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The ten-year career itch: Research reveals 31 is the age most UK workers change career path

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New research from leading recruiter, Michael Page, has revealed the average age that workers look to change careers. Employees aged 31 are much more likely to consider a role or even industry switch according to the latest Michael Page Pulse which surveyed 5,000 UK workers.

Of those surveyed, 26% said they were considering a change in the ‘not-too-distant’ future, with 44% already having made the leap to something new – and an overwhelmingly positive 68% of these said that they had ‘never looked back’.

The top reasons cited for a career change include better earning opportunities (33%) and yearning for roles they are more passionate about (32%). Employee demand for a better work/life balance remains near front of mind for today’s workers as 19% cited this as motivation for a career change.

The economic turbulence of recent months has also prompted change within the workforce, with 15% of respondents saying redundancy helped them seize the opportunity to switch.

Education and healthcare are the industries that are most in demand, according to the new research. Of those surveyed one in ten (10%) said they have or would consider moving into healthcare and a similar number said the same of education (9%).

Doug Rode, Managing Director UK & Ireland at global recruitment specialist Michael Page, which commissioned the research, said: “Changing career can be daunting and feelings of uncertainty are natural when faced with such a major decision. But job hunters should be empowered by our findings, which show that 68% of people who have made the switch ‘never looked back’.”

“Whatever is driving you to seek change, be that the calling to pursue a personal passion or getting back to work following a redundancy, it is important to take the time to properly research and plan out your next steps.

“Whilst this data shows that 31 is the national average age to change career, everyone is different. You shouldn’t feel under pressure to make decisions about the future of your career until you feel the time is right. Assess your skills, your drivers and your ambition, and then find a career to match – there are plenty of opportunities in the market for workers who are open to taking them.”

The research also explored what makes a successful career change, as training and development for new roles or industries is often necessary. Online courses emerged as a favoured route by respondents (25%) with a further 14% saying going back to university made their career change smoother.

When it comes to funding this training, 42% self-funded their studies but one fifth (21%) said their employer footed the bill, reflecting a growing trend from businesses to invest in their talent. A lucky 13% of workers surveyed said they had already developed the necessary transferable skills from their current role that enabled a clean transition to their new career or industry.

Timing is everything however, and given economic headwinds, the research suggests that workers are mindful of timelines for career changes. For workers still considering a switch, the average time frame for planning a career move is 13 months – showing just how seriously today’s workers are taking their career choices.

Meanwhile, for those who had decided to make the move, the average time spent between first considering a career change and landing a job was 10 months.

Those in the hiring seat should be mindful of these timeframes, as well the reasons a worker may reconsider their move. For some workers who have considered switching careers, this critical thinking time has led them to curtail their plans. Insecurity, particularly financial, was the top reason cited by respondents (27%) who did not feel able to potentially reduce their earnings as a result of changing careers.

A lack of confidence amongst workers (23%) and uncertainty about skills (20%) were the next biggest concerns among workers. Additionally, 15% said they felt their age was a hindrance, stating their concern about being older than their contemporaries if they were to make a change.

The study has also highlighted a trend that HR leaders and hiring managers should be aware of: the rise of temporary workers. In a time of upheaval and uncertainty, 54% of respondents stated they had or would consider taking a temp role to support their career change process. 41% said this approach to the journey offered them greater flexibility, and a further 27% said it can help build opportunities and experience in other industries.

Other workplace trends that emerged from the research include the rise of ‘boomerang’ workers – 31% of workers said they would consider to a role with a previous employer and 13% said they’ve already done so. For hiring managers seeking to entice back top talent, proximity to home (12%), the feeling of safety with the company (9%) and direct asks from employers to return to the business (9%) were the top reasons behind becoming a ‘boomerang’.

Doug Rode added: “Today’s workers have more agency and confidence than ever before, and our new research shows how this is reflected in their career choices. The previous blueprint of a linear career path has been largely consigned to history. Today’s workers are prioritising their own fulfilment at work and are more open than ever to pivoting if something feels more aligned to their values.

“It is heartening to see that, even in the current economic climate, swathes of workers are committed to finding their dream career.

“Post-pandemic, we have created a unique landscape where workers have access to so many different opportunities. Today, it’s normal to hop between jobs until you land on the right one. It’s easier than ever to move between temporary and permanent roles in a bid to try out a new function or industry. Opportunity is out there, regardless of what age you are – there’s always time to change up your path and find a career that puts a spring in your step each day.”

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