We all have doubts about our chosen occupation and whether we’re actually doing what we want with our lives. A lot of us want the right career path and that dream job where we wake up every morning feeling refreshed and ready for our best work.
That said, some people are perfectly content with spending tens of thousands of hours in the same company while counting down the days to retirement. But for those willing to make the hard decisions, that’s simply not an option.
Change is a constant when it comes to our working lives. In fact, the average person changes jobs 10 to 15 times in their career. The average employee only spends 4.1 years working at the same company. So if the Sunday blues have become your conditioned response to the thought of going back to work, you’re not alone, and it might be time for a career change.
Of course, career switching is not something that should be taken lightly. Keep reading to find out if it’s time to make a career change and how to do it the smart way.
How Do You Know It’s Time to Make a Change?
Before you ink your resignation letter, you need to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. If you’re uncertain about where you’re going and what you’re doing, you risk ending up in the same position in your new company. Once the honeymoon period of a fresh start is over, you might find yourself right back where you started.
When trying to figure out if you need a career change, ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do I want to change my career?
- Are my daily tasks unbearable, or is it the environment, company culture, and the people at my current job that are the main culprits?
- Why do I think a new career will help me feel better?
- What are the downsides and risks to look out for?
Answering these questions as truthfully as you can will enable you to determine whether you should be making a change, even if you’re pondering a mid-career change. Of course, if you simply dread your cubicle, maybe working remotely might be a better fit. And if you’re struggling to find justifications for a career shift, it may be wise to reconsider any dramatic changes.
Below are the top five reasons people switch careers, according to Joblist’s Midlife Career Crisis survey.
- 47% changed careers for better pay.
- 39% found their current job too stressful.
- 37% needed a better work-life balance.
- 25% felt they’ve outgrown their job and needed a new challenge.
- 23% were no longer passionate about their job.
It’s important to remember that this is always a personal decision, and there might be more things at play. Nevertheless, each of these reasons is a legitimate cause to be looking for a career change. Here are the benefits that the aforementioned survey identified:
- 77% were happier.
- 75% were more satisfied.
- 69% felt more fulfilled.
- 65% felt less stressed.
Of course, money is another key factor. If you’re giving it your all at your current job, but you’re still not earning enough, it’s time to make a change. People who dared to change their careers in search of a better paycheck ended up making an additional $10,800 per year on average.
8 Steps for a Smooth Career Transition
Now that you’re sure you want to make a change and you have all the right reasons, here are some steps you can take to ensure a smooth career transition.
1. Find Your Passion
Very few people will make big career moves unless they know where they want to end up. Knowing what you’re passionate about and identifying the career you want to pursue is crucial. However, this is also the most challenging task that discourages most people from making changes.
If you’ve already thought about your options, it’s time to narrow things down. Think about what you would actually like to do but make sure you answer the questions we’ve listed above.
Unfortunately, some people never get past that fundamental question: what should my career be? The important thing to remember here is that you don’t have to limit yourself to what you know. You can go in an entirely new direction. If you don’t feel like working for someone else, you can start your own business.
Sometimes life happens. If you can no longer maintain the work/life balance and want to have a job that allows you to focus on your family, you might want to consider freelancing.
2. Put Your Options to the Test
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a couple of options, you can always try out different things before you decide to switch to one particular career entirely. If you can’t figure out how to decide on a career, try volunteer options or freelance work to see how you feel about doing a certain job every day. For example, if you know you want to work with animals, see if your local shelter accepts volunteers.
Often, making a total pivot in your career will require you to learn some new skills. Taking a class or a course will also be beneficial when you figure it all out.
So, how to know what career is right for you? Try taking an online class or an evening course at a local college or attend seminars. If you have trouble focusing or staying awake during any of those, that’s probably not a career path you should pursue.
3. Make a Plan
When you’ve chosen a new career, plan your course of action. After all, it’s your livelihood we’re talking about, and you can’t afford to wing it.
Dividing your journey to the new career into achievable milestones will help you stay on track. Think of all the tasks you need to complete to transition into different careers. Start by thinking about the skills you need to acquire, the research you need to do, and even the people you need to speak to. You can assign yourself daily or weekly tasks to keep you both motivated and on track for your job change.
