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Key questions before retraining

If you are someone for whom this passing thought has never gone away, there are several things to consider before taking the plunge

There cannot be many people who have not given at least a passing thought to retraining. If you are someone for whom this passing thought has never gone away, there are several things to consider before taking the plunge and retraining.

1. Consider all your options

While you may know exactly what you want to do, have you spoken to anyone about your plans? This might be a professional careers advisor or a supportive family member or friend. The aim is not only to rubber-stamp your decision but also to ensure you have considered all your options; in addition, it may help you to formulate a back-up plan in case your first choice does not work out.

2. How do you achieve your dream job?

Many people assume that they must retrain or gain additional educational qualifications to get a new job in a different field. For some careers this is essential, of course, but gaining a qualification rarely automatically equals a new career. A further period of apprenticeship or on-the-job training is usually necessary.

As unpalatable as it is, some education providers are only too happy to take their customers’ money without sharing the true situation regarding future job prospects. It is always sensible to look at the figures yourself and ask how many of those who have completed the training, or gained the qualification, end up working in the field.

Also remember that retraining is not always necessary; for example, volunteering can sometimes be an alternative. Not only is this an excellent way to test the waters and gain valuable experience but also it can showcase an individual’s potential, or transferrable skills, to those already working in the field.

Work experience can have similar effects. This may not always be easy to find, but opportunities are there for the persistent and it is worth considering whether you know anyone who might be able to offer that elusive work experience or perhaps act as coach or mentor; on addition, professional bodies sometimes offer mentoring programmes.

3. If you need to retrain, do you know what this involves?

Some professions, such as medicine and law, have very specific entry requirements, with little room for manoeuvre; however, course providers may differ slightly in what they expect from applicants, in how they run their courses, and in the prospects for their graduates. Investigation is key. Professional bodies can be a great help when it comes to weighing up these issues, while other career-changers can seek help from the National Careers Service.

4. How will you pay for your retraining?

Applicants looking to do a first-time undergraduate degree may be eligible for a student loan. Grants and bursaries are also a possibility, but success in gaining one may depend on knowing that they are available and how to apply for them. Again, professional bodies and educational institutions are good places to go for advice, as is the National Careers Service.

Even those lucky enough to be awarded some form of financial support are likely to find that it does not cover all the associated costs. Many people make ends meet by drawing on their savings or by doing a part-time job.

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