Dear Change Doc,
I’m thinking about changing careers. I’m a 43 year old wife and mother of two pre-teen girls. I have also been a Financial Analyst for the past 15 years. I enjoy the work and my colleagues (I work at a federal agency), but for the past couple of years I’ve been thinking about changing my career. I’ve narrowed my options down to two areas I am passionate about – travel and cooking. Since COVID, I’ve been working from home and have had more time to research both fields. My interest continues to be piqued but I am also worried about shifting careers at this time. One of my friends who has worked with you in the past suggested that you might be able to help me think this through……….
Signed, Wondering If Now Is The Time
Changing careers has been an increased topic of inquiry on our website and from referrals over the past six months.
And social media seems to be flooded with declarations to “live your purpose” and “make a living doing what you’re passionate about”.
So, if you currently find yourself at a crossroad in your professional life, we wanted to offer a few words of encouragement and some things to consider.
The truth is, it is both normal and healthy to question career choices at all stages of one’s path. So, if this is coming up for you now, don’t try to resist it.
You are actually in good company because to assess and reflect on where you are in your career, what you enjoy and don’t enjoy, and what you want to do next is a key practice of great leaders and professionals.
Your Tips for Changing Careers
If you’re thinking about making a pivot, here are four tips to a successful career change:
1. Know your “why”.
- I’ve said it time and time again, self awareness should be the basis of all decisions about your life. And this is no different.
- If you are seriously contemplating changing careers or occupations -what is your reason? Are you unhappy with your boss? Uninterested in your work? Need to earn more money? Etc.
- Be honest with yourself. And once you feel like you have the answer, ask yourself why again.
There are many reasons to switch careers, but what is yours?
To get to the root of the issue, you will need to go beyond the surface.
For example, if you are unhappy with your boss. Why? Because he gives your co-workers the interesting projects but assigns you the ones nobody else wants. Why? If you get to a point where you don’t know the answer to “why”, take that as a sign that it may be premature to make a switch. More thought or critical conversations probably need to occur before taking other actions.
Once you get to the “root” of why, you will also want to determine whether there are alternative solutions…other than a career change.
Continuing with the example above, other solutions could be to 1) express your concerns to your boss and explicitly ask for different assignments, 2) if a resolution with your boss is not possible, you could transfer to another team, or 3) maybe switching employers is ultimately necessary, but not career fields.
The point is that there may be several solutions available other than changing careers that would bring you more job satisfaction.
Be honest with yourself.
Knowing your why helps you to be certain you are switching careers for the right reasons, rather than only trying to escape or run away from something (or someone).
2. Do your homework.
Most people interested in switching careers have some indication of new fields they might be interested in, like Wondering If Now Is The Time in the opening message.
But if you are working with a completely blank slate, it is even more reason to spend time researching different careers and occupations. How?
- U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics – get some basic information about jobs, outlooks and trends. There’s a lot of free, interesting data available including brief position descriptions, types of work environments, average salary, whether profession is projected to grow, etc.
- Conduct informational interviews – find a person or two who already work in the role or field you are interested in. Request 20- 30 minutes of their time and ask them about their experience. You can find potential interviewees in your own contact list, through friends or co-workers, in professional groups on FaceBook or LinkedIn, etc.
- Google – it isn’t the number 1 global search engine for nothing!
3. Ask for support.
According to Holmes and Rahe, changing jobs or careers is a major life stressor. So, ideally, it should be approached deliberately and with support, like any other major change.
You do not have to do this alone.
My response to Wondering If Now Is The Time included ensuring she had people in her circle she could share her thoughts with regularly. Her spouse/partner and other people she trusted (friends, family, etc.).
If you need additional support and prefer to be guided through an exploration process, then you could also consider getting a career coach.
Finding the right coach is all about qualifications and fit. Click here to learn more about what to look for in a good coach.
4. Make a plan.
If after finding your why, doing your research, and validating your decision with people you trust, you decide to move forward with changing your career, then be sure to put a plan in place.
Be clear about your ultimate goal and what success will look like. Then map out the steps you will take to get there. You can use our development worksheet as a template. It’s quick and straightforward (and free).
Having a plan is crucial to help you stay focused, particularly given all of life’s distractions.
Final Thoughts on Changing Careers.
By now, you probably guessed that Wondering If Now Is The Time became my client. But what you might be surprised to learn is that after only 4 weeks of working together and constantly tying back to her “why”, Wondering realized she did not want to change her career.
She was happy in her work. But she did want and need more time for her two interests – travel and cooking. We worked on alternative solutions, so she didn’t have to leave Finance to accomplish her goal.
And that is a good lesson for us all.
Careers are very important, but it is only one aspect of our lives. We are multi-dimensional beings and we live multi-dimensional lives. We should acknowledge that while purpose and passion are critical to overall well-being, they can both be found outside of our employment too.
In other words, not everyone wants or needs how they earn a living to be their life’s purpose. Some people do, which is great. But others can have very fulfilling careers yet be passionate or find purpose in their lives outside of work. And that is ok too.