Thinking Of Changing Your Career? Here Are What To Consider
If you’re bored, burned-out, or your job just isn’t doing it for you anymore, there’s a good chance you’re ready for a change. But before you make any big moves, you must determine whether it’s the job you don’t like—or your career.
“If you’ve had more than one job in your field and it’s pretty clear to you that no matter where you go, things won’t be any better because you don’t like the type of work you do, then it’s time to make a career change,” says Andy Teach, a corporate veteran and author of From Graduation to Corporation:The Practical Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder One Rung at a Time.
Once you’re able to answer these sixteen questions, you should have what you need to make the right decisions regarding your career change.
1. What do I want?
Start by doing a self-assessment of your values, how you like to work, and what you’d be compelled to do even if you never got paid, says Alexandra Levit, the author of Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success. Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD, organizational psychologist and author of The YOU Plan, agrees. He says it’s important to identify and articulate your core values because they act as your compass, particularly during times of uncertainty and change.
“Most people can’t articulate their core values and thus tend to make the same bad choices over and over again. When your values are dramatically misaligned with those of your employer, you will become disengaged and possibly even disgruntled.”
2. Do I have what it takes?
Anita Attridge, a Five O’Clock Club career and executive coach, says there are two important aspects to consider when you start thinking about a career change. “The first is to clearly understand what you want to do; the second is to understand what the marketplace will allow you to do,” she says.
You need to know what is important to the hiring managers in this new field, and what skills and experience are required. Then you need to figure out if you’ve got what it takes. How do you do that? More self-reflection and research.
3. What can I offer?
Next, take stock of your intrinsic assets, Woodward says. We all have a unique combination of assets such as our personality, skill sets, abilities, and experiences that we bring to bear in all that we do.
To make a successful career change you will need to organize and articulate your assets in a way that you and the prospective employers can easily understand.
4. Are my skills transferable to this new career?
You may not have direct experience in your new career but perhaps some of the skills you’ve learned in your present career are transferable, says Andy Teach, a corporate veteran and author of From Graduation to Corporation: The Practical Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder One Rung at a Time.
For example, if you previously worked in the banking industry and worked with numbers, and now you want to go into accounting, it would seem that this previous experience would be beneficial to your new employer. “There’s still a lot you would have to learn on the job but since you’re in a comfort zone working with dollar signs, this should make the transition easier,” he adds. Again—research can help you determine which of your skills are transferable.
5. Is this career a good fit?
Make an effort to learn as much as you can about job prospects, work-life balance, salary estimates and required skills. “You’ve got to do your homework and do it slowly,” Teach says.
“Making a career change is a life changing event and it’s not a decision to be made lightly.” Find out exactly what this new career entails and what type of background fits well within this career. It’s important to be knowledgeable about your new field before you even begin speaking to other people about it.
6. Which companies would I want to work for?
Also research specific companies in your new field, says Teri Hockett, the chief executive of What’s For Work?, a career site for women.
“Take the time to learn about the companies, the decision makers, and the industry. What issues or problems are most pressing for these companies or industries? Do you possess skills, knowledge, and/or experience to offer possible solutions?”
7. Who can help me?
Once you have narrowed down the target list of companies that you are interested in, start networking, Hockett adds. Ask friends and family if they know anyone working in the field or companies you are interested in, and attend events, trade shows, or conferences where you can meet and engage with people in your field of interest. Set up informational interviews with people who are currently involved in this new industry or career, Teach adds.
“Remember that you’re not speaking to them about a specific job, so ask them all the questions you can, including recommendations on the best way for you to transition into this new career given your previous work experience.”
8. What are the long-term prospects for jobs in this new career?
Find out as much as you can about the future of this profession. If your new industry or field is adding new jobs and will continue to do so, then it’s a smart move to make a career change to this field, Teach says.
But if predictions are that this industry will shrink, this is a warning sign that you should consider.
9. Will I be happier in this career?
There’s no way to know for sure if you’ll be happier in another career—but do what you can to test drive the new profession. Perhaps this means earning a paycheck at your current job while doing a part-time internship in your new field, Levit says.
“The only way to find out if you’re passionate about something is to try it, ideally with as little risk as you can manage.”
10. Am I willing to start over?
Once you’ve done your research, talked to people in the field and trialed the new profession, think about whether you’d be willing to start from scratch for this new career. “You may have 15 years of experience in your current profession, but if many of your skills are not transferable, are you willing to start at the bottom and work your way up in your new career?” Teach says.
“This may be a blow to your ego and to your wallet but if it’s truly a change that will make you happy, then go for it.”
11. Is this the right time to make a career change?
Is your current position stable? Are there issues at work that would hasten your departure? Do you need time to master additional necessary skills, gain the education, certifications, or licenses needed in your desired new career? Hockett says these are all things to consider before making the move. Remember that the process is lengthy and time consuming. If you’ve got a lot going on at work or in your personal life, you might want to postpone the career change.
“If you are changing the industry or function of your career, your job search will take longer because you will need to do preliminary research on your new industry and function to learn how well your skills will or will not transfer,” Attridge says. “You also will need to establish new networking contacts if your industry or function is different from your current job. This will take time.”
12. Can I afford to make this change?
If you are starting over, chances are your salary will be lower—at least for a little while. The question is: can you live on this lower salary and for how long? Teach says.
13. Are my family and friends supportive?
Your friends and family should be on board with your decision to switch professions. “The more you enlist their appropriate help, the more invested they will be in your success,” Hockett says.
14. Am I willing to go back to school?
In many cases, transitioning to a new career does mean learning new skills, and the only way to attain these skills may involve going back to school, Teach says.
“It may just involve taking a few courses on weekends but either way, it will take time and money so you have to ask yourself if you are willing to do this or not.”
15. What obstacles will I be facing?
Picture yourself in a job interview, Teach says. “What objections might the hiring manager have because you don’t have a lot of experience in this new career? How will you overcome these objections?
Keep in mind that some hiring managers may be willing to overlook the fact that you may not have the specific experience required for the job, especially if you’ve been successful in your previous career and are willing to learn new things, so your chances for success may be better than you think.”
16. Do I have realistic expectations?
Even if you’re lucky enough to hold your dream job, there’s no such thing as the perfect work situation, Levit says.
“Every job has its ups and downs, and aspects we love and aspects we don’t love.” This is important to remember when considering a career change.
By Jacquelyn Smith
Originally published on Forbs