Job satisfaction plays a substantial role in overall happiness, so finding one that matches your talents and interests is well worth the effort. However, successful career switches rarely happen overnight. The process involves introspection and evaluation of options to arrive at a suitable solution.
Before diving head-first into a career change, consider the following five questions to improve the odds of making a solid decision:
- Why am I changing?
People who fail to think about the reasons behind the switch often end up in the same predicament at a new place because they don’t address the heart of the problem. Sometimes the industry really is the issue, and going to a more desirable one is the answer. But first consider if your current position might be what’s driving your thoughts. Maybe you like the field, but your commute is too long, the workplace is too stressful, your skills aren’t being utilized, or you’re not being paid fairly. These factors often call for a change of jobs, not career.
- What might I do instead?
Without editing for practicality, brainstorm ideas. Thinking about hobbies, causes you’re passionate about, and things you enjoyed during childhood can aid in the process. Finding a career in line with your “true” self often leads to satisfaction.
For more inspiration, list your strengths – both as you see them and as others do. Patterns may start forming that offer interesting insight. Maybe there’s something to all those art awards you won in grade school and the compliments guests give on how you decorate your home. If you’re still having difficulty, consider consulting a career coach or taking an online career assessment.
- What is the reality of a new career?
When a career idea gets you excited, research it. Online searches should be able to provide answers to questions such as salary, necessary education, in-demand skills, and market. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook is a good place to start.)
As you settle on one or two possibilities, take your investigation to the next level. Meet people who actually hold the position. Ask questions, and perhaps see if you can job shadow for a first-hand look at daily activities. Alumni offices are often helpful in facilitating such connections.
- What will I need to do to switch?
Minor career changes may be relatively easy. Look for transferable skills – abilities from your past that new employers would find desirable – and promote them. For instance, a bank teller used to paying exceptional attention to detail may thrive by displaying that same meticulous nature as a law office clerk.
Other switches, however, prove more challenging. Someone cannot suddenly become a pediatrician. Approaching the change with an accurate idea of what it involves is a must.
- What am I willing to do?
If your new field of interest involves a pay cut, taking multiple classes, or starting out at the bottom and working your way up, are you still in? While the ultimate decision is yours, talking to your family about such matters can be helpful since what you do will likely impact them.
Likewise, you may want to consider something besides an all-or-nothing change. If med school gets ruled out, might becoming a paramedic fulfill your interest in health care and desire to help people in crisis? Especially with the prevalence of online courses, balancing educational pursuits with other obligations becomes a viable option for many career switchers.
Remember, the time to ask these hard questions is before embarking on a new path. Honesty and effort now improves the likelihood of achieving positive results!