There’s a saying in the careers industry that you’ll know it’s time to make a job or career change when you start asking yourself if it’s time to make a change.
While there is truth to that, there’s more to making your decision.
Below are tips to help you identify some of the reasons why you may want to make a job change or career change and give you practical strategies to use as you make your decision.
Reasons for a Job or Career Change
The first step is to assess the reason — or reasons — why you may desire a change. Change can be difficult — it usually is — so you want to make sure that the reason you are considering a switch isn’t something temporary that will fix itself, if given enough time.
Some of the reasons why you may be considering a job change or career change are INTERNAL REASONS. These can include:
EXTERNAL REASONS — that you have no control over — can also impact your decision to make a job change or career change. These can include:
Remember, you want to assess whether the INTERNAL and/or EXTERNAL reasons that are prompting you to consider the change are temporary (short-term) or something you would be permanently affected by.
You should also assess the “temperature” of these reasons and how they affect you. Some of them may be more of a “minor inconvenience,” while others may feel “unbearable”. For example, while you may be working in a declining industry, as long as you have a job, you may not be interested in switching jobs or changing careers. But that’s almost like being a frog in a pot of water that is slowly heating up. The question isn’t “if” you will eventually be affected by changes in the industry, but “when.” If you take charge of managing your career, you will be in a better position to handle career change, not just react to it when your boss summons you into his office sometime down the road to let you know your services are no longer needed.
Change Jobs OR Change Careers?
Do you want to change the company you work for, or change your career path entirely? Take a look back at the assessment you just completed. Ask yourself if making a change to a new company would fix the issue or issues you identified. Or are they issues that are embedded within the industry itself, and would only be fixed if you changed industries entirely?
Also, think about how you feel about the actual work you’re doing. Do you still have a passion for the type of work you’re doing, but maybe not in this particular work environment? If that’s the case, changing jobs could improve your situation. You might not need to change careers.
Things to Consider
Even if you’ve identified that there are internal or external reasons that you may want to consider making a change, ask yourself this: “Is there an opportunity to improve my current situation?” As previously mentioned, some of these things may be temporary and the issue may resolve itself. But the other piece of the puzzle is you. Is there some way that you could make a change that would improve the situation? For example, could you transfer to a similar position in a different part of the company? Could you talk to your supervisor and see if there are opportunities for additional responsibility or advancement that you may not be aware of? Could improving your skills (for example, pursuing additional education, training, or certifications) help you?
If you feel your current situation can’t be improved, the next thing to do is develop a plan. Make sure you have a plan for what you want to do next before you decide to make a change. Think before you act — don’t be impulsive. Change can be difficult — the bigger the change, the more difficult it may be. Also, you want to make sure you’re running towards something you want to do, and not running away from something you don’t. Being impulsive may lead you to do something you may later regret — like one of those viral “I Quit” videos that are fun to watch, but may lead to long-term ramifications when prospective employers Google your name.
Assess your marketability at another company or for another career path. What skills, education, and experience do you have to offer? Inventory your accomplishments. In the next section, where we address practical strategies, we’ll talk about the value of having your résumé professionally written so you can see how you stack up on paper for your desired next job or new career.
Consider the timing of making a change, if you decide that’s what you want to do. For example, you may not want to leave your job in November if you’d earn an annual bonus if you stayed another month. The same is true for things like vested options in a stock plan or retirement account — make sure you manage the timing of your departure to maximize your benefits. Basically, don’t leave money on the table if you can help it.
Along with considering the timing of your departure, do you need to do some things before you change jobs or careers? Perhaps you need to take some classes or earn a certification before you’ll be prepared to make a job or career change. Create a Personal/Professional Development Plan (PDP) for yourself, outlining the steps you need to take to bridge the gap between where you are now (skills, education, and experience) and what you need in your new job or career. Checking off as many of those items as you can will help make the transition smoother.
Finally, it’s easier to find a job when you have a job, so don’t just quit your job. And don’t burn bridges at your former employer, if you can help it. Give ample notice, offer to train your replacement, prepare a checklist or cheat sheet for your replacement, etc.
Practical Steps for Your Job or Career Change
Once you’ve decided that you do want to make a change — whether that’s a new company or a new career — here are some practical steps to take to make your transition move along smoothly.
The first step is to get your financial house in order. You’ll be in better shape to make a change if you’re on sound financial footing. As you start this process, make sure a financial evaluation is part of your plan. Are there expenses that you can cut out — even temporarily — that will help you stockpile cash in the short term? Maybe you need money for additional training or certifications. Identify how you can save that money so that you have it ready when you need it. If your research shows that you may need to take a pay cut initially in order to make a job or career move, start cutting back now so that it’s not as big of a shock later.
The next step is to decide on a target — what do you want to do? How will your next job — or career — be different from what you’re doing now? Take some time to identify what you want. Invest in career testing and/or meet with a therapist or career coach who specializes in helping with job change/career change. (This will also help you identify whether you may be suffering from anxiety or depression, which can affect your work, your decision-making ability, and your choices.)
Next, research your new career. Talk to people who are actually doing the job you want to do — especially if you’re moving into a new career field. Research the qualifications for candidates who do what you want to do. Again, consider the idea of creating a Personal/Professional Development Plan (PDP) so you are prepared to make the transition.
Once you decide you are going to make a change, start slowly compiling the information you need and slowly start disengaging yourself from your current job/current employer. You don’t want to take a full box of knick-knacks home at once, but you may start decluttering your files (both paper files and on your computer) and taking some personal items home so that you don’t have to pack them up all at once. Be careful when doing this, however, as it may tip off co-workers — or your boss — if too many personal items start disappearing.
Take calls from recruiters — or reach out to connect to them. However, keep in mind this strategy will only work if you’re staying in the same industry. Recruiters specialize in placement, so they want to put “round pegs in round holes.” They won’t be interested in helping you make the change from being a computer software developer to a teacher.
Finally, one of the best things you can do, once you have a job target in mind, is to engage a professional résumé writer to help you develop a résumé for your desired job. Especially if you are considering a career change, this can help you identify transferable skills that you have to offer and boost your confidence when you see the evidence of your qualifications on paper. Your résumé writer can also help guide you in collecting the information you need to develop your new career documents. Be prepared to invest in yourself and in the development of this document, because your résumé writer will have to spend a considerable amount of time to prepare a résumé that demonstrates how your skills, education, and experience are applicable to your new career path. But it can be a worthwhile investment as a tool as you make a change in your job or career.
About the Author
Mandy Fard is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW, CMRW) and Recruiter with decades of experience in assisting job seekers, working directly with employers in multiple industries, and writing proven-effective resumes.