests, skills, education and training experience to build a career profile and pathways to possible occupations.

    My Skills

    If it’s time to change your career, My Skills can help you find the right qualification to open doors into new industry sectors. It's an Australian Government initiative where you can search for Vocational  Education Training (VET) qualifications and compare information such as:

    • fees and course duration
    • graduate satisfaction 
    • available subsidies

    Skills Match

    Skills Match is an interactive online tool from Job Outlook. It helps identify how your existing skills can be transferred to new employment options.

    First, you enter jobs you’ve held, including any unpaid work. Then:

    • Skills Match lists a broad selection of abilities and expertise, broken down into various categories, associated with these past jobs
    • next, it outlines a range of new job ideas that use similar skills for you to consider
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    Transition your career

    There are specialist programs to help people gain the confidence and skills to help them shift to a new career.

    Open Colleges

    Open Colleges is an Australian company providing online and face-to-face training and education services. 

    They also assist people looking to change careers with information, support and case studies that cover:

    • Should you change careers?
    • How to start the career change process
    • How to change careers at 30, 40 and 50+
    • Interview with 5 inspirational career changers

    Career Transition Assistance (CTA)

    CTA is run by the Australian Government and is for people aged 45 and older to build skills and confidence when applying for jobs.

    You register with a jobactive provider and work together to:

    • identifying your goals and aspirations
    • better understand the local job market and the skills needed for those roles
    • gain confidence with using technology to search and apply for jobs
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    Upskilling and retraining

    There is a wide range of courses and training programs available to help people boost their chances of getting a new job.

    • Smart and Skilled - assistance finding new work or career advancement through affordable training
    • Skill Finder - connecting applicants to digital courses that can lead to accredited qualifications
    • Vocational Education and Training (VET) offers over 770 qualifications
    • TAFE NSW and university short courses
    • enhancing soft skills
    • community and continuing education colleges
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    Smart and Skilled

    Smart and Skilled aims to help people in NSW get the expertise they need to advance or change their careers.

    The training courses were developed by industry, community and job market experts, and cover many workplace sectors in NSW. Eligible students can receive:

    • access to subsidised training across 4 levels of certificates
    • funding for higher-level courses (Certificate IV and above) in priority areas of demand

    Eligible students pay only a portion of the training cost. Fee exemptions and concessions are also available for disadvantaged students.

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    Skill Finder

    Skill Finder has partnered with a range of Australian organisations and companies to provide hundreds of online short courses specialising in digital skills.

    No matter your professional background, current skill level, or interest, Skill Finder gives you access to a range of learning opportunities for upskilling into sectors and roles for the future.

    And many of the courses can help you create pathways to accredited qualifications. Subjects available to study include:

    • cloud computing and coding
    • data analysis and management
    • machine learning and AI
    • project management and cyber security
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    Vocational Education and Training (VET)

    VET partners with industry and government to provide people with workplace skills and technical knowledge to advance or change their careers, effectively offering a pathway to around 500 occupations.

    With an emphasis on hands-on experience, courses concentrate on those occupational skills and competencies that employers increasingly demand.

    Vocational Education and Training covers 8 of the 10 occupations predicted to have high jobs growth over the next few years. These include:

    • carers for children, the aged and disabled
    • software and application programmers
    • hospitality workers
    • advertising, public relations and sales

    In addition to short courses, plus fee-free traineeships and apprenticeships, VET's qualifications range across Certificate I, II, III and IV, as well as Diploma courses and Advanced Diploma courses.

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    TAFE NSW

    In addition to its regular courses, TAFE NSW has developed a number of free online courses that can generally be completed in just days or weeks. Note that:

    • eligibility requirements apply
    • there is a limit of 2 free courses per person
    • each short course requires various levels of commitment and time to complete

    The free short courses are broadly divided across these categories:

    • developing administration skills
    • enhancing your digital impact
    • increasing health and medical knowledge
    • improving leadership performance
    • strengthening practical business skills

    Apart from the free short courses, other subsidised training is also offered, including:

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    University short courses

    Open Universities Australia (OUA) is a partnership between many Australian universities offering a wide range of single subject units of study that do not have entry level requirements.

