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Over Half of Brits Change Careers During Their Working Life, Study Finds

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Considering a career change? With new research from the digital learning platform, FutureLearn, revealing that 57% of adults have switched careers in their lifetime, you’re not the only one.

While career changes have become more common in recent years, taking this leap is still daunting, especially if you’re entering a new field of work or diverging from your acquired degree. The hesitance of leaving your job can be evidenced in the rise of workplace trends, including quiet-quitting and, more recently, loud-quitting.

Yvonne Chien, chief growth officer at FutureLearn, says: ”In our daily lives, we spend more time working than any other activity. Thank goodness we live in a world and society today where it’s okay to switch your job more regularly. Given that most people will have to work for a significant chunk of their lives, continuing to develop and try different things can liberate and keep life interesting.”

Daniella Genas, entrepreneur, career coach and founder of Be the Boss, has teamed up with Yvonne to discuss the cultural and personal reasons behind why we change careers. As well as taking a deeper dive into the survey data, they also share their top tips for upskilling to help you pivot your profession.

Can ‘#QuitTok’ explain why more people are changing careers?

While it was once thought that choosing a career was a fixed decision, our working lives have become more unpredictable than ever. New research from FutureLearn has found that most adults (57%) will now switch professions in their lifetimes.

This trend is likely to increase with AI rising in prominence across many spaces, bringing with it the need for our skills and careers to evolve more constantly than ever before. 

Transparency around resignations is also becoming increasingly relevant, with social media trends bringing huge views. Take the TikTok hashtag #QuitTok, drawing in over 41 million views.

Daniella says: “The changing nature of work is leading many people to seek careers and opportunities that better align with their values and lifestyle. 

“People prefer industries that offer high flexibility and autonomy rather than sticking to traditional career paths.”

Yvonne adds: “#QuitTok is highlighting a generation who are actively switching.  Unlike what it might have been like for previous generations, it’s great that people today don’t feel the first career choice is what you must stick with forever.  Career paths today are a zig-zag, and it’s great that there are so many more resources accessible to help you build new skills.” 

The survey also shows that career changes are most common during adults’ younger years, with 28% of respondents revealing that they switched careers during their early 20s.  

Why do people switch careers?

Digging deeper into the data, our experts examine why people want to change careers. With themes around new challenges and the work-life balance coming out on top, people are looking for more excitement in their 9–5s. 

According to the results, the main factors driving people to switch careers are:

  • Personal development / seeking a new challenge (65%) 
  • Work-life balance (63%)
  • Lack of fulfilment or job satisfaction (63%) 
  • Salary concerns or seeking higher pay (60%)
  • Workplace culture & environment (e.g. benefits, flexibility & ways of working) (56%) 

As we can see, the number one reason people made a career change is to seek personal development (65%). Perhaps unsurprisingly, work-life balance and lack of job fulfilment (63%) tied for the second biggest reasons why workers jumped into a new field. 

Daniella says why we’re looking for more satisfying careers in 2023: “The increase in mental health awareness and work-life balance has contributed to the growing trend of seeking more fulfilling and satisfying careers.

“Another factor contributing to career change is the growing desire to make a positive environmental impact. This has become more necessary for many people due to an increased awareness of social and environmental issues. Issues like climate change, social inequality and political instability have led to many individuals feeling a greater responsibility to take action and make a positive impact through their work.”

The rise of flexible education 

With switching careers becoming increasingly popular across many industries, there are now more ways than ever to gain qualifications achievable around your existing lifestyle.

From micro-credentials that offer stackable credits to online degrees that allow you to study from home – the traditional path of education is being disrupted by this rise of new flexible alternatives, making career transitioning more prevalent than ever.

The evolving nature of work has vastly broadened career horizons regardless of your educational background. Venturing into a completely new field, from business and management to teaching, is a path that has been made much more accessible for workers today.

The data also reveals the industries people stay in from graduation to retirement. Those who work in IT and telecoms are the most likely to still work in the same industry as their degree (56%). In contrast, those who have a degree in HR are more likely to work in a different industry to their degree now compared to those working in other industries (38%).

What skills are needed to make a career change?

Yvonne considers: “The skills you have in your toolkit can be your strength and weakness when making a career change. One of the main benefits of job-hopping is the adaptable skills acquired from past roles. However, skills gaps can cause significant blockers, deterring people from jumping into a new field.”

The three skills cited as most vital to making a career change were teamwork, communication and problem-solving – proving the value of transferable skills. 

Despite the world becoming increasingly tech-focused and the ever-advancing progression of AI intelligence, less than a quarter of respondents cited digital skills as vital for a career change

Interestingly, learning a second language has been revealed as the most in-demand skill, with 40% of people keen to become bilingual.

Looking to switch careers but unsure where to start?

Daniella advises: “A good first step to take when thinking about switching careers is to research different career options. Identify roles that align with your interests, skills and personal values.

“Use this to create a development plan for acquiring any necessary skills or education to make it easier to transition into a new career.”

Yvonne highlights: “If you’re anxious about your qualifications, upskilling is a great way to gain new expertise and revitalise your career prospects. The variety of online learning opportunities available today makes it easier to build in-demand career skills, wherever and whenever suits you.”

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