How to Determine It’s Time to Make a Career Change?

Originally posted in US News & World Report



Changing industries isn’t a guaranteed solution to one’s discontent. When most people reach the point that they want to leave their job, it’s a time that’s wrought with emotions. There are a plethora of reasons a person gets fed up at work and feels he has reached the end of his rope: The boss is impossible, the workload’s oppressive, the hours are unbearable, the level of enrichment is lacking, the work is uninteresting and a slew of other reasons.

Too often people assume that the solution is to throw the baby out with the bath water, and they decide to abandon not only their job but the whole industry. This could become a grave mistake, since certain problems could exist in any field. For some people, the best career move is NOT to leave their industry, but rather to change how they’re working in it. It is often wise to explore every possible option within one’s current company, and if that doesn’t work, explore other options within the industry at large. If you still find there’s little left that’s redeeming, then switching careers may be a logical, reasonable choice. While there’s inherent risk in any career change, there’s a big difference between taking a calculated and a wanton risk.

The conventional advice for today’s workers is to prepare for the prospect of making many career changes over the course of one’s life, and to acquire transferable skills. In addition, don’t expect that a company will be loyal to you, and don’t force yourself to be loyal to a company. Coaches suggest that candidates assume a flexible outlook in career planning as opportunities may come in ways that one doesn’t anticipate. It is common knowledge that job security is an antiquated notion. A job can be here today and gone tomorrow with little notice.

That being said, it’s not uncommon for disgruntled employees to jump to a conclusion that to avoid the misery they’re experiencing, they must start completely anew. This thinking overlooks the fact that by a certain advanced stage in a career, many workers have acquired valuable, transferable skills that could be applied and useful in the next position.

If you can find a way to continue doing what you’re good at and modify the things you dislike, you may simplify your search for happiness. Be aware that making an impulsive decision to switch careers is not advisable. Starting completely over isn’t necessarily a solution to your complaints.

No matter what career you’re in, you’ve made a considerable investment in your education and training to be there. It makes sense to pause, reflect and seek some objective outside advice at this point. Similar to a romantic relationship, there were reasons you selected this particular industry, and at one point at least, something was appealing about that job or that industry. Sometimes, it’s making adjustments in your role at work and reshaping your job that can make a huge difference in your overall happiness and success.

Consider these changes before making a rash (potentially regrettable) career change:

• Speak to your boss and see if you can arrange flextime.

• Find other activities outside of work that you find fulfilling/meaningful.

• Volunteer to assist another division on a project that interests you, even if it’s outside of the immediate scope of your typical responsibilities.

• Explore the possibilities of transferring to another department or division.

• Consider becoming an entrepreneur or going off on your own in that industry.

Many people have found a way to adjust their work schedule, adapted their role, their level of autonomy and/or their expectations for fulfillment in their industry and are happy they stayed in their field. They realized the cost of retraining would be too great, and that there were actually many things they liked about their current field, even if not necessarily their specific job.

Switching careers can feel like a divorce. There’s times when it’s appropriate and can be the beginning of a new and better future. There are other occasions when couples should not split up. Sometimes counseling can help couples resolve their issues and restore their joy in marriage. Your career happiness is similar. For that reason, be sure to reflect carefully before making a move, and be cautious that your choice will bring change for the better.

Most frequently it’s entrepreneurs who come to the realization that their work no longer interests them, and they’re willing to take the risk of venturing out on their own to do something that’s either more interesting or more meaningful. If you weigh the pros and cons of your job and conclude there are more reasons to leave than to stay, then making that actual career move into entrepreneurship will invoke less anxiety. You’ll have greater clarity for why it makes sense on an intellectual level. In this case, when challenges come your way, you’ll have faith that they’re worth it because the alternative was far worse.

Beth Kuhel is a contributor to the Personal Branding Blog. She is founder and president of Get Hired, LLC and the co-author of From Diploma to Dream Job: Five Overlooked Steps to a Successful Career. Beth’s coaching assists students and career changers to successfully match their needs, interests, passions, skills and personal goals with the needs of a sustainable industry in a sustainable location. Beth is a C.E.I.P. (Certified Employment Interview Professional). She coaches individuals and groups at all stages of their career journey to maximize 

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