If you’re in a job you hate, you’ve probably thought about changing careers. But how do you know when you’re ready to take the leap? Are you just daydreaming? Are you willing to do what it takes to build a new career from scratch?
The reality is that by necessity, you’ll probably have to change careers at some point in your life. “Traditional” work practices, such as employer loyalty, have been affected by technological, economic, and political changes around the world. In 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that people changed jobs on average 11.7 times. However, this data is limited to those born between 1957-1964, and only considered job changes between the ages of 18-48. There are no longitudinal studies on this topic, and what actually constitutes a career change varies. For some, it’s changing fields. For others, it’s changing titles or employers.
If it’s not just your job, but your career choice that is having a negative effect on your life, a change is in order. But before you give your 2 weeks’ notice, ponder these 5 questions to make sure leaving your job is the right decision.
1.) What’s Your Motivation? You’re not alone if you hate your job. There are twice as many actively disengaged workers as there are engaged workers, and this number appears to be rising. But what’s the reason you are thinking of a career change? Is it your boss? The workplace? Or do you truly dislike the work you’re doing? According to FlexJobs, work/life balance was the top reason cited for finding a new career, followed closely by a desire for more meaningful work. According to a recent LinkedIn survey, career advancement tops the list. In short, there are many valid reasons for considering a career change. But sometimes, people make decisions that come back to haunt them.
Take some time to define what motivates you and gives you purpose. Think about the aspects of your current role that you find most fulfilling. There may be ways to incorporate more of these tasks into your daily routine. Determining whether you want a new job out of necessity, for personal enrichment, or for a higher salary will help ensure you’re committed to pursuing a different direction, and that you won’t make a decision you’ll later regret.
2.) What are you afraid of – really? If you’re like 70% of Americans, you’re afraid of failure. But your definition of failure might be a great learning experience for someone else. Fear of failure is linked to many causes, such as traumatic life events, unsupportive parents, low self-esteem, or perfectionism. Be honest with yourself: what are you really afraid of? Pinpointing the underlying cause of fear is the first step in conquering it. Yes, change is scary, but it’s also exhilarating. In fact, there’s a growing body of evidence that says taking a risk is worth it – financially and otherwise.
3.) What are your transferrable skills? A common concern for many mid-career adults is that they lack the necessary skills to transition to a new career. Although the workplace has undergone massive shifts in recent years, workers are fundamentally using many of the same skills, talents, and abilities they always have. Communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and a strong work ethic will always be needed, no matter your field. However, you probably have some “hard skills” that you can transfer too. One way to understand what your transferrable skills are is to make a list of all the positions you’ve had throughout your life – both paid and unpaid – and the skills and accomplishments associated with each. No doubt you’ll be surprised – and empowered – by what you discover!
4.) Do You Have a Nest Egg? It takes an average of 43 days to find a new job, but this varies considerably by industry. Ensuring you have enough savings to make a transition is essential. Take an honest inventory of your expenses and ask yourself what adjustments you can comfortably make in your lifestyle, if needed, while you transition. Know that a gig at a higher salary will set you up for a more financially secure future, but this change may require an initial investment in education or training. Think about the long-term benefits, such as career advancement, against start-up costs. And remember: money isn’t everything.
5.) What would you rather do? When you’re passionate about your careers, it shows. If you’re having trouble articulating what that passion is, start with a self-assessment. This is a process of taking an honest look at yourself; determining and articulating your interests, skills, values (career-related, personal, lifestyle), personality attributes (strengths, weaknesses, motivators), and goals. Some people are able to accomplish the self-assessment phase on their own, or with the help of resources such as guided career-change workbooks. Others find the process overwhelming and seek the counsel of someone specializing in career development.
Finally, know that what you wanted in your 20’s doesn’t always hold true today. As your life changes, so will your career plans. Workers spend an average of 90,000 hours on the job. That’s over a third of your life! Don’t you want to do work that’s truly rewarding and engaging to you?