Key Points:

The days of sticking to one job for your entire working life in order to climb up the corporate ladder are long gone. It has become acceptable, if not expected, that you will change "careers" a few times in your lifetime, but how do you do this without having to go back to studying?

Career Services' Takapu career consultant Janine Begg says firstly we need to clarify the term "career".

"Often, we get hung up on the idea of a career and do not concentrate on the range of options available today to earn a living. These days we don't have to stick to one career through our lifetime. Yes, 30 years ago there was such a thing as the career ladder or a 'job for life'. You had one job and moved up the structures within that job."

Begg says there is a much broader definition of career now. "Everything industrious we do with our mind and hands counts."

If we take everything we do in our lives as part of our career, such as caregiving, further education, recreation and community work, then thinking in terms of a change of career does not make much sense. "It's more than a change of career, it's about moving forward - having all your skills fit in the context of your whole life. It's about developing your skills and using those personal and professional developments to move forward and, sometimes, move into different areas."

She says she has met many people who don't like their jobs and who come to her at Career Services to find a way of moving into something they prefer. "Often they are held back by finances and confidence. People might say: 'But look at what the job that I want to do pays. It's so much less than what I'm earning now'."

Begg says she tells these people to present her with "five non-negotiables". "These could be: money, fun, not working in an office, working on the North Shore, whatever." Then she tells them to trade two of them.

"You're not being flexible if you want everything. Sometimes you have to trade things to get what you want."

She points out that if you do change jobs, it's quite likely that you'll start off by earning less.

"However, of course we all need money - few people can afford to drop their earnings, particularly if they have dependents, mortgages and other responsibilities. Sometimes that job change is not possible straight away.

"If that's the case, then find your passion in off-work time if you can't make sacrifices.

"Volunteer for something, get involved in an association or club. The history of what you do can be transferable into a new career later on."

Begg suggests thinking in these terms: "When you are renovating a house, you may need to live in the living room while the bedroom is being painted. While you're moving into a new job, you may have to hold on to the old one while you're developing the skills needed."

An important tool for convincing an employer to give you a try even if you're new to the industry is that all-important curriculum vitae.

Managing director of cv.co.nz Tom O' Neil says when employers place a recruitment advert in a newspaper or a website, they are asking a question. It's up to the applicant to answer that question.

"Too many people say, 'I have done this and that' and simply list things. You need to be aware of the employer in your application. You need to be focused on the role being advertised," he says.

"The solution is not to provide an arbitrary list of skills and achievements, it's to provide an answer to the question. The employer is saying: 'Where do I find someone to fill such a role?' You need to answer: 'Here', and explain why."

"Think - if Tiger Woods had on his CV: 'Golfer, responsibility: Put ball on ground, hit ball.' This is no reflection of how brilliant he really is. It doesn't show his passion for the game."

O'Neil says many people want to become corporate trainers but feel they have no skills in that area.

"Firstly, show a passion for the industry. Perhaps you graduated in human resources, perhaps you are involved in sports coaching, or organise a church group, maybe the yacht club.

"Perhaps you do actually have experience that you're not counting as being experience," he says.

The bottom line, O'Neil says, is to show passion. "If you're wanting to go into the marine industry, show that you have a passion for it. Tell of your love of boats and sailing.

"If you're up against someone who is nine-tenths of what an employer wants, and you are only eight-tenths suitable, you can get the job if you show enthusiasm."

O'Neil suggests looking at the similarities between what you're doing now and the career you want. "Say you want to be part of an air crew but presently you are in insurance. Well, you have customer services skills and attention to detail - things that you'll need working for an airline.

"Combine this with a passion for travel and the airline industry and you have a chance.

"The key is to show the employers that you're not just having a crack, you're a solution to their problem."

O'Neil says that if you've earmarked the career you want to go into, join industry bodies.

"If you want to be an author, join the New Zealand Society of Authors. If it's human resources you're most interested in join the Human Resources Institute of New Zealand.

"Go to the meetings - you'll be meeting professionals in the field you're interested in. Some of these people will have the ability to hire people into their companies."

Sometimes with changing careers, you need to take the long-term view.

O'Neil says: "Firstly, you build relationships and, secondly, you develop the tools you need by doing things for free. This gives you references to put on your CV.

"The long-term view definitely increases your chances. It's about planning."

However, he says it's always good to "have a go". "If you don't apply for something, you've got a 100 per cent chance of not getting the opportunity. The worst that will happen is a no and there's a chance of a yes.

"Take that chance but accept that you will face rejection sometimes. It's just so important to get your CV into the marketplace."

O'Neil adds that it is a good idea to start down the track of qualifications by enrolling for a course in the area you're interested in.

"Put on your CV that you're studying in that area. It shows you are really interested."

But what if you don't quite know what field you want to go into and you only know that you're unhappy where you are?

New Zealand manager for Results Coaching Systems Ruth Donde says it's about looking into what you've done and what skills you have obtained that are transferable.

"It's about answering questions. That's where coaching comes in - we identify things through questioning and looking into what people have done and how their activities and knowledge can be used in a different context.

"An accounts manager at a retail chain does many things. What are that person's skills that can be used elsewhere?

"You need to look at the skills you have developed. Communication and listening skills mean you can facilitate group discussions."

Donde points out that there are professions where training is required no matter what - doctors, lawyers, and accountants. "But to be in the field, you don't necessarily have to train," she says. "You don't have to be a vet to work with animals."

Donde says the key is to see opportunities and what you're capable of. "It's about doing away with limiting beliefs and seeing the possibilities."