    They cover a range of subjects, including:

    • arts and humanities
    • business, education and health
    • information technology 
    • law and justice
    • science and engineering

    These short course single subjects, many of which can be completed in weeks, also allow you to:

    • expand your existing knowledge base
    • upskill to boost your chances of getting a new job
    • earn credits towards a degree
    • consider a possible career change
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    Enhancing your soft skills

    Soft skills typically refer to interpersonal qualities and abilities that can be applied in most workplaces.  They generally relate to:

    • adaptability and resilience
    • teamwork and collaboration
    • creativity and innovation
    • critical thinking and problem solving
    • communication and interpersonal skills

    Soft skills can make a positive difference throughout your career as well as being transferable across most roles and industries. 

    While they can be difficult to demonstrate on your resume, many employers and recruiters may look to find out your understanding of soft skills in discussions or an interview.

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    Community and continuing education colleges

    The community and continuing education sector has a unique focus on making learning affordable and accessible. Its wide variety of courses and training can help you:

    • improve or expand existing skills
    • gain new training in preparation for a career change
    • explore a personal interest for individual growth or development

    Classes are often scheduled across multiple weeks and can be held during the day,  evening and on weekends.

    An increasing number of courses are now being offered online as adult and community education (ACE) providers:

    • update courses with a greater mix of digital content
    • develop their technical and teaching resources to improve online delivery

    Free information technology courses online

    The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has compiled a list of free online technology courses.

    They're offered by Australian and overseas universities as well as teaching academies from across the world.

    Courses cover many topics, from digital transformation and coding to 3D game development, and are aimed at all levels of learning.

    Some of the participating institutions include:

     

    Open Colleges

    Open Colleges is an Australian company providing online and face-to-face training and education services. 

    Their online courses cover a wide range of workplaces and skills that help students retrain, change or take the next step in their careers. 

    There are both certificate and diploma level courses plus nationally recognised qualifications offered across:

    • health
    • business
    • trades
    • childhood education
    • design
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    Where and how to look for a job

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    Online jobs boards and other resources

    There are many online resources that advertise job vacancies. It's best to try several, rather than limit yourself to one.

    This is because some offer only specialist roles in select industries while others combine job listings from a wide range of sources.

    Job search websites

    Online job search websites such as SeekCareer OneLinkedIn and others not only list vacancies but provide helpful advice on how to:

    • search for jobs using keywords and filters
    • set up job alerts
    • create a profile or store a resume online

    The Australian Government's:

    Company websites

    If there are specific employers or companies you’d like to work for, visit the careers section of their website or one of their social media channels, like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

    Even if there are no suitable jobs advertised, you can often register your interest and preferences, and be notified if a role that matches your criteria becomes available in the future.

    Recruitment agencies

    Employment or recruitment agencies are companies that match people to jobs. Some specialise in particular kinds of roles or industries.

    Visit their websites to search for available roles and other job finding resources. 

    If there are no jobs that match your skills and experience, you can often upload your resume or register an expression of interest.

    Jobs in government

    There is a wide range of jobs, careers, professional development options, as well as training and education opportunities offered across local, state and federal governments.

    Jobs in government cover many areas of work, including:

    • business or community services
    • communications and human resources
    • economic development and infrastructure
    • science and the environment
    • finance and treasury
    • tourism and recreation

    You can find general information, application checklists, vacancies and more resources for jobs in:

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    How to get job ready

    Dealing with the recruitment and interview processes can involve several tasks that you may not have practiced for some time. These could include:

    • finding where jobs are listed plus how to search for suitable vacancies
    • writing a resume or cover letter
    • preparing for an interview

    Writing a resume and cover letter

    A resume or CV and cover letter are your first opportunity to make a good impression with recruiters and employers.

    Even if your work experience is limited, a poorly presented or badly written resume could make it more difficult to progress your application or even get an interview. 

    The Australian Government's jobactive website has resources to help you get job-ready. Its find a job blog has:

    • templates and suggested examples of resumes and cover letters
    • career advice and how to stay positive during your job search
    • an email subscription service so you can receive regular tips to help you with changing careers

    Interviewing tips

    Job interviews can be stressful. Practising your interview technique beforehand can:

    • help reduce any nerves or anxiety
    • boost your confidence of performing as well as you can
    • highlight gaps in your knowledge so you can be as fully prepared as possible

    Another important pre-interview task is to research the company you're looking to join. 

    If you do this, you'll have information to relate specific to the company and the role, which can show a future employer you have initiative and enthusiasm.

