Reached a professional plateau? When it’s time for a change, it’s time to take stock.

Career change used to seem impossible but in growth economies, such as the UAE where employment opportunity is ripe, the scope for change is far greater than before.  However, successfully switching career is no mean feat and should not be entered lightly. Three industry experts pose their top questions for consideration before you undertake the challenge, to ensure you make the right decision and end up employed and satisfied.

  1. What is currently not working?

“For a lot of people it’s not actually what they are doing which is the problem,” explains Evelyn Cotter, founder of London-based Seven Career Coaching. Cotter goes on to explain that when someone has had a successful career, a desire to change will normally come from a shift in perspective or priority, rather than a dislike of core responsibilities. In this case the answer may be to change environments instead of the role. It is important to take a critical and in depth assessment of what it is about your current situation that you don’t enjoy and reasons for change. Areas to consider might be the people, nature of the business or the way that you are working.

2. What are my core values?

“Our core values are the driving principles for our lives”, states Cotter. Taking time to understand your internal ethics and seeing how they match up with your current role or company can shed light on how to change. Begin to ask yourself questions such as, what is most important to me? Who do I admire and why? Cotter suggests listing your top five dream companies and analyzing them to see if there is a pattern or trend. For example, you may notice that each company drives innovation or encourages internal progression. Once you have mapped out your core values and the values you seek in an organization, separate them into negotiable and non-negotiable to understand which areas are a must. You may discover, for instance, that location is non-negotiable but salary is.

3. What do I do when I procrastinate?

If you are struggling to identify your passion, as a large number of people do, look at how you spend your time when you are avoiding doing work, suggests Fatima Nakhjavanpur, Executive & Leadership Development Coach at Dubai-based Choice HR Consultancy. “The things that you do when you procrastinate are your passion,” suggests the coach. For instance, meeting people, browsing food blogs or visiting art galleries. Whatever field you want to enter must involve elements of that passion. It might not be as simple as music equals finding a job in the music industry, but scrutinizing what it is you enjoy may identify an industry or passion you have previously overlooked.

4. Where do I want to be in three years?

It is crucial to consider the bigger picture or the ultimate goal, explains Executive Developer Nakhjavanpur. “Where do you see yourself? What do you want to be?” she asks. The bigger picture is really important because it puts everything into perspective, enabling you to understand whether your current job is helping you towards your true goal or taking you away from it. Identifying a long-term goal can make candidates feel more accountable for their progress and enable benchmarks for regular self-assessment and reflection.

5. What are my skills? Are they transferable?

Only 10-15% of career coaching company Seven’s clients completely retrain; many people can use their existing skills as leverage in a new role or industry. Identifying your existing transferable skills and expertise will allow you to ask “what’s out there that would value these skills”, suggests Cotter. She gives the example of a lawyer who went into corporate PR, a role where knowledge of law is useful but not the only concern.  Once you have identified your soft skills such as communication, and your technical skills such as programming or architecture, class them into enjoyable and not enjoyable. This can give you an understanding of which skills you should try to use the most and which to fall back on.

6. Where do gaps exist?

“As the economy continues to grow within certain fields in the UAE there is more opportunity than people,” explains Trefor Murphy, Managing Director of recruitment agency Morgan McKinley. These opportunities allow greater scope to change than a competitive market where supply outweighs demand. Murphy identifies corporate governance in government and banks, construction, consultancy, research and development, and industry and commerce as particular growth areas to consider. Candidates should see if their skills and expertise fit within the industries and disciplines where opportunity is ripe, continues the recruitment expert.

7. Who do I know?

“56% of people find jobs through friends or family”, identifies Cotter of Seven Career Coaching. Your network can be helpful in a number of ways: to see what is out there and what fellow graduates are doing, to connect with people in a desirable role and to get an understanding of what an industry is like. The expert also stresses the importance of finding a mentor in your desired field who can provide guidance, knowledge and industry-specific insights. It’s very important to understand if your potential job is realistic, achievable and whether it will be financially and logistically viable.

8. How is my personal branding?

Before connecting with potential employers your ‘personal branding’ must be in alignment with your career strategy, advises Cotter. Personal branding includes not only a strong resume and up to date profiles on professional social networking sites, but also your story. Employers will want to understand what has led to your desire to change paths and how your skills and background could be an advantage to their organizations. Candidates should prepare an honest and reflective account of why they would like to change and what they can bring to the new environment. Cotter suggests taking a break to reflect and gain some perspective. “We lead busy lives”, she states, getting the much needed head time will help candidates to communicate their story.

9. Am I prepared to invest in this?

Before embarking on a career change it is crucial to weigh up whether you are prepared to invest in making it work. “Changing career is like starting a business,” advises career coach Cotter, and could potentially take an enormous amount of time, energy and even money. This is particularly true when changing industries continues the expert, where traditional recruitment paths might not work and will require a lot of personal legwork. If your career change will involve retraining or time off work you will need to evaluate the financial impact and viability of the project.