switching careers 101

Questions to ask yourself before switching careers

One of the reasons many people are quitting their jobs is because they are no longer satisfied with their careers. Some of these people might be wondering if making a career switch is the best time right now. With so many jobs being created and opening up, and so many companies desperate to hire enthusiastic people, the answer is, theoretically, yes! This seems like the perfect time to switch careers. But there are some questions you’ll want to consider before you make any big leaps:

1. Is my target career viable for the future?

The very first thing you need to do is research the industry you want to move into. How viable is the industry for the future? If some of the jobs are already being automated, how can you best break in and continue to evolve your career, given new technology and trends? For inspiration, check out interviews with top people in your field and examine how they made their moves toward their dream job. Listen to how they talk about the future of work and see how that makes you feel. Next, consider how much money you hope to make and read up on the salaries for the job. Have realistic expectations for entry-level work, salary, and tasks (no matter how tedious). You’ll eventually grow into the role but be prepared for the apprentice phase. Finally, evaluate your lifestyle against the new benefits and salary. Decide what needs to shift in order for you to be okay with a potentially lower salary and time dedicated to your new craft. 

2. What kinds of skills do I need to master?

If your next career is a point of passion, you might already be onto this step. Even if you’re making an easy career switch, you’ll need to learn new hard and soft skills. For the hard skills, consider taking online classes or watching tutorials to learn new software. For a major shift, consider whether or not you need to go to school. Most people will not have to take this major of a step, but it’s worth the thought. When it comes to soft skills, consider entering into a mentorship or internship. You’ll gain on-the-job experience while meeting new people in the field—AKA networking!—which is another thing you’ll need to do.

3. How much money do I need to have saved?

Any type of career change, big or small, needs a safety net. Consider all your expenses and how much you’ll need in savings before you can make the leap to your next career. Your savings will need to reflect your lifestyle, account for any funding you’ll need for your new business (if applicable), and ultimately make you feel safe enough to take on this big change. Remember to discuss this step with any of your partners, business or familial, as your financial decisions could affect them, too. This is perhaps the biggest step and having your partners’ support and advice will help alleviate any financial stress. 

4. Who can I network with to make this leap?

As you’re researching the industry and taking stock of what skills you need to learn, make a list of people and institutions you want to work with. Then find a way to talk to them! Start with your immediate network and ask for any introductions that seem right. Remember to repay people for the time they’re taking to help you out and be sincerely thankful for their time. Consider how long it’ll take to build this network (if you don’t have it already) and manage your expectations. But do challenge yourself when you feel bold enough—and cold-message those team leaders with a solid portfolio when you’re ready. 

5. What is my plan B if the switch doesn't work out?

Remember that you’re not really starting from scratch—you do already have skills you’ve mastered in your current role. This is a fail-proof fallback you will always have. Consider taking a part-time or freelance position to keep the funds coming. You also might consider staying in your career for one more year and making the leap later once you’ve filled up that safety net. Finally, you haven’t failed anything if you don’t make your career leap quite yet. Timing is important and sometimes life just gets in the way. Ultimately, remember where your joy is and work toward that. As Dawn Graham, author of Switchers, states, “There are no absolutes or guarantees in a switch…and you will be tempted to stay within your comfort zone. Risks are inevitable when venturing into uncharted territory and the best rewards usually come from the greatest risks”. So we say with gusto, go forth and take some risks! Without taking them, you’ll never know what can happen.

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