5 Things You MUST Do Before Making a Career Change

A new year brings many of us to inventory our satisfaction with our lives. We evaluate our personal habits, our relationships, and our jobs, looking for those places that are overdue for renovation. If you’re beginning to realize that your current career path no longer suits you, or is actually making you unhappy, it may be time for a change.

Making a career change is easier said than done. After all, it can require a huge leap of faith if you don’t already have an exciting offer on the table. And there’s no denying that it’s a lot of work. Here are some tips to make sure that the time and energy you invest in a career change pay off.

1. Reflect on your goals and skills

Job satisfaction is complex. It includes factors such as company culture, work-life balance, advancement opportunities, and relationships with colleagues and supervisors. Even if you’re perfectly content with all of these in your current position, it’s still possible that you find yourself looking for more.

Are you looking for more responsibility? To express creativity? To have more time with your family?

The most important step in switching careers successfully is to ask yourself what you’re looking for. There may be more than one answer and for each answer there may be multiple career options. Organize your thoughts by building a list, or even journaling about your objectives.

From here, reflect on what you most enjoyed at your current and past jobs, as well as during any volunteering you have done. Consider what draws you to your hobbies and what elements of your education were most engaging. This can help clue you into the careers and positions that will best utilize the skills you not only possess but enjoy using as well.

2. Do your research

Don’t fall victim to thinking the grass is necessarily greener on the other side. When we’re dissatisfied, it’s easy to make decisions based on assumptions rather than facts. This is a dangerous game than can lead to shortsighted choices and burnt bridges.

Thoroughly research any career you may be considering. Make use of statistical data, as well as personal accounts of people currently immersed in the industry that interests you. Once you’ve gotten to the point that you’re targeting particular companies or positions, find out as much as you can about their corporate culture, history, philosophy, future business plan, and employee satisfaction. Look into companies’ social media accounts to get a feel for their values and how they operate.

If you’re considering a huge leap—from one industry to another, say—you may want to do some firsthand investigation. Set up a job shadow to gain concrete exposure to a new field. There might also be volunteer opportunities in your target industry that will let you “test drive” a new direction before making a commitment.

3. Plan responsibly

Switching careers affects more than just your job title. It oftentimes means relocating, taking time to go back to school for a different or higher degree, or spending a few weeks or months without steady employment. Each of these scenarios can be costly.

You need to have a solid understanding of your current financial situation. Inventory any costs you expect to incur as a result of changing jobs, as well as any recurring expenses. Account for any interruptions in your income. Determine if you need to adjust your budget.

Your transition will be smoother and less stressful if you take the time to plan realistically. One aspect of doing so is to check your eligibility for continued health and life insurance benefits. If your current coverage isn’t portable, expect some lag time between the end of your current policy and the start of a new one.

4. Think ahead

If you plan to resign from your current position, interviewers are likely to ask the reasons why. Be prepared with a diplomatic answer that reflects your values, goals, and the chain of events that brought you to apply for a position with their company.

5. Seek support and ask for help

Changing your career path is usually an enormous undertaking. Having the support of family and friends who know your plans can go a long way towards resolving any concerns or self-doubt that come up along the way. If something doesn’t go according to plan, your network will be there to boost your confidence and brainstorm alternative avenues to achieve your goals.

About the Author

Haley Coffman is a recent college grad at the age of 31. The road to her degree was a long and windy one, but she made it! She now enjoys working with eDegree, helping students navigate through their own college careers.

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