Posted by Brian McCullough
Earlier this week, we featured a young woman who was considering changing her career path… before she had even gotten started. I, along with several of the commenters, advised her to stick it out a bit longer and fight for her dream.
Still, it got me thinking: When is the right time to consider a career change? We’ve talked a lot about saving your job, finding a generic new job and generally advancing your chosen career path in earlier posts. But we haven’t really talked about the situation of career changers.
So, I’ve drawn up a list of circumstances under which I might counsel a client that it’s time for a career change. If you find some or most of these situations fit you, then you might be in the career change market.
- You’re no longer excited about your career.
This probably falls into the “no duh” category. But seriously, life is too short. If you find you just can’t hack it anymore; if getting motivated to get up every day is becoming too much; if you’re just not having any fun anymore, then what are you waiting for? Job happiness is out there for everyone. Being too timid to take the leap is no one’s fault but your own.
- There’s no future in your current career path.
Sometimes it’s not you that’s the problem… sometimes it’s your job that has run it’s course. Maybe you still love your job and you’re proud of all you’ve accomplished, but you’ve gone about as far as you can go. Why not look for new challenges and new horizons? Your only alternative is to sit around resting on your laurels and living in the faded glory of past accomplishments.
- Your industry is struggling.
Despite our advice to Dee to stick it out in the face of the troubles of the print newspaper industry, the health of your industry or career field is a valid consideration. For example, I spent the last several years helping clients begin new careers as real estate agents. It made sense at the time: it was a red hot industry. Now, a lot of those clients are considering transitioning back out and I don’t blame them. One day the real estate market WILL recover. And there are still good real estate agents out there making money. But again… life is too short. There are other careers out there that won’t require swimming against such a strong current for the foreseeable future.
- You’ve identified a new challenge.
Again, maybe you’re perfectly happy where you’re at. Still… still… there’s this THING out there… this new idea or this new job… it’s gotten under your skin and you’ve become fascinated. You want to give it a try. You can’t help yourself. Isn’t that part of what makes life great? Chasing those new interests and new dreams?
- You can afford to cut loose from what you’ve invested in your old career.
I’m speaking here in both a financial and an experience/reputation sense. Sometimes you’ve reached a point in your career where you can afford to take new risks, and it’s almost silly not to. If you fail, you’re not really out all that much. And besides, isn’t this what you’ve worked so hard for all these years: to earn the freedom to take chances now and then?
- You have skills and experiences that can transfer.
Here you’ve been sitting in this career backwater for years and no one’s been looking for you. Suddenly, there are all these new opportunities and your skills and experiences are in great demand. If you’ve got a skill set that you can suddenly utilize in a new or exciting way, it’s at least worth considering if the grass is greener elsewhere.
- You’ve reached a state in your life where this career path doesn’t fit with your lifestyle.
Trying to start a family? Need more free time or (conversely) more money? Maybe you’re in the latter half of your career and you want to slow the rat race down a tad. When your job doesn’t mesh with your lifestyle, that’s always a good time to reassess. You never want to be living to work. You want to be doing the opposite.
- If you don’t make the change now, you never will.
Sometimes opportunities come around that are once in a career or once in a lifetime. If you let them pass you by, you might find yourself wondering what if. This is also a situation to consider when addressing time-of-life issues. Maybe you’ve got the opportunity to do something now that financial, family or even career considerations won’t allow you gamble on in the future. If it’s now or never, then it’s worth thinking hard.
- Better income, greater recognition.
This one’s another “no duh” situation. If you can make more money while getting at least the same level of satisfaction, then why not? And if you’re at a place where no one appreciates you, what are you going to do, sit around and hope everyone wakes up one fine day? Why not go now and get the recognition you deserve for your hard work?
- It’s good for your career in the long run.
These days a variety of experience and the ability to adapt to new situations is an overwhelming advantage. It’s no longer about working your way up from the mail room. Jumping from job to job and even career to career is now very common. Here are just 2 exampes: IT… you need to be the fluent with of lots of different technologies and languages, master of a variety of positions and projects. Or take the young woman dreaming of being a CEO some day. Meg Whitman cut her teeth at Procter & Gamble and Disney before eBay came calling. She didn’t know much about the web, but it was her experience in other industries that eBay was really looking for.
- The idea of starting from scratch is appealing.
Some people discover the career ladder is not for them. Try testing your entrepreneurial mettle. Become your own boss. Or jump ship to that cool new startup. Your career could use the shakeup.
- It’s time for a geographical move.
Finally, is it time for you to start over in a new town in a new part of the country? That’s often the best time to start from scratch with everything and make a start on a completely new career path.