If you spend Sunday nights with a knot in your stomach and increasing anxiety about the next morning, it is time to consider a career change. However, before you triumphantly quit and walk out the door, do some careful thinking about what’s going on and what you want to do to avoid leaving one problem and walking into another.
While changing jobs is fairly common, most people go on to new companies to take on more senior positions in their field or higher paying gigs that are similar to what they are doing now. Much less common is switching careers entirely, such as leaving accounting to become a marketing professional. That is not to say it cannot be done, but it is the road less traveled. It is harder than finding a new employer in your field, so it requires more planning and preparation.
Transitioning to a New Career Successfully
Changing careers is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make, with many possible consequences and outcomes. Before you make the jump, consider the following ten questions to ensure you are ready:
- Why Are You Changing? If you hate your job, the natural instinct is to start completely fresh somewhere else. However, a total career change may not be necessary. Spend some time reflecting on what exactly is making you miserable. If it is your boss or coworkers, you may be able to lessen your annoyance by switching to a new department or getting hired by a competitor in the same industry. If you feel bored or unchallenged, proactively bring to your boss projects you would like to work on that would help enrich your experience. In some cases, minor tweaks rather than a drastic change can improve your job satisfaction significantly.
What Are Your Expenses and Obligations Like? If you switch careers, you will start several steps down on the corporate ladder, such as going from a management position to an entry-level assistant. That change is often associated with a much lower salary. To make the transition, evaluate your expenses and assets. You may find that it is not financially feasible for you to take a pay cut right now, but that if you cut back on eating out, move to a smaller home or eliminate other extras over the next few months, you can bulk up your savings and the lower pay would be doable. Whether or not a new career with less pay is worth it can only be determined by you, your needs and your loved ones.
- Are You Switching For More Income? If you work in a field that is not as lucrative as others, you probably have thought about going into law or engineering so you could earn more money. However, while they can be high-paying career paths, if you do not have the passion for the subject matter, you’ll be walking into a depressing and crushing work environment.
- Are Others Pressuring You? It is common to have some well-meaning loved one pressure to you to switch careers find something that pays better, is more prestigious or is safer. You should not choose a job to please someone else; you are the one that has to go to work every day, so make your own choice.
- Have You Examined Your Options? Make sure you understand all the possibilities available to you. While you may think you have to switch a new career with a corporation, freelancing or consulting may be a better gig for you regarding pay and flexibility. Moonlight after work can be a good way to test the waters of your new career and see if it is something you would enjoy for the long term. Consider all potential avenues to make the best decision.
- What Experience Do You Have in the New Field? If you do not have much experience in the field you want to switch to, you may find it difficult to get a new job. Consider additional training or education to give you the best chance of securing the right role. From college certificate courses to interning, there are ways to get valuable experience—and find out if you enjoy the work—without spending thousands on a new degree.
- Are Your Skills Up to Date? When switching careers, technology skills are key. While you may use industry-specific programs in your current job, you’ll likely need a foundation in other programs too. From Microsoft Suite to social media platforms, brushing up on commonly used services and software can help ease the transition.
- Whom Do You Know in The Field? Switching careers requires help from professional connections. If you are not sure anyone in your desired industry, build your network by attending an industry conference, setting up informational interviews and even reaching out to professionals on LinkedIn to get their advice.
- Is Your New Field Popular Where You Live? Some industries thrive in particular areas and have plenty of opportunities, while other locales will have virtually no positions available at all. For instance, if you are interested in the hospitality industry, Orlando and Central Florida would be a great location, but a small town would not. If you were interested in technology, Silicon Valley is a natural choice. Evaluate what your home’s relationship is with the industry; if there are limited positions available, you’ll have to decide if moving is possible for your family.
- Do You Have a Plan? Finally, to change careers successfully, you need a detailed action plan. A career change can take several months and requires significant work from you, from networking to building a portfolio and applying to jobs. By making a plan that incorporates how much notice you need to give, how much money you need to save and who key industry contacts are can help you accomplish your goals.
Career changes are becomingly increasingly common, as people leave their jobs to pursue their real passions and interests. While switching to a whole new industry can be challenging and often requires sacrifice, it can also be very rewarding. By preparing in advance for what will be needed and thinking through all the variables, you can position yourself for a successful career change.