    It could improve your chances of succeeding or at least advancing to the next stage of the recruitment process.

    As for the interview, there are common questions that are often asked. Prepare your answers in advance and practise out loud how you’d respond.

    Managing your personal brand

    Many businesses want to know if an applicant's core values match their own when assessing job applications.

    To help them do this, they often explore the social media profiles of applicants to get a broader idea of the personality and interests of the person applying.

    While you might think Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram can be safe, personal spaces to keep up to date with friends and family, avoid posting anything that you wouldn't want recruiters or future employers to see.

    One of the more popular platforms for job information and vacancies is LinkedIn. Creating and maintaining a LinkedIn profile can let you:

    • show employers what benefits and personal traits you can offer
    • connect with like-minded people 
    • find out about companies you may be interested in working for
    • join professional groups to be more aware of industry news and employment trends

    Organise reference checks

    Depending on the role, you may be required to provide work or personal referees. This could be a past manager, boss, co-worker or even a friend (as a character reference). 

    You generally require 2 references. Contact them in advance to see if they will act as a referee.

    Once they’ve agreed to participate, explain the role and discuss how they can endorse those skills and attributes that relate most to the job by focusing on your achievements.

    These referees are then contacted by your employer or recruiter and asked to validate or comment on:

    • what you may have shared in your interview or included in your written application
    • your skills and experiences that relate to the job
    • how any personal attributes may add value to the organisation

    Other pre employment checks

    In addition to referee checks, you may be required to undergo other assessments depending on the role and who you deal with, including a:

    • working with children check
    • national police check, which cannot be conducted without your consent
    • security clearance or general background check
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    Starting a small business

    There is a range of government financial assistance packages and mentoring services to help you start your own small business:

    New Business Assistance

    If you are unemployed, not studying or training, and interested in running your own business, the Australian Government offers New Business Assistance with NEIS.

    NEIS is the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme. It provides eligible people with:

    • accredited small business training
    • mentoring and support programs
    • financial support options including an allowance and rental assistance
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    For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

    Training NSW provides a range of programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people focused on:

    • workplace mentoring and support services
    • improving access to employment and training 
    • creating business opportunities

    Smart and Skilled and Deadly is an initiative within Training NSW that also focuses on strengthening vocational education and training within Aboriginal communities across NSW.

    In addition, the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) is responsible for employment services in remote Australia under its Community Development Program (CDP).

    Through a range of activities, the CDP supports Indigenous job seekers to:

    • build workplace skills and confidence
    • address and overcome barriers to employment 
    • contribute to their communities
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    For job applicants with disability

    People with disability, injury or a health condition may be able to receive assistance to prepare for, find and keep a job through several government programs.

    RecruitAbility 

    RecruitAbility encourages job applicants with disability to find employment in the Australian Public Service (APS), including Senior Executive Service roles.

    As well as supporting existing employees with disability, RecruitAbility can provide job applicants with disability:

    • multiple entry points to the public service
    • expanded career opportunities

    National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

    The NDIS has several pathways to employment. Their services can help applicants:

    • expand social networks
    • raise their standard of living
    • increase financial independence

    Learn how the NDIS can help participants who'd like to work, to get the job they want, and keep it.

    Disability Employment Services (DES)

    DES providers support people with disability looking for work or who already have a job through:

    • help with locating and applying for roles
    • targeted training and upskilling support
    • speaking to employers and co-workers about possible changes to workplace practices
    • co-ordinating physical modifications to a workplace
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    Accepting an offer

    There are different ways you could receive a job offer, including:

    • a verbal confirmation over the phone
    • an email letting you know you were successful
    • an informal handshake

    But in most cases following the acknowledgement, you'll likely be provided with a formal offer document that covers:

    • terms and conditions of employment
    • the official start date and expected hours of work
    • any probation period
    • pay and leave entitlements
    • rules that may be specific to the award, enterprise agreement, employment contract, and/or workplace policies you’ve been employed under

    Review your offer document

    It is very important that you read any offer document carefully and understand your rights and obligations before formally accepting the offer or starting work. If in doubt about anything:

    • get a friend or someone more familiar with employment documents to review it too
    • ask the employer or recruiter for any clarity if there is something you don’t understand or want to question

    If changes are needed, review any updated version to check that the changes were added before you sign. It's a good idea to keep a copy for your own records.

