Change is scary — and it can be especially so when it means changing careers. The good news is that with the proper planning, you can elevate your chances of landing that dream job and embarking on a road to career happiness.
If you’re reading this and suffering from a severe case of job dissatisfaction, just know that you’re not alone. A 2017 CareerBuilder survey found that 28 percent of U.S. workers tolerate or hate their jobs. Despite their dissatisfaction, most (74 percent) stay in a current position to keep the bills paid.
Taking a step back and reflecting on yourself and your current situation can help you determine whether the time is right to make the leap and, if so, how you can establish a road map for a successful transition.
Making a career switch is not a decision to be taken lightly. Recognizing the red flags of a career rut, versus simple short-term dissatisfaction, and knowing whether the time is right is essential.
One of the biggest signs that a career move may be in order is if you find that you’re no longer experiencing growth or mental stimulation in your current position.
“You want to have the mentality of growth. You want to be challenged when you go into work, in a good way, not in a micromanaged way. You want good challenges that can help you grow, and help the organization you are currently working in grow as well,” said David Hall, director of business solutions at Bellevue College Continuing Education.
It also is important to take a step back and reflect on where you are in life, your responsibilities and obligations outside the workplace, and what you want from a career. Some questions to ask yourself:
- What does “success” mean to you?
- What are your workplace values?
- Are you doing something that you’re interested in and really want to do?
How you answer these questions may help you decide whether the time is right to make a switch, said Kim Wilson, interim director, Career Services for the University of Washington Bothell.
“I do think building in some of those questions as you go through your career, to keep tabs on yourself and find out if you’re in a place that you want to be, is a good way to stay in front of feeling the pressure,” Wilson said.
Talking with an immediate supervisor or mentor within your organization may even help you uncover career opportunities at your current employer but, if not, then it may be time to move on.
Identify Your Strengths
Before making a career switch, it is important to first do your due diligence. This includes not only understanding the skills and credentials that may be required for a new career you’re interested in pursing, but also identifying your own strengths and skill sets.
If you need help identifying your strengths or you need assistance navigating potential career options, then a personality test or strengths-based assessment — such as CliftonStrengths (formerly known as StrengthsFinder) or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment — can be a great starting point. Such assessments may reiterate what you already know you are good at, but they also can help you identify strengths or interests you hadn’t considered. They also can help you in crafting your résumé.
Another great place to start is to list the things that excite you, and the things that don’t, about your current position, Wilson suggested. Then, from each of those, work to develop your skill sets. What do people turn to you for? In what areas do you excel?
If you find that you lack the skill sets or experience needed for a career you want to pursue, then try volunteering.
“Try to find an organization or company that has to do with the field that you’re interested in and see if you can get some volunteering doing anything as it relates to that field. Especially with career changes … it is hard to convince an organization that you are knowledgeable enough, committed, and devoted to this change in career, but everything will help,” said Rebekah Hand, an adjunct instructor for Bellevue College’s SHRM-CP prep course and human resources generalist II at Seattle-based Evergreen Treatment Services.
Again, if making a career move within your current organization is an option, then opening up the dialogue with your supervisor during your employee evaluation may make sense. Discuss the areas of desired growth and skills you’re interested in developing. This also can prove extremely helpful in establishing your desired career path.
Forming strong business relationships and connecting with the thought leaders of your desired profession also are essential. The reasons are twofold: Networking with professionals in an area of interest can help you better understand the dynamics of that industry and also can prove helpful in securing a job interview.
“Seventy to 80 percent of jobs are found through networking. So, the people aspect of it, especially if you’re changing careers and you haven’t been in it and you haven’t started to develop your social capital in that field, can be really important,” Wilson said.
Industry associations can be a great resource and may even offer mentoring programs. Also consider reaching out to members of the Rotary Club or Chamber of Commerce, as they may be able to connect you with the right sources.
Leveraging LinkedIn, and other social networking sites, also is important for today’s job seeker. A recent CareerBuilder survey found that 70 percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates. According to the survey, employers that use social networking sites to research potential job candidates are looking for:
- Information that supports their qualifications for the job: 58 percent
- Whether the candidate has a professional online persona: 50 percent
- What other people are posting about the candidate: 34 percent
- A reason not to hire the candidate: 22 percent
It is important to remember that social media permeates all aspects of your personal and professional life. What you post online can have serious and lasting consequences. In fact, of those employers that do social research, 57 percent have found content that caused them not to hire candidates.
There’s no doubt that changing careers can be daunting. But with the right tools, research, and self-reflection, you can position yourself for the fulfilling and rewarding future you desire.
Financial Planning Tips
There can be a lot at stake when switching careers, including your financial stability. Here are some helpful financial planning tips for a smoother transition:
Establish your budget, and have enough in savings to cover three months of living expenses.
Will you need to relocate? If so, cost-of-living calculators can be helpful.
Leverage your current skill sets, and consider becoming an adjunct professor at a college or university. It can be a great interim source of income.
Will you need to return to school? If so, research all loans, grants, and scholarships that may be available.
Use salary calculators to obtain valuable salary information on your profession of interest.