Changing Careers: A Helpful Guide

By Tania O’Neill McGowan, O’Neill Kinesiology College Managing Director

In days gone by, we were expected to choose our careers while still in school, and then you stuck with that job for the rest of your days. Those days are relics of the past.

We all reach a point where we question what we really want in life and whether we’re heading in the right direction. This is usually concerning the ‘big three’: relationships, health or career.

Today I’ll focus on career because I’ve seen a lot of people make the leap into a new industry and I understand what it takes to get there (I’m also in that club, myself).

According to McCrindle Research’s “Australia in 2020: A snapshot of the future”, young people in Australia today will have six different careers. Not jobs. Careers. As for jobs, it is estimated they will have up to 17. It’s not limited to our future workforce though. According to a recent SEEK survey, 65 per cent of Australians are working in different jobs than the one they originally trained for after school. Interestingly, women are more likely to be working in a different role than the one they trained for, as compared to men. In another SEEK report, 38 per cent of people surveyed had one career change, 29 per cent made two, and 33 per cent have had three.

In saying this, it’s not always easy embarking on a new journey. There may be mental barriers to overcome, negative thinking patterns to clear, changes to family and spare time to consider, extra education needed, and family resistance to contend with. Here is what you need to remember when you’re considering a career change:

You are not the same person you used to be

It doesn’t matter if you have been on your current path for six months, six years or sixteen years. You are an ever-evolving character and it’s okay to lose interest in something you used to enjoy. In the past it was widely accepted that personality was set in stone by about age 30, but research shows we keep changing, right into old age.

There is also another factor that might be holding you back. It’s called the Sunk Cost Fallacy and refers to not wanting to give up on something you’ve invested in — whether that is money, time or other forms of commitment. For example, when a third-year university student doesn’t want to quit a course they hate because they’ve “already come this far.” But what is the point in wasting your precious future time on something you no longer like and won’t use?

Is it scary starting at the bottom?

You’re not. You are armed with so many skills from your life so far. Some will translate to your new career and, yes, some will not. It may be difficult after years of being an expert in your field or you may feel awkward being a lot older than the others in your course or new job, but you will adjust quickly. Don’t give in because you’re nervous. The comfort zone feels good, but ultimately it won’t help you because the longer you stay in the same situation, the more frightening it feels to leave.

Famous people who changed careers

There are so many examples of people who have made the leap and went on to have greater success than they ever did in their previous roles. The queen of mystery Agatha Christie was a nurse; Ellen DeGeneres was a paralegal; Martha Stewart was a stockbroker; and wedding dress designer Vera Wang, a journalist. Or a little closer to home, how about The Project’s Gorgi Coghlan and former Westpac CEO Gail Keely, who were both teachers?

You don’t have to be aiming for a career in the public eye like the above examples. There are plenty of people who have packed in their jobs and become successful in other careers. Our founder, Nicolie, spent many years training to be an Accountant, only to discover Kinesiology straight after graduation! Now she is WA’s most successful Kinesiologist.

Be careful of “finding your passion”

What if I said that focusing on finding your passion can stop you from finding your passion? Sometimes we start overanalysing our every move because we’re desperate to make the right decision. We don’t know if a decision is “right” until many years later. Plus, who is to say that any choice is really “right” or “wrong”? We grow and develop through all our experiences and each job/career adds to our skills and knowledge. So, don’t fall into analysis paralysis.

But if you truly do not know what your passions are, think about what you like to do, what you’re good at and where these intersect. I was once told that we should think about what we loved doing as a child. I was always playing schools as a child – so no surprise I love teaching! Or you can think about what you do in your spare time because you wanted to, not because you have to. My husband went through a career change a few years ago and was confused what to do next. He was always in the garden in his spare time, so now he is a gardener.

How to get started

This can be a fun journey if you allow it. As with finding your passion, don’t obsess over the details of things you simply do not know yet. For example, you might be nervous about stepping away from a steady income, but who is to say that you won’t end up earning more?  We’ve seen plenty of people do really, really well after graduating from our College.

If you think too hard about the end goal, you’ll get nervous and overwhelmed. After all, it’s pretty hard to plan your whole life! Rather than thinking endlessly, you have to give it a try; take baby steps if need be. If it’s Kinesiology you’re interested in, try a session for yourself, come to our open day or join the mailing list. If it’s another career path, that’s fine too. But you won’t know what it’s like until you give it a go.


We know a lot about changing careers at O’Neill Kinesiology College. After all, we’re career changers ourselves. If you’d like to know more or to book an appointment, call us on (08) 9330 7443.

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