What to Consider Before Changing Careers

 

Are you considering ditching it all and running away to join the circus? Are your dreams of becoming the next great American novelist are just too vivid to ignore any longer? Do you think you could land a spot on the national Olympics team in curling if it weren’t for that pesky day job? Many of us fantasize about what it would be like to make major career – and life – changes, even when we’re perfectly happy with our current careers. But if you’re seriously considering a career change – not just a move to a new company, but a whole new industry – it can be an exciting and scary time.

First off: it can be done, no matter what your age is. And it has been done. Millions of people before you have left even well-established careers to follow a different path. But before you start planning your resignation letter, there are a few serious issues to consider that may help you decide whether or not changing your career is right for you.

  1. Why do you want to leave your current career?

    If you don’t like your supervisors, co-workers, or the company you work for (including the way it handles benefits), think about whether you really need a career change or if you just need to look for a similar job at a new company.

    If you like everything about where you work except for the actual work you are doing, take a look around you. Is anyone at your current place of employment doing something you think you’d be happier doing? In some cases, lateral moves to other departments at the same company may be possible. Be careful exploring this possibility, though, as supervisors who catch a whiff of your unhappiness might not necessarily be supportive, and may even find a reason to let you go. On the other hand, a good supervisor might be able to help you get in to a new position within your company.

  2. How much do you know about the career you want to move in to?

    In some cases, you might not even know in what direction you want to move: you just know you need a change. In that case, a career counselor might help you. Career counselors usually have a great overview of the working world and they can help guide you to a career where your current skills and interests will be valuable.

    But if you do know the area you want to transition to, you’re going to want to talk to people in that area before making a move. Is it really what you’re expecting? All jobs have their plusses and minuses: make sure you’re realistic about what you’re getting in to and know as much as possible before making a decision.

  3. Why do you have your eye set on this particular new field?

    There are generally two reasons people are interested in a particular field: the money or the work itself. If it’s for a bigger paycheck, think hard about whether or not it’s worth what work you will be doing. It may be! But don’t underestimate the power of not enjoying what you’re doing for 8 to 10 hours a day. If, on the other hand, it’s about the work, you’ll need to consider the opposite: will the pay that this new career offers sustain your lifestyle or can you adapt your lifestyle to it?

  4. Do you have the skills and experience that will translate to this new career?

    There are some fields that are very different, but may still offer easy transitions for the right people. If you’ve been a teacher for years, selling real estate may not be that much of a stretch: you’re good at talking to people, you’re highly organized, you have a talent for retaining and relaying information. In cases like these, one of the best things you can do is to have a professional resume writer re-craft your work experience to highlight how your current career demonstrates the skills you need for your new career.

    However, even in the example of switching from education to real estate, you may need to gain other skills or licenses. Find out if these are things you can do by taking classes online in the evenings or on the weekends while you’re still at your current career. You will also want to consider how expensive it will be to gain the new skills you need – both in financial and temporal terms. If you can take evening classes part time, but it will take you 5 years to get the degree you need, is it worth it to you? What will that mean putting off in your life in the meantime? Do you have the money to pay for the classes you need or will you have to take out student or personal loans? While it’s still possible to pursue your goals even when it will take a long time and cost money, you need to consider how those things will affect your life overall.

  5. Will switching to a new career mean taking a step (or more) backward in responsibility and compensation?

    Can you handle being low woman or man on the totem pole? That may be the case for a while if you enter into a new field. And can your lifestyle handle a smaller paycheck, if that’s the case? These things may be well worth it in the long run, but – YOLO! – how will you feel about yourself and your new career in the meantime?


You might be excited about the possibility of switching careers and forget to consider the downsides. You might be so nervous about the unknown that you stay put, even though you’re not happy in your current career. We don’t want either of those things to happen. We find that the more informed and knowledgeable you are, the easier it is to make big decisions like changing careers. If you’re considering a career change, we’d love to help you craft a resume to best present yourself to your new industry. Let us know how we can help your career goals come to fruition.