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When a career change means starting from scratch
Changing careers3 min read

When a career change means starting from scratch

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The office and the open road are miles apart when it comes to workplaces.

Raymond Bear swapped one for the other, trading a role in IT for a very different one taking road trains across rural highways.

With no experience and few transferable skills to help him get started, it was a pretty big change in direction.

But by planning out his path over time, he’s been able to make the change and land the role that’s just right for him.

Why the change?

Bear went from being a successful technical architect in the thriving IT industry to ultimately landing his ideal role as a road train operator – a move that was all about making a change professionally and personally.

In IT, Bear was finding less sense of purpose in the work he was doing, and he’d slowly become disillusioned with the industry. “Almost all of my time was being spent on projects that cost a lot money but added no real value,” he says.

Instead he craved practical work where the results of his labour were tangible. He was also keen to move out of the city and back to the rural setting he loved when growing up.

“Agriculture was the most common form of employment in the area I wanted to move to so I started researching what jobs I could qualify for, and what qualifications and experience I would need to obtain to build a career for the long run,” Bear says.

Starting out small

Given IT and agriculture have little in common – and few transferable skills – Bear knew he’d have to start out small and work his way up. He looked online for work on farms, and quickly realised getting his heavy vehicle license would be an important step.

“Most of the agriculture job advertisements said this license was essential and most of the people I knew that work in the field have one,” he says.

Once he had the license, he applied for a seeding job on a farm, knowing he didn’t need a lot of new skills or experience for it, and that it was the season farmers needed to boost their staff to get the task done. He was successful thanks to some farm experience he had gained by helping a friend out. Demonstrating a strong work ethic through his time in IT was also useful, given the hard graft required through the season.

The seeding job gave him valuable experience working with larger farming equipment, which helped put him on the path to his ideal role.

Taking it one step at a time   

Bear had 20 years’ experience in IT, including running his own business, and knew the career switch would come with a big change in finances, especially in the beginning. Because of this – as well as being aware his vision might not quite match the reality – he decided to keep a foot in both fields and make the transition slowly.

Once the seeding season finished, Bear returned to the city and to IT, and started looking for a job located in the area he wanted to settle long-term. Within a year, he picked up a job for harvesting season, which then led to a full-time gig on another farm where he spent four years learning to operate all kinds of large machinery.

Here he learned through colleagues that upgrading his license to Multi Combination/Road Train (MC) would allow him to pick up extra work – and income – driving a pocket road train when farming was quiet.

This was the move that led to him finding his ideal job.

“I found I actually enjoyed sitting in the driver’s seat of a truck and wanted to make it a full-time thing – which I now do, earning almost as much as I used to in IT, minus the stress and in a community I love!”

Being prepared for challenges

Bear says he’s glad he took a slow and steady approach, as making a move like this can come with hurdles.

His advice to anyone considering a major career change is to work out your budget before making any big moves.

“I knew changing careers was going to mean a big drop in income – and mine dropped by well over 50% at first, so I highly recommend making sure you can still afford some sort of standard of living until you gain experience in your new career and therefore an increase in salary,” Bear says.

Here are his tips for a big career switch:

  • Be realistic about the change. It might not match your expectations, so keep your options open in the industry you’re transitioning from.
  • Do your research. Keeping an eye on job ads will give you an idea of the positions that could suit your skill level, and the training that could give you a foot in the door.
  • Live on a budget and build up some savings. You may have to take a pay cut for a while as you build skills and experience. So, before you make the move, try living on an entry-level amount, saving any extra income for the early days in your new field.
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