How do you know if you’re making the right decision to change careers?
A career change can feel both exciting, and daunting, to consider – especially if it’s been years since you were in the market. Depending on your specific circumstances, you may be contemplating a change to find more purpose in your life, dreaming of finding a new direction during unemployment, eager to get a big pay bump, or have some other goal that is driving the need for broader exploration.
Career changing isn’t for the faint of heart; it takes grit, optimism, courage, time and, often, resources that you’re redirecting from other areas of your life. It’s worth doing your homework, so before you dive in head first, give this list a read to be sure you aren’t making these common mistakes.
- Investing money in further education without being sure you’re pursuing the right career.
Spending money on your education can be a wise investment, but only if you’re sure you’re learning in the direction you want to grow. Before you enroll in any new courses, or shell out money for a training program, get crystal clear on what you want to be doing, so you can then focus more easily on the how.
- Quitting your job without having a plan.
This can be a major temptation, especially if you’re feeling extremely dissatisfied in your current role. Perhaps you know someone who’s taken the leap and it worked out, or you’re just so fed up that you’re considering taking action without a plan. While the temptation is understandable, it’s important to think through your next steps before making any big changes. Not only will this help to keep your life afloat financially, but it can also make a difference down the road in how employable you appear to future employers.
- Changing careers altogether when you’re burnt out, when perhaps the problem is your employer, not the work itself.
Before you go jumping from one career to another, take a step back and assess what exactly is causing you the most distress in your current situation. If you still like the content of your role, but perhaps are butting heads with a manager, consider looking for a similar role within another organization where you could continue building up your existing skill set, or try to find a way to create a more tolerable environment within your current organization until that next step is more feasible.
- Making a career change because you “should,” or for the money/benefits.
When it comes to your job search, there is really no one you should listen to except your own inner voice. Money and title can be very enticing, but if those aren’t core to who you are, then they’re not the kinds of perks you should be chasing after. Determine what’s most important to you, and then go after a role that can give you what you’re really looking for.
- Limiting your networking to the people that are in your close circle of friends.
Leveraging your network is one of the most impactful ways to find new work and build new professional relationships. So why limit your network to just those that you know well? By adding acquaintances or colleagues to your network, or friends of friends in companies or positions complementary to you, you’re exponentially expanding the breadth and possibility of your own network to leverage now and in the future.
- Choosing or changing careers based solely on family advice or expectations.
This is very similar to point four. The only person who should be dictating your career decisions is you. If you have a spouse and/or a family, considering the implications of your work and schedule on them is, of course, very important. But you’re the one who will be working in this position 40+ hours/week, and above all, you need to make sure that what you do is not just a tolerable way to fill your days, but something that will give your career meaning and purpose.
- Going on interviews for your new career without crafting a new resume or personal marketing message.
Anytime you’re embarking on a new job search, you want to present yourself with the most polished, up-to-date version of your professional persona. This includes updating your resume with all relevant skills and experience, and creating a personal statement about your experience that is tailored to the new career you’re seeking. It’s a competitive market out there, and you want to go into any interaction with your best foot forwards.
- Jumping at the first career option that’s offered to you out of desperation.
Depending on the circumstances under which you’ve started this search, you may feel desperate to take anything that comes your way. But just any old job isn’t the solution — you want the right job. While it can be tempting to take the first offer handed to you just because it’s a viable option, take the time to wait for a position that you’re well suited for, and that will match your lifestyle and professional aspirations for the future. It will be worth it in the long run.
- Deciding on a path without exploring all the possibilities and identifying your true interests, abilities, and work values.
Even though it can feel daunting, it’s really important to take a step back from what you’ve done before, and what you’re doing now, to really assess what will be the best fit for you in the future. Sometimes people will start a career in one industry, and find after several years that it isn’t the right fit for them, at least not for the rest of their lives. So if you’re considering a job change, or are in the midst of one, do yourself a favor and take the time to think through all of the important details. What are your greatest skills? What work do you actually enjoy doing? What values are important for you in a workplace? What benefits are non-negotiables? Make note of anything that feels important, and use those parameters to help you find your next position.
- Investigating a longer-term career change, including possible schooling, without also considering solid financial planning and advice to see you through the transition.
As we mentioned, there are some people who get to a point in their career where they really just desperately need a change. And sometimes, that change is monumental. But with big change often comes the need for an investment of time and/or money, which should not be taken lightly. If you’re considering switching industries, or moving into a role that requires a particular type of degree or schooling, make sure you think through all the implications of that decision before taking action.
There are a lot of moving parts when you’re considering, or in the midst of, a career change. Perhaps you’re looking for a complete career overhaul, or maybe you just need a change of workplace scenery. Whatever the impetus, you should invest the time and energy you deserve into thinking through what’s working, what’s not working, and what you hope for the future. By putting in the time during this transition, you’ll set yourself up nicely for an even better next chapter of your professional career, one that will fill both your wallet and your soul.
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