There are all sorts of reasons, both positive and negative, for considering a career change. Maybe you’re still at the company that hired you fresh out of college, and even though you’ve enjoyed your time there, you’re curious about what else is out there. Or, maybe you’ve been miserable for years, and something happened last week that was the last straw.
There are all different types of career changes, too. You can completely change industries, or you can stay in your field and take on a new role. You can become your own boss, or decide to work for someone after being self-employed. Or, maybe you’re ready to return to work after taking a few years off (that’s called a “returnship”).
Making a big career decision like this is exciting and rewarding, but it’s also risky and stressful. That’s why you have to know this is the right move. Even the most exciting career changes come with roadblocks, and you’ll only be able to get over them if you’re 100% committed to your decision.
You may have a deep and obvious feeling of, “Something just doesn’t feel right and it’s time to move on.” Aside from that couldn’t-be-more-obvious green light, though, here are 10 signs that you’re ready for a career change.
1. You avoid talking about work, or you look for opportunities to complain
If you hate talking about work, never want to recap your day to your significant other or roll your eyes and change the subject when someone else asks about your job, that may be a sign that it’s time for a change. While it’s good to have a varied life and not be completely wrapped up in work, you should want to discuss it sometimes, especially if someone asks.
On a similar note, if all you can do is complain about work because it’s on your mind 24-7, that’s also a sign that you may be in the wrong job. Some jobs have stress built-in – entrepreneurship, self-employment and high-pressure jobs like being a first responder are naturally difficult. Discussing those challenges and how you troubleshoot them is different from endlessly complaining about every aspect of your job, though.
2. You hate the thought of having your boss’ job
For a lot of people, the job they’re in is a stepping stone to the next highest position. You may not have the goal of taking over your boss’ job and staying there for the rest of your working life, but if you abhor the thought of being in that position, you may be in the wrong job or department.
What’s the expected path you’ll take from where you are now? Is that something you look forward to or dread? If you’re avoiding promotions or don’t want to take on new responsibilities, it could be because you’re disconnecting from your job.
3. You’re suffering from burnout and dreaming of a career change
Are you always exhausted, depleted and worn out from work? By the end of the workday or workweek, are you drained in every way – emotionally, mentally and physically? You may be dealing with burnout.
When you’re burned out, it feels like you need a break, like your health and sanity depend on it. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to get a break, whether that’s a literal break or a mental one, because you’re so consumed by work. If you’re not at work, you’re thinking or worrying about it.
Burnout can happen for a lot of reasons, and it’s possible you’re contributing to it. For example, if you have control over your schedule and you’re overloading your days, that could be the problem. But if you’ve assessed and tackled everything you have control over and you’re still feeling fatigued, it may be the job or industry that’s to blame.
4. The job you’re interested in is realistic
Despite what some well-meaning parents tell their children as they grow up, we can’t all be whatever we want to be. If you’re 45 years old, clinging to the idea of being a professional football player and don’t have any other career aspirations, you might as well stay in whatever 9-to-5 you’re in. Changing jobs is a big undertaking, and you have to make sure that your career goals are reasonable. Not only does your career goal have to be attainable – if you can’t carry a tune, you probably won’t be a singer – but also rational based on your interests, skills and what you’re willing to do.
Let’s say you want to work for yourself, and you think it’d be cool to be a personal trainer. You can set your own schedule, choose your clients and help people become better versions of themselves. However, you’ve never really shown an interest in fitness, and you’re not in great shape. You don’t want to take the time or pay the fees for the necessary certifications, either. Your dream is actually about the freedom of running a business, not the joy of being a personal trainer.
5. You’ve taken online courses in your new field to prepare for your career change
The more you know about your chosen field, the better. For example, if you want to become a freelance writer, you may take a business writing or marketing course.
By taking an online course that will teach you some of the skills you’ll need for your new job, you’ll get an idea if this is right for you or not. If you love the classes, that’s a good sign you may love the career, too.
Are you thinking of going into business for yourself? Consider taking business classes. There’s a lot of administrative and managerial work that comes with being your own boss, and it can take up more time than the creative work. Business classes will teach you a lot of what you need to know, and you’ll also determine if you like the stuffier side of the job.
6. You’ve shadowed someone in your potential job (or any job)
Thinking you may like something isn’t the same as actually liking it, especially if the only reference you have is a book you read or movie you saw. For example, watching a lawyer on TV doesn’t show you the reality of being a lawyer, which can involve incredibly long hours, tons of reading and paperwork, and slogging away in a bare office.
Or, you may think that turning a hobby into a career is a great idea. You’ll never work a day in your life! However, until you see the highs and lows of being in that job, you can’t know if it’s actually for you. There are downsides to every job, even the ones that sound like a dream.