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    Starting your new job

    First impressions count. This can be even more challenging if your new role is remote.

    Whatever your circumstances, there are a few things you can do before you start and at the beginning of your employment that can help with the settling-in process. These include:

    • introducing yourself (and remembering the names and roles of those you meet)
    • asking plenty of timely questions (and taking notes if needed)
    • getting familiar with your employer's codes of practice
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    Tax, payroll and superannuation

    There is always a certain amount of financial paperwork or online forms to be filled in when starting a new job, including:

    If you do not have a preferred super fund, you can choose the default super fund proposed by your employer.

    Depending on your salary and employment conditions, you may be eligible for super contributions from the Australian Government.

    You don't need to apply for these. If you're eligible and your fund has your tax file number (TFN), the government will pay it to your fund account automatically.

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    Your rights and entitlements at work

    Every employee is entitled to basic rights at work, including the minimum wage and the right to be safe in the workplace. 

    To understand your workplace rights in detail:

    In addition, the Fair Work Ombudsman has extensive information on:

    • employee protections that cover adverse action, coercion, undue influence or pressure and misrepresentation in the workplace
    • your rights to industrial action and union membership
    • how to get help resolving workplace conflict and issues
    • the importance of pay slips and how they ensure employees receive the correct pay and entitlements

    If you are employed in the NSW public sector or local government, the NSW Industrial Relations Commission has information on your workplace entitlements and obligations.

    Fair Work Information Statement

    Most employees in Australia need to get a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement when starting a new job. It is a legal requirement for all employers to provide this before, or as soon as possible after, new employees start work. 

    It covers important topics about employees’ pay and conditions including information on:

    • National Employment Standards
    • the right to request flexible working arrangements
    • modern awards and other workplace details

    Find out more about the Fair Work Information Statement at the Fair Work Ombudsman.

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    Safety in the workplace

    Work health and safety laws apply to every worker in Australia, including permanent residents and temporary visa holders. Those are rights to:

    • appropriate safety equipment
    • say no to unsafe work
    • a fair and just workplace
    • induction and ongoing access to information, training and supervision

    As an employee, you also have an obligation to protect the health and safety of others at work. It’s important that you:

    • ask if you are not sure how to safely perform a task
    • follow instructions and work safely
    • report unsafe and unhealthy situations and injuries to your immediate supervisor or manager
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    Dealing with finances

    Switching careers may not happen overnight. Depending on your circumstances, there may be a period of time between careers where your income is reduced or non existent. 

    In this situation, you may want to consider:

    • putting a budget together
    • seeking guidance from a financial adviser
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    Budgeting and bills

    Budgeting is a practical way to see where you spend your money, and can help to: 

    • get a clearer picture of your overall financial position
    • prepare you for unexpected expenses 
    • spot areas where you can cut back spending and save money

    ASIC's Moneysmart website has tips and guidance to help you when:

    • paying council rates, bills and fines
    • planning and making a budget
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    Financial Information Service (FIS)

    FIS is a free, confidential service provided by the Australian Government where financial experts can help you plan for your future financial needs.

    They are not licensed advisers. What they can do is help you make more informed financial decisions, including:

    • increasing your knowledge and confidence when dealing with money matters like debt reduction, superannuation and investments
    • how to use credit sensibly
    • finding a financial planner and how to best use their services 
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    Engage a financial adviser

    A licensed adviser can help you better understand your financial situation and empower you to make more informed decisions about your financial future. This is especially important if you're in between careers.

    Good advisers can better:

    • understand your needs
    • set achievable goals
    • create a realistic plan to meet those goals
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    Get mental health support

    Considering a career change can be an intimidating and emotional journey. So too, the process of finding and applying for jobs. In time, these could also trigger mental health issues.

    There are many wellbeing and personal support organisations across government and not-for-profits offering services that can be helpful if you’re experiencing any type of mental stress, including:

    • Beyond Blue or 1800 512 348 for help with depression and anxiety
    • Head to Health for a range of mental health resources
    • Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 offers free, confidential phone and online counselling anytime for young people aged 5 to 25
    • MensLine on 1300 789 978 - telephone and online counselling services for men
    • Headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation for 12 to 25 year olds
    • NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 for professional help, advice and referrals to local mental health services
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