People want to change careers for a wide range of reasons – more satisfactory work, better pay, new challenges, pursuing their true passion, and more. Perhaps your core values or career goals have changed, you’ve discovered new interests, or just want to do something less stressful. But before you make such an important decision that will affect all other aspects of your life, you need to ask yourself some questions. You need to evaluate your current situation, explore different career options, and decide which career will be most satisfying.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of times people change jobs in a lifetime is 12. So, if you are thinking about making a change, you are not alone. However, taking action on those thoughts can be daunting. For some people, switching job functions mid-career may mean dropping a stable, well-paying job and heading down uncharted waters. For others, it can feel like taking a step backward, but it doesn’t have to be. We all experience moments in our careers when we stop feeling impactful, engaged, or fulfilled, and staying engaged is essential to your job satisfaction.
Should you change careers? Regardless of the circumstances, there are strategies you can rely on to set yourself up for a career change. The first thing to do is to figure out why you’re even considering a career change.
Questions to Ask Yourself about Career Change
- Current career – what works and what doesn’t work for you?
Sit down and write out the things that don’t work for you in your current job position. Do you feel unfulfilled? Are you constantly micromanaged? Do you need more flexibility? Make a list to get a visual representation of the things compelling you to change careers and to understand what you want from your next career. You should also jot down all the things you enjoy about your present career to serve as reference points of what you want and don’t want in your next career. Writing down the pros and cons of leaving your job will help you get a broader perspective.
- What is important in your life (beyond your career)?
There are so many career options out there, and making a decision can sometimes be overwhelming. This is known as “choice overload” or “overchoice,” and it is a cognitive process in which one has a difficult time making a decision (due to being faced with so many options). So, start from what you need as a human being (not just in your career). If your priority is to be home with your elderly parents or children or having enough time to enjoy a sport, you need to take that into consideration. Some people seek a career that fulfills their sense of purpose, while others may just want to create a work situation that allows them to do other important things.
- What career will allow you to express your values?
Your work values are the qualities that make you who you are. When they are expressed in your work, that typically leads to greater levels of performance, energy, and fulfillment. We all have a unique set of values, and they can be anything from family to creativity to collaboration to autonomy. It is crucial to know what your work values are before deciding on your next career. Who are you at your best? What do others count on you for? How does a potential career allow you to spend time with those people? Even if you find a potential career that can pay you beyond what you could imagine, not being able to express your values could make you feel dissatisfied (again).
- What career will support you in manifesting your vision for your life?
Try to envision your life ten years from now. Ask yourself about things you are doing, who you are with, what impacts you are making, and what people are saying about you. Once you have a clear vision, consider what career can support living up it. Create the perfect job description that aligns with your wants and needs, then consider a few roles, skills, and experience you need to grow into and develop in order to fulfill your vision.
- Are there any barriers to entry into your new career?
Regardless of which career you choose, every choice comes with its own set of challenges and obstacles to overcome. Some of the challenges include not having a network to tap into when searching for a job, ageism, competition with more experienced candidates, or lack of the right credentials and training. The key is being aware of as many obstacles as possible and preparing yourself to work either through or around them when/if they surface. Making requests for informational interviews and networking with potential employers or people from the industry are essential when making a career change.
- Are you ready to start from the bottom?
When deciding to switch specialties within your current line of work, you probably already have a network of people who can help you and some prior knowledge about the work. In that case, you won’t have to start from scratch. But when choosing a career in a different industry, the change is not necessarily a direct line. Are you willing to take some different positions as stepping stones to get where you want to be? You should be ready for an unpaid internship, volunteering, consulting assignments, a part-time job, or a job that includes parts of what you want. Any of those options will ultimately lead you to your goal, just not fast enough.
If you’re not willing to do the grunt work required on the way to your new job, then you may not be able to convince the hiring people that your interest is genuine. You must be aware of what you will bring to the new role, as well as what is missing in it.
- Can you afford it?
Most career changes involve some kind of cost, whether direct or indirect. For example, if you need to get some education and professional development, you must be ready to cover the education expenses. If you can’t work while in school, you will have to give up some income (an opportunity cost). And once you manage to make a career change, you will get an entry salary that is lower than what you earned before. Will you be able to afford basic things (e.g., bills, rent, groceries, etc.) on your new salary?
Yes, You Should Change Careers Because…
You’ve been thinking about doing it for a while. Waiting for the perfect moment to make such a big life decision will never come. The perfect time is now, so if you had been thinking about changing careers for some time, make the first step. Many professionals out there decided to switch careers while they were at a peak in their careers. Perhaps it was time when they thought they shouldn’t make a change, but just because it seems like the wrong time (in general) doesn’t mean it is not the right time for you.
You have great ideas prompted by the current market. Changing careers in order to get away from your old job is a lousy approach. What you want is to be attracted to your new career. If you’ve found a new passion or new interests, then these are signs it’s time to pursue new options. You probably don’t even have to quit your old job immediately because the first step in changing careers is actually making life changes (not mere job searching).
You have severance that can fund your job search. The role or industry you begin with is not the one you have to stay in forever. Some people get so entangled in their immediate job or day-to-day business that they don’t take a proactive and long-term view of their career. If you’re content in your current career but can’t make any more progress, then it’s the right time to reconsider or redesign your career.
You live for the weekend. If you end up wishing your days away just living for the weekend, it’s a clear sign that it’s time to move forward, get out of your comfort zone, and start thinking about how to make a successful career change.
You are feeling envious towards your friend’s jobs. If you are constantly feeling jealous of your friends who (seemingly) have much better jobs than you, you need to realize that people change jobs all the time and that you’re also capable of changing career paths. First, figure out why you are feeling jealous about it. Once you figure it out, start looking for a job that has the qualities you need.
Be Pragmatic and Realistic
Before making the transition to your new career, you should have an action plan into place. Is there any pre-planning for you to do before embarking on a new career path? Is there any new research, education, or skills you need to acquire to make the transition process successful? Are you due for a big bonus, promotion, or raise? Do you need to save money to create a runway for making the transition? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then postponing your career change may make sense. It is important to be pragmatic and realistic regarding your personal situation and the transition.
Are you experiencing signs of stress, are demotivated and lack energy, feel like your job isn’t taking you anywhere, and are constantly thinking about quitting? These are all signs that it’s time to change jobs. Every stage in your career providers opportunities to learn more about your talents, challenges, interests, and values. You don’t have to perceive your career choices as missteps because those kinds of situations are often the most transformational and informative on a journey to a fulfilling career.
Remember that changing careers takes practice, patience, and time. You don’t want to take on too many new things at once and eventually overwhelm yourself. New skills are best learned in small doses over time. Following these steps and answering key questions will guide any job seeker to make a midlife career change.
If you can’t seem to find answers by yourself, you can talk with an expert from MyComputerCareer on how to start your new life as an IT professional. You will receive career advice on how to browse jobs, behave during a job interview, adjust your resume, and write a killer cover letter.
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