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Questions to Ask Before a Career Change

Changing career can be a good thing. It can give you the opportunity to finally live your dream and enjoy doing the things that you value. However, it is something that should be done with much caution. If you don't evaluate things well you could make a mistake and end up in a stressful situation instead of a dream career. When changing your career, ask the following questions:

Why Do I Need This Change?

Don't start preparing for a new career before writing down your reasons and indeed verifying that they are realistic reasons for transitioning. People change careers for different reasons. Examples include the desire to work in a different environment, moving from a career that wasn't one's choice, new interests, underutilised talents and skills, pay, and shifting to self-employment among many others. What's your reason? Write the reason for wanting to leave your current career and why you think the new career will be more fulfilling and a better fit than the current one.

Can My Boss Do Anything for Me to Stay?

If the key motivation is something your boss can address, such as the pay or working terms, don't make a decision without talking to him or her first. Most employers are willing to negotiate the terms when they are at risk of losing good talent. So give it a try first before you call it quits.

How is the New Career Like?

Every career looks good on the surface until you dig dipper and find out what guys in that industry do every day. Thus, don't change your career without evaluating the new path thoroughly. Some of the things you should evaluate about the new career include

  • Skills needed for the transition: Will you have to go back to school before you can make your transition? What skills do you have that are essential for the new career? What soft skills do you need to learn before making the transition? To get a new job, you will need some skills that are specific to that industry. For instance, if you are eying a business analyst job, you may need to get a business analytics masters online. Click here to learn more about the master's program. Soft skills also do matter. If you will be working as a manager, you need skills to coordinate teams. Do a comprehensive research on both the soft and hard skills you will need.
  • Job opportunities and work environment: What industries hire people in this career path? Are there opportunities to work in small teams or do you work as big teams? Is it mostly office work or field work? Is there a high demand for workers in this career? What about the projections for the future? Is the demand expected to increase or decrease?
  • The real work: What does a day in the life of a worker in this career look like?
  • Customers or clients: Who are the customers or clients you expect in the new career? Are they businesses or individuals? What about interactions? Do you talk on the phone or email, or are interactions one-on-one at the office?
  • What challenges are you likely to face working this job? There is no career that does not have its own share of challenges. Even when you are doing something that you love and enjoy, you will still face a couple of challenges somewhere along the way. Thus, don't fail to check these too.
  • How much do you expect to earn? If your current experience is not relevant to your new career, you will have no option but to start at the lower levels and work your way up. Find out how much you are likely to make after getting a job in your new career path.
  • Career growth: What options do you have for career growth if you follow the new path? When you get to the new path, you will definitely want to grow your career. Know the options available and see if they are a good fit for you. Consider choosing the growth and advancement path even before you make your shift.
  • Values and interests: Most importantly, don't forget how the new career path fits your values and interests in life.

This is quite a lot of homework but thankfully you can get all the information you need in a couple of ways.

  1. Check the free information you can get on the internet. You can get everything on the internet including the salary ranges, challenges, job opportunities and courses available among many others.
  2. You could network with people who are in this career path. The key benefit of networking is that you learn from real-life experiences of others.
  3. Consider volunteering or taking a part-time job for the new occupation. This will show you how a day in the life really looks like for the new career.

Could I Be Interested in Another Career Path?

The first career you think about when making a change may not always be the best, so take your time to explore a couple more before the final decision. Check a few more choices to get the right fit so that you don't end up becoming someone who hops from one career to another every few years. This is especially important for those who are not sure which path is best to follow.

How Will this Career Change Affect My Life?

Changing careers can affect your life in a couple of ways. For instance, if you have to go back to school, this will have an effect on your finances and free time. If you find a job that's far away from where you live, you will have to move your family. Working time and hours may also be different. Your life is definitely going to change in a couple of ways. Think through this before making a decision. Talk to your family and get their support before shifting to avoid conflict in the future.

How Do I Prepare Financially?

You may need school fees, you may have to move to another house, and the new job may not pay as much as the current one, especially in the first few months. This is why you need to prepare financially. Come up with a plan on how you are going to pay for your expenses during the transition. You may have to work harder but taking extra hours at your current job or working a part-time job to save up for the transition. Cutting down on your spending can also help. When you work to earn more and reduce your expenditure, you decrease your chances of having to rely on loans, which can be expensive.

What is the Best Exit Plan?

Some people prefer to exit once they are fully settled in their new careers. Others quit the current job before they start working towards a new career. There are no good or bad decisions; it all depends on your current circumstances. For instance, if you don't have enough money saved for the transition, the former would be a good decision and the latter can be a bad one. Unless your current job poses some danger or risk, it is better to hold on until you have a solid plan. You can work on your degree for a new career as you work a job in your current career to avoid financial strain. Alternatively, you can work to save up enough, quit, and go to school full time. If you have had it with your current job, you can find a new job, quit the current one, and work on your career transition later. You have so many options; just ensure you think ahead especially on how the change will affect your finances and lifestyle.

Do I Need Professional Advice?

If you are having a hard time making a decision, you probably need to talk to someone about it. You can consider a career coach or mentor. Before you pay for professional advice, ensure your coach has the right training and experience and is someone you can connect with well. You will be sharing a lot with your coach and thus get someone who is easy to talk to.

When is the Right Time to Shift?

Shifting can be a good idea, but you don't have to do it immediately. If you have kids in school, you will have to think about that when choosing the best time to move. Also for moving, you may also want to consider if it is the right time to buy and sell houses.

Most people who have changed jobs have reported better job satisfaction and less stress, and thus you should not hesitate to do it if you feel you are not on the right path. However, don't make any rash decisions. Take your time to explore the factors highlighted above and any others that may come up as you consider your decision. Once you do, don't move forward without clear goals.


What Color Is Your Parachute?

What Color Is Your Parachute? 2020: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers
by Richard Nelson Bolles
With more than 10 million copies sold in 28 countries, the world's most popular job-search book is updated for 2020 and tailors Richard Bolles's long-trusted guidance with up-to-the-minute information and advice for today's job-hunters and career-changers.
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