Published on 2013/01/23

Five Factors to Consider Before Changing Your Career

Five Factors to Consider Before Changing Your Career
When thinking about changing careers, there are a number of considerations one should take into account before jumping in with both feet.

It’s not uncommon to suddenly hit a brick wall when it comes to your career. It can come on without warning; one day, you’ll be walking to work when you suddenly realize you really don’t want to do it anymore. For some, you can see it coming a mile off, and it accumulates into a decision to change careers. You may feel your life has become stagnant and monotonous after having the same job for decades, and it’s important to realize it’s okay to make a change to your life — even one this big. However, make sure you take into account these important factors before you decide to quit your day job.

Slow and steady

Something this life changing should not happen overnight. There are many steps to making a career change, including planning, learning, training and qualifying. It will probably be at least a year before you’re ready to start a new job properly. Changing professions is usually a slow process, so if you like fast results, bear this in mind. Do you have the time and patience to invest in a career revamp? And, more importantly, are you absolutely sure you want to? Make sure it is not a better-the-devil-you-know situation; every job has pros and cons. You wouldn’t want to start a new job only to find out it has a wealth of hidden nasties and that you actually prefer your old job.

School’s out! Oh, wait …

Your new career might require you to dust off the books and head back to college. It might have been some time since you were in school. Obviously, the situation won’t be the same as your first go-round (for example, you may be able to work from home this time), but there is still a lot of work required of you. Essays, exams and material revision are mentally draining and take dedication and time. And, remember, you won’t have the fun Friday night parties to let off steam! If you aren’t willing or able to head back to school just for the education minus the fun parties, then think twice before enrolling. Are you in a position to fully commit to earning new qualifications and learning new skills? Are you able to dedicate your evenings and weekends to revision or projects? If you are ‘too cool for school’ now, changing your career to one that requires new academic qualifications might not be the best idea — and you don’t want to find that out once it’s too late.

Money, money, money

Money may be tight for a while as you’re making the transition between careers. Depending on what your new venture is, you may have to return to school and, hence, might not have time to work. This might mean you have to rely on savings or make major cuts on spending while you don’t have a secure, full-time job. This is something you need to consider before ending your current career. Is there enough in the bank to see you through? Can you rely on your partner’s income alone or on help from family and friends? Will a part-time job alongside your new studies be sufficient? Additionally, if you will be starting from the bottom in your new profession, your salary may take a bit of a hit. You may have to enter at a junior level and, if you were a manager or executive in your previous position, the difference in salaries will be significant. You need to consider whether you’re able and willing to live on less money until you have worked your way back up a different ladder.

It’s not just you

A decision as big as changing your profession is going to affect more people than just you. Spouses, children and other dependents need to be considered in the decision. Changing careers may uproot your life and routine. It can involve more studying, more experience and training and, usually, less money for a while. Is your family in a position to cope with change? For example, is your financial situation strong enough to survive your term of unemployment before you find your next job? Will you have to relocate? Do you have young children who need to be considered; change can be confusing for them. Although you’re the one who has to do the job every day, so your happiness and sanity should be a large deciding factor, it’s important not to be selfish and to think of the other people in your life.

Plan B

It’s all well and good, knowing you want to end one career and embark on another. However, before you hand in your resignation letter, make sure you know what you want to go into next and, more importantly, that you have a plan of action. Whether that means having another job to walk straight into or starting a college course to get new, relevant qualifications, make sure you know what your next steps are; be ready to implement them before you sever all ties with your current career. As one door closes, another door opens. Just make sure it’s opening or is already open. Even slightly ajar will do! Don’t make a hasty, rash decision without having a Plan B.

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Readers Comments

WA Anderson 2013/01/23 at 7:12 am

Some great tips for individuals to take note of as they’re mulling over their options. I think this is where career/student advising offices have a really important role to play. I understand that institutions are, at the end of the day, interested in getting ‘bums in seats,’ whether those bums belong there or not. However, I wish advisors would spend more time assessing adult learners’ reasons for going back to school to help them make informed choices and determine whether school is the right fit for them. In some cases, that might mean an advisor has to say, “You don’t need a second degree for your desired result; just take a certificate program or professional designation.” Advice like that is important for the prospective student to hear.

Rebecca Cruser 2013/01/23 at 11:32 am

Although the writer’s stated purpose is to present factors one should take into account before making a career change, it becomes clear early on that she is advising against doing so — and in a way I find quite belittling.

For example, she writes that: “Although you’re the one who has to do the job every day, so your happiness and sanity should be a large deciding factor, it’s important not to be selfish and to think of the other people in your life.” Besides stating the obvious, this also demonstrates a very simplistic understanding of the decision-making process of any rational adult. I can think of instances where thinking about your happiness and sanity would be an unselfish act; for example, it could serve as a valuable ‘teaching moment’ for your children about following their dreams or finding the right fit.

Please be more creative, Ms. Pitts.

Vera Matthews 2013/01/23 at 3:41 pm

This is a good piece about managing expectations for those who are looking at a mid-career change. I think, at times, colleges oversell both their adult education programs and the college experience. You’re right that returning to school is an entirely different experience and, for today’s adult students, much has changed since their earlier school experiences — witness changes in not only technology and course delivery, but even in what type of learning and knowledge is emphasized.

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