Your career is a big part of your life. So, it’s human nature to want a job that makes you feel completely fulfilled and inspired. However, not everybody is fortunate enough to land in a suitable career path right from the start. After all, you can’t really know how well you’ll mesh with something until you actually do it. Some of us get a few years in at a specific job, and then realize it’s time to make a pretty drastic change.
I’ve been there myself, so I know that taking a big jump in your career can be a terrifying (and simultaneously thrilling!) experience. And beyond those butterflies in your stomach, it’s also a time that’s filled with a seemingly never-ending amount of questions: What’s next? What do I really want to do? Am I making the right decision? Will I regret this? Can I pull this off?
A career change can wind up being something that’s of great benefit to you—particularly if you’re not feeling satisfied with what you’re currently doing. However, it’s still a choice that deserves some thought and careful consideration. It’s a big decision, so you shouldn’t plan to make a change on a whim.
What should you think about before deciding whether or not to make a switch? Ask yourself these six questions, and you’re sure to arrive at a conclusion you can feel good about!
1. Is it what you’re doing or who you’re doing it for?
Your employer and company culture can have a major impact on how you feel about your work day in and day out. So, it’s important that you know the difference between not liking your job and not liking your company.
Grab a notepad and pen and list what exactly is frustrating you about your current situation. This is your time to vent, so go ahead and be honest with yourself. Once you’ve wrapped up, take a look at your list.
Are the bullet points related specifically to your position, such as your work isn’t creative enough or you’d like the opportunity to work with people more? Or, are your items all downfalls of your current employer—like your boss is a total micro-manager and the business professional dress code is a drag?
You might not need to change careers—you might just need to switch employers.
It’s important that you take your time to think about and make a differentiation. After all, you might not need to (or even want to!) change careers—you might just need to switch employers.
2. What don’t you like about your job right now?
So, you made it through the first step, and you’ve determined that it truly is your work that’s making you unhappy. Now what? Well, you need to take a fine-tooth comb to your current position in order to detail every last thing that frustrates you in your existing role.
You likely got a good start on this during the first step. But, you need to really dig in deep here to make sure you identify all of the things that make you unhappy in your current job. This might make you feel whiney or unappreciative, but remember that it’s an important thing to do. Being aware of what you want to avoid in future careers and positions will help you avoid jumping from the frying pan straight into the fire, so to speak.
3. What do you want?
Now’s the fun part—you get to decide on what’s next for you. What do you want to move on to? You’ve already determined what you don’t want, so now it’s time to think about what you actually do want.
If you’re considering a career change, you probably already have some general idea of what sort of position you’d like to make the switch to. But, if not, do some research to really land on something that would make you happy. What do you enjoy spending your time on? Brainstorm all of the things that make you feel fulfilled and inspired, and see if you can tie those things (or even just some of them!) into one specific job.
You always want to feel like you’re running toward something—not away from something.
Not only does this step help you get your ducks in a row for your next move, but it also will give you some much-needed confidence and encouragement. You always want to feel like you’re running toward something—not away from something.
4. Is it a viable career path?
You knew a reality check had to be coming sooner or later, and here it is. Identifying your dream job is one thing. But, you also need to make sure that it’s actually a realistic option. Of course, you want a career that makes you feel fulfilled and inspired—but it also needs to pay your bills.
This might seem disheartening. However, don’t look at this as a step that’s meant to sway you from your goals and make you feel even more stuck and hopeless. Instead, it’s just a part of the process that’ll bring you back down to earth and ensure you’re being at least somewhat practical about your expectations. Remember, there’s truly no such thing as a “perfect job”.
5. Do you have the skills necessary for the career you really want?
You’ve determined exactly what you want to do. But, there’s a follow up question to that: Do you have the skills and expertise necessary in order to actually do it? Would hiring managers consider you for open positions, or would they simply roll their eyes and toss your resume straight into the wastebasket?
Understandably, there’s going to be a bit of a learning curve here—that’s to be expected. When you’re making a career shift, there’s undoubtedly going to be a few gaps you need to fill in. So, don’t be disheartened when you don’t check all of those boxes right away. However, it’s important that you ensure you have some transferable skills and at least a few of the necessary qualifications before taking the leap.
When you’re making a career shift, there’s undoubtedly going to be a few gaps you need to fill in.
If you find you have some pretty big shortcomings, don’t panic yet. Determine what steps you need to take in order to transition to that field. Do you need to go back to school? Do you need to get a certification? Would an internship be helpful (even if it’s unpaid)? Can you team up with someone who has the skills you lack? While that won’t be an option for a traditional position, it can be incredibly beneficial if you’re aiming to start your own business.
Don’t let this step discourage you. Yes, it can be a bit of a brutal dose of reality. However, you don’t want to go through all of this work (or worse, leave your current job and steady paycheck!) just to set yourself up for inevitable disappointment and rejection.
6. Who can help you with this switch?
Even if you have tons of transferable skills and an impressive resume to bring to your new career path, it’s still going to be a bit of a scary transition. You don’t have any hard experience to share with potential employers, so you’re going to need some other tricks and resources up your sleeve.
Look through your network and see if you have any existing connections in the field you’re aiming to break into. As the old saying goes, “It’s not always what you know, but who you know,” and this sentiment can be especially truthful when you’re looking at changing careers. Your connections can definitely open doors for you and provide you with tons of valuable information and insights about the industry—and you’ll need all of the help you can get!
Making a big change in your career is equal parts nerve-wracking and exciting, but it’s also a choice you want to think through carefully. Ask yourself these six questions before making any moves, and you’re guaranteed to give this decision the research and consideration it deserves!