Expert Advice on Reinventing Your Professional Career / Technology / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Amy Hannington, editor of offers good, concrete advice about making smart career transitions and how professional...

Rare is the person today who earns a degree, is hired by a big company, and works there for the entirety of his or her career. According to data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people change jobs around 11 times over their working lifetime. It is not unusual today for workers in their 30s or 40s to go back to school and change professions altogether. spoke with Amy Hannington, editor of, about reinventing a professional career, and where to start when making that change. Q. The progress report by the Independent Reviewer on Social Mobility and Child Poverty states that in the UK, having a job in "the professions" - forms of work requiring training and formal qualification - is a key to social mobility. Yet many people can feel overwhelmed at the prospect of, say, giving up their hourly job and going back to school to train for a professional career. How can a person decide if it's finally time to take that big step?

A. Yes it is true that being a professional involves training and qualifications. However, luckily, there are many other ways of taking "that big step" without having to give up your paid work. Many professional bodies offer qualifications that can be studied for on a part-time basis, and others will take people on that are working at a lower level and let them train towards professional status while they work. Take a look at to find out more. We at are working with professional bodies to encourage more of them to operate in this way, so that it's not just a select few that are able to train for a professional career. Fair access to the professions is background to all of our work.

Q. When a professional is downsized out of their job, what is the first step they should take toward finding a new one? Asking for references? Writing a new resume? It's not easy to know what the next step is in a difficult situation like losing a job.

A. Unfortunately, in recent years, many people have been through experiences like this. First of all, it's important to make sure that before this stage, you make sure you are part of a professional body or union. Also ensure that you are up to date in your profession and have proof of your achievements. If it does come to someone losing their position, then yes I would certainly recommend making sure that person gets references before beginning to work on updating their CV and looking for work. Networking with others in their field via social media and professional body events and the like is a great way to find new work.

Q. When making a career change, how can a person draw on their work experience and bring it into an entirely new profession?

A. In today's job market, it is becoming more and more accepted that the majority of people out there have a diverse range of work experience from different fields. There are transferable skills in whatever kind of work experience a person has, but it's important to give clear examples rather than talk vaguely about communication skills and so on. For example, if someone has taught English to children in Thailand, they have experience not only of teaching (for a career in teaching back home) but of working with children (maybe they fancy trying some youth work), linguistics (perhaps getting trained up as a translator), or leading activities (which might be useful for project management). You can see how those looking for work in a new field need to break down their experiences according to the most important skills for the profession they are aiming for.

Q. If a person is part of a professional organization, such as the American Bar Association or the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers, what can he or she do to encourage young people to invest the effort and money required to become qualified for a profession, particularly with the cost of college so high?

A. Almost all professional bodies offer student subscriptions -- check out our Profession Finder to see specific examples. The requirements for student or associate members are also far less than those for full members, and professional bodies will support young people to work their way up the ladder, with the help of mentors,  online resources and much more. Most professional bodies are incredibly proud of their younger members and will publish their stories of success widely.

Q. What are some signs that it may be time for a different career altogether? It's tough in today's economy to give up any paying job, but sometimes a career just isn't a good fit. What are some signs that it may be time for a different career?

A. Although everyone has their bad days, it is important that people generally enjoy their jobs and find them rewarding. What this involves is different for everyone. I think gut feelings play a big part here, but sitting down and writing a list of pros and cons of your current career is not a bad idea if you're feeling unsure. Sometimes, it might be that a change of employer, or going self-employed, is a better move for you than a change of profession. However, if you do feel that you're just in the wrong field, you shouldn't feel scared -- plenty of people are changing careers at many different times in their lives and there's lots of support out there. The best people to turn to in this situation are the experts in your field (current or prospective) -- the professional bodies!

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Photo Credit: City of Marietta, GA


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