The average American worker will switch careers anywhere between 5-10 times in their lifetime, spending approximately 4-5 years at any given job. And not surprisingly, over half of Americans currently want to change careers to find more self-suiting and enjoyable employment.
With an increase in occupational variation, it’s not uncommon for individuals to be well-versed in a great deal of career fields, and to develop a long list of qualifications.
Before making the transition to another position, it’s important to weigh your options in order to make a smart and informed decision. Here are seven questions to ask yourself to find out if you are ready for a career change.
1. Why am I changing jobs?
There are a variety of reasons to switch jobs. Sometimes, workers are left with no other options, due to reasons such as:
- Financial need
- Industry changes (demand is low)
- Poor economy
- Getting let go or laid off
- Sudden health ailments or accidents
A voluntary career change is when a worker makes a personal decision to leave their current position in search of something new. Reasons for a voluntary career change include:
- Pursuit of passions, dreams, or other interests (emotional satisfaction)
- Unhappiness with current job
- Family changes, such as getting married, having children, relocating, caring for a parent, etc.
- Coming into money (inheritance)
- Retired and choosing to work again
- Discovering a talent, invention, or other by-chance opportunities
- Starting a business
Determining why you want a new job, whether out of necessity, or for personal fulfillment, can help ensure that you are committed to pursuing a different direction, and that you don’t make any decisions you will later regret.
2. Is a career change financially viable?
Before swapping jobs, you need to evaluate your personal finances and determine if it’s going to be feasible for you and your family.
Quitting an existing position without evaluating your living costs can put you in a tricky position, which is why you should calculate what you are making now, and compare that to the figure of your Plan B option.
A higher salary gig will set you up for a positive financial future, whereas a position that requires an initial investment, such as education, may require more forethought.
Do you have enough savings to remain comfortable during a job transition? If you are going to incur debt, such as tuition, how long will it take for you to pay it off?
Measuring the long-term benefits, such as career advancement or owning a business, against your startup costs, such as education or business capital, can help you to establish if it is financially appropriate for you to pursue a different career path.
3. What is the labor market like?
The current and future employment landscape—both in general and in that field—will affect your success rate.
Start by researching your desired career, and ask those in the industry where the market is heading.
For instance, if you have been an administrative assistant for the past 5 years, but you wish to become a certified fitness instructor, what is the demand for personal trainers in your area? Asking these questions can give you insight on whether the demand will remain stable and if there is a need for workers in your region.
In addition to industry demand, aspiring business owners may want to gauge the competition in the area. Perhaps you would like to open a sporting good store. Is there already one close by? Are the local residents in need of this type of merchandise?
4. Will I be the right fit?
If you have had previous jobs, you probably have a good idea what you like, and what you don’t. With a new opportunity, you should reflect on your own wants, needs, and goals. Do they fit with that of your new career?
Have you asked others in the same field what to expect, or who would be the ideal worker for their position?
A great deal of introspection is required to figure out if you will enjoy your desired position, and if you will be good at it. Can you cope with a slow office environment after working in retail? Are you able to manage all aspects on your own business when you are used to being delegated to?
There is no harm in trying something new to diversify your background and foster personal growth, but it’s important to have realistic expectations so you don’t end up disliking a job after you have quit your previous one—setting you back financially and professionally.
5. What do I need to succeed?
Do you have the skills required for a new career? What do you need to get there?
Many jobs require certification and education, among many other particular skill sets. You might need to enroll in a post-secondary institution and take courses to satisfy the basic requirements of becoming a realtor, interpreter, interior designer, court reporter, masseuse, or many other professions.
Once you know the path to your new career, map out the steps to get you there.
Above all, look to your friends and family for support, as they can help make your transition into a new career much smoother.
6. How will a career change affect my loved ones?
Depending on your reason for switching careers, your loved ones will likely be affected in positive and/or negative ways.
You may be offered a unique opportunity, but if it requires that you relocate away your family, are you willing to live away from them?
7. Am I prepared to change careers?
Changing careers is uncomfortable, especially if you’ve been employed in the same industry for many years.
If you don’t feel ready, you might need to take more time to mull over your options and determine if a new job is going to meet your emotional and financial needs. The transition will no doubt be challenging to begin with, but try to remain positive and accept that there will be things to learn in order for you to get where you want to be.
Remember, changing careers requires courage and commitment. If it’s the right choice, you will be glad you took the leap of faith and stepped out of your comfort zone to find rewarding work.
Have you switched careers? What did you learn from it?