Shadow someone who has the job you’re considering. Try to shadow them for more than one day, too, or shadow several different people in the same role. You want to see how you’ll spend your time and what happens when negative situations arise.
No idea what job you’re considering, but you know that the job you’re in isn’t working? Shadow people in all sorts of positions, even ones you never thought you’d consider. You’ll start to piece together attributes of different jobs that you like and ones you dislike, which will help you narrow down your career options.
7. You’ve asked for informational interviews
Can’t find anyone who will let you shadow them for a day? Ask them if you can schedule an informational interview instead, which is a meeting where you’ll learn more about the industry or job. Come prepared with a list of questions, like:
- What is your day-to-day job like?
- What are your favorite and least favorite tasks?
- Which job skills are most valued and most used?
- How do you suggest breaking into the field?
At the very least, you’ll get a lot of insight. At best, you’ll make a connection that could be a foot in the door.
8. Your MVP was successful as a career change trial
MVP stands for “minimum viable product,” and it’s like giving your potential job a dry run. The idea of an MVP is to test out the most basic version of your idea. If that works, it has potential. If it doesn’t, you can try a new MVP or decide it isn’t for you at all. The best part is that you can test your MVP before you make your career change.
For example, if you want to leave your full-time job to become a self-employed graphic designer, your MVP could be pitching 10 potential clients and tracking how many positive responses you get in return. If you don’t hear back from anyone or you only get one response, tweak your pitch.
9. You’re ready to make sacrifices
Even if you’re going from a job you hate to one you’re excited about, you’ll have to make sacrifices. For example, it’s normal to take a pay cut when making a big career change, especially if you have to start in an entry-level position. Other sacrifices you may have to make include:
- Accepting different perks from the ones you’re used to in your current job, or no perks at all
- Answering to a boss when you were the boss before
- Being a beginner in a new, unfamiliar field, and losing the status you’ve achieved
- Figuring out how to work from home, which requires more overhead than working at an office
- No longer working with people you love being around to start over at a new company
Accepting those sacrifices and knowing that you’ll make them for the eventual payoff is a good sign you’re ready for the change.
10. You’ve accepted that this career change may not be your final one
You probably didn’t think you’d be looking for a new job or career when you started in your current one, and it’s possible it could happen again, even after all the work of making such a big change. You can’t truly know what a job or career is like until you’re steeped in it, and no amount of job shadowing or meeting with inspiring professionals will give you real, everyday work experience. It’s possible that this job or career change will fail in some way, and that you’ll have to start the process over. That’s what it takes to find your job, though, the one you’re excited to show up to every single day.
Resources to Help You Make a Career Change
We’ve compiled resources to help you decide if it’s time to make a career change and to take the next steps.
Take a career or strengths assessment
The Next Five is a career assessment from HubSpot that asks you questions about your interests, strengths, working style and current level of job satisfaction. You’ll get some help with deciding what your next step should be.
You may also want to take the CliftonStrengths assessment test, which evaluates how you behave when you’re your best self and will shine a light on your natural abilities.
Speak with a career counselor
Ask around for referrals to a career counselor, or do a search online for local or virtual career counselors, like Bliss Evolution. You can also connect with your college’s career office, which should provide information and guidance. Also, get in touch with any local college’s career office, even if you didn’t go to school there – they may have a list of local career counselors. You can also search for career counselors on the National Board for Certified Counselors website.
Take online classes in various subjects
These online education hubs have classes in all sorts of subjects:
Get marketing training and certifications
There are a lot of free and low-cost options if you’re looking to break into the marketing field. Here are just a few suggestions:
We also have this article about how to get a job in marketing, where we explore myths and realities about working in the industry.
Search job boards
When you’re ready to look for and apply to jobs, search online job boards and create alerts so you’re emailed whenever a new job matches your criteria. Here are a few job boards to start with:
If you’re crunched for time, try Google Careers, a job search engine that pulls in results from different job boards.
Final Thoughts About Making a Career Change
Making the decision to change careers is more about overcoming internal obstacles, like fear and procrastination, than overcoming external obstacles. Most external obstacles have straightforward solutions. If you don’t have a skill, get the necessary training. If you’ve never worked for yourself, read a pile of books about self-employment. Internal obstacles are trickier, and you have to be steadfast in your decisions and focus on your goals, even when your confidence and spirit are waning.
Once you’ve assessed your feelings and situation, you can decide if what you need is a job or career change, or if another, less drastic solution is better right now. If a major work overhaul is what’s needed, know this: a lot of people have done it and lived to tell the tale. When you’ve given this a lot of thought and are firm in your decision, you’ll find ways to handle any challenge that comes your way.
You can’t search for a new job without a resume. Check out our article with 10 Divi Layouts for Resume Websites.
Featured Image via Ikon_Grafix / shutterstock.com