Ask an Expert: Should I Change Careers?

Change Careers I frequently talk to people who want to change careers. They often tell me one of these four things:

1. I hate my job.

2. I don't think my job is a good fit.

3. I want to do something more meaningful.

4. My friends tell me I would make a great (fill in the blank).

But when I hear these statements, I'm not always convinced that the person expressing these doubts really wants to change careers. Instead, I often believe that there is something else going on that is causing the unrest and thoughts of quitting. It's important to explore these factors before jumping into a career change.

Career change can be challenging on many fronts. Landing a job in a new career generally takes more time than landing one in a linear career path. You will need a robust network of contacts and many, many advocates to get your foot in the door. A career change may require significant education costs, and there is no guarantee that acquiring that education will lead to a new job. The most logical career changes are those that have a recognizable intersection between the old and new careers such as a sales person going into marketing or an operations professional switching to human resources.

Frequently, after talking with people contemplating a career change I find that they don't hate what they do; they hate the person they work for. Study after study shows that people don't leave companies; they leave bad bosses. So before you embark on a full-blown career change, ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Which of my current job tasks do I enjoy doing?
  2. Which of my current job tasks do I hate doing?
  3. Am I good at what I do? Have others commented on my strengths?
  4. What types of tasks do I want to do that are not part of my current job? Is there an opportunity to do these tasks in the future as part of my job?
  5. What types of situations in my current job stress me out?
  6. How much does my relationship with my boss affect my feelings toward my job?
  7. Do my feelings about the company culture affect my feelings about my job?
  8. Can I remember a time when I did similar work and enjoyed what I was doing?
  9. Are there growth opportunities for me or is my industry/job function contracting?
  10. Am I willing to put in the time and effort necessary to change careers?
  11. Have I considered the financial ramifications of changing careers?
  12. Am I willing to take a step (or two) backward to achieve my new career goals?
  13. What would my perfect job look like and is this a realistic expectation?
  14. What are my priorities? How important are money, time off, meaningful work, or the goals of the organization to me?

Answering these questions may help you gain clarity about your reasons for embarking on a career change. Your answers may help you sort out what you can and cannot live with. Armed with this information you may decide that a retooling of your current career is more prudent than a total career change. Or your responses may validate that a career change is in fact the right path to take.

People change careers every day, but it's always advisable to make sure you are changing careers for the right strategic reasons and not making a decision based solely on your emotions. Look before you leap and find others to support you in your journey.

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