Need a new vocation? Career coach Kay Senior helps identify your transferable skills.

Sometimes career change happens when it’s the last thing you want. You may be perfectly happy in your line of work but suddenly find yourself out of a job. Alarming numbers of women, from post-maternity-leavers to the over 50s and 60s have, in some cases, experienced a whole series of redundancies and ‘efficiencies’. That job for life has disappeared like raindrops down a grate.

But we’re not done yet and there are so many things we could be doing rather than lamenting our long-lost career. And if you’re in one of those industries where it’s increasingly hard to make a good enough living, it might be time to see what options are open to you.

Rather than walking away from your whole profession and completely switching to something else, there may be a way to use the skills and expertise that you have and turn them into something else. Or you may need to learn a few new skills in order to take a sideways step. Whatever the case, it’s important to remind yourself of all the wealth of knowledge and experience you have and how valuable that will be to someone. It’s just a matter of working out what you can do with what you can do.

You may also have unfulfilled ambitions or feel you’ve spent too many years putting other people in your life first

“I get asked about this every day,” says career coach Kay Senior. “People in general are resistant to change, especially when it’s forced on them. But interestingly, when it comes to career transitions many of those who have change imposed upon them later admit that it was the best thing that happened in the long run. Many admit that they weren’t properly engaged for the last couple of years anyway – either they fell out of love with their job or felt sidelined in the company. But I’m a big believer in people doing what they may at first consider the impossible – giving themselves a fresh start. So while you might be scared you may also have unfulfilled ambitions or feel you’ve spent too many years putting other people in your life first. You may think ‘As frightening as it is, I want to make a change’. And women are good at driving change”.

“For others it’s less about being pushed out of your job and more about the fact that you’ve juggled other priorities for so long – your parents, your children, following your partner’s career, feeling you’ve got to be all things to all people and having no time for yourself. Now finding yourself an empty nester or just needed a bit less by your family means you can focus more on what you want. We’re always telling our children to go for it, follow your dreams, do what you love. Why shouldn’t we do the same for ourselves?”

“Despite what people hear about age being a blocker, in my personal experience women that have the energy and the enthusiasm to make career changes, whether it be to return to work, to change a career or to adopt an entirely different work pattern to suit them, will often thrive. More and more woman are retraining, attending colleges and universities and setting up businesses in their forties, fifties and sixties then ever before. The key to success is the desire coupled with the drive and determination to make it happen”.

We’re always telling our children to go for it, follow your dreams, do what you love. Why shouldn’t we do the same for ourselves?

Kay’s advice:

If you aren’t good at identifying your own skills, sit down with a colleague or friend, somebody who is going to be honest with you and really knows you. What are the three strengths that you have, that people rely on you for?

Get your job spec out at work. If you think “I can’t do anything,” look at that job spec – you were recruited to do it, so these are at least some of your skills.

Transferable skills might not be work related. You may have never worked, but brought up children, managed a home and a budget, been on the PTA, volunteered, been a carer.

Go to a career coach or talk to somebody who can help you really take a good look at what’s possible, challenge you on it and explore.

You may take what you do every day for granted. Just because it’s not difficult for you and comes naturally, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a whole raft of transferable skills. If you have the basics (see list below), the rest of it can be learnt.

Where to start if you’re looking for a new career

Combine skills and passion

Think laterally about how you can work in ways you would find more fulfilling. Think about what you love, what you’re good at and how you could combine them to earn an income. Doing something you love will give you all the motivation you need to make it happen.

Think outside the box

Write down all the things you are good at, that you’re capable of doing and think outside the box – ask everybody you meet for two or three days about what jobs you could do based on your skills and experience. You may hear about things you’ve never thought of.


If you’re really scared of going out to work for the first time, do some voluntary work. Look at local volunteering sites in your area. Discovering you can do things you may have never tried before gives you confidence and access to a network of people – and also a potential reference.

Less of the ‘old’

Don’t obsess over your age. You don’t need to tell anyone what year you left school or share your school certificates when applying for jobs. Just think about how you’re portraying yourself and dress appropriately for the interview.


Do some searching and googling to see what’s out there. To explore different roles and sectors and the skills required go to onetonline.org.

What employers look for most in the people they employ:

•Communication skills
•Enthusiasm for your work and organisation
•Good work ethic
•Taking responsibility
•Efficient planning
•Positive attitude
•Ability to adapt

Words: Marina Gask

To contact Kay Senior: www.kseniorcoaching.com.

Looking for expert advice? The Audrey Members’ Club is a whole world of support, coaching and expertise for women through self-employment, changing careers, running a business or launching one. Join us to kickstart your future, whatever that may be.