4. Figure Out the Needed Skill Set
If you are making a pivot to another career, you’ll need to become a suitable candidate for your new job. In other words, you need to have a certain set of skills to impress prospective employers. But what skills do you need? And do you need a license to work in your chosen field or a certificate of some kind?
The first step is assessing what you already have. If you’re making a career change at 40 or 50, for example, you already have immense experience. Look for transferable skills, which are skills required by your current job that can be applied at a future position. You’ll likely find a considerable overlap, especially in soft skills.
Once you compare the requirements of your current job with the one you hope to get, you’ll also find the skill gap you need to fill. Depending on the job you’re going after, you may need just an online course or two. Other times, you might need a more extensive education or a certificate.
A career change at 50 that requires you to go back to school might be tricky. But if you’re comfortable with the idea of investing time and money to acquire new skills, it will undoubtedly pay off in the long run.
5. Establish Your Support Group
Shifting careers is a huge undertaking, and you want to make sure you’re not going through it alone. Once you decide to go for it, having your friends and family onboard can make all the difference.
You need your family to be supportive and provide you with the additional resources you need to make this a reality. Will you need help with child care while you explore your career options? Will you have to delegate some activities or have some relationships take a back seat for a while?
These are all questions you’ll need to answer, and your friends might be a great asset throughout this process. If you are unsure about what you’d like to do, talk to people you know who love their jobs. Ask them what they love about their job or accompany them to work for a day or two. This can help you narrow down the list of careers to pursue.
6. Find New Friends and Coworkers
The next step is finding new friends that can help you complete the pivot. Getting to know successful people working in an industry that you would like to join is paramount for success. You might think that these VIPs won’t give you the time of day, but they will likely be more than generous with their time if you approach them with the right attitude.
Showing interest in what they do or paying them a compliment by noting what they’re doing right can go a long way. Don’t ambush them; start with small talk and then move to your career change ideas. Make sure to listen carefully to their feedback and input, but most importantly, to thank them and implement the advice.
But where do you find these people? This is another task your friends can help you with. Let everyone know that you’re looking to make a career change and find out if someone knows people in the relevant industry that would be willing to give you the time of day.
You should not neglect your LinkedIn profile either. There you’ll probably find many professionals in your field of interest that can provide you with midlife career change advice, put in a good word at your next job, or just let you know if a position you might be interested in opens up. Even if they recommend something you’re not comfortable with, declining the job offer appropriately shouldn’t hurt your relationship.
7. Rebrand Yourself
If you find out about an opening for a position you’re interested in or a good role pops up during your job search, you need to rebrand yourself before applying. You need to make sure your resume, LinkedIn profile, and your cover letter are screaming that you’re the right person for the role, even though you’re coming from an entirely different sector.
Remember that in your career search, you’ll be competing with people who have experience in this role or have spent years in similar ones. As such, you’ll need to stand out from the competition by pointing out your strengths and skills and showing that your level of experience from your previous job is sufficient for the new one. You should also make sure to include any certificates, courses, and academic accolades.
8. Write an Impeccable Career Change Resume and Cover Letter
Your existing resume probably won’t be a great hit with the new audience, and you’ll have to rewrite it altogether. Writing a good resume from scratch can be challenging, but it will undoubtedly pay off in the long run as it’ll help you land a job you love.
The same goes for your cover letter. Make sure that it’s more compatible with the new role or position you’re seeking. You want your career change cover letter to reflect your new aspirations and goals, underscore your successes in previous roles, and emphasize your transferable skills.
Don’t expect your career change to be easy. Your soft skills might help you skip an entry position or two, and your network of friends might be able to help push you into a desirable environment. However, you’ll still be lacking the years of experience that other candidates have, and you might encounter other bumps on the road.
It will be scary, but it will undoubtedly be much more rewarding and fulfilling to have a career where you’re doing something you enjoy.
We’re going to leave you with a few additional nuggets of wisdom:
- Take your time, especially with drastic changes.
- Start small.
- Do freelance jobs before settling on a full-time career.
- Take as many courses as possible, but don’t rush through them.
- Get intimate details about a job you would like to transfer to.
Before you decide to switch jobs or take on something drastic like a midlife career change, make sure you know where you're going and that your new position will make you happier.