So....how DO you know when you’re ready to change careers?
Knowing if you’re ready to change careers is the hardest part about changing careers. Especially considering, that there are so many variables - personal, professional, environmental, maybe some other things too - that can impact this decision.
Not to mention that when you’re not happy with your job it can also have a negative impact on other things in your life.
In this chapter we’ll undertake a few exercises that should help you to define if you’re ready for a change in career, job, or position. As well as tackling the source of your frustrations and how ready you are for a career switch.
Today, more people dislike their jobs than like them. A recent study found that 64% of people in their 20’s and 30’s are thinking about changing careers, so you’re not alone when you start to question the path that you’re on.
A sure fire (see what I did there) sign that you’re ready for change is recognising that you may have burnout. It can be hard to spot and even harder to admit - especially if you’re an overachiever. But if you recognise any of these signs:
Then there’s a good chance that you’re slowly burning out and an equally good chance that these traits will start to seep into your personal life. The major issue with burnout is that it’s not good for anyone. It’s bad for your health and it’s bad for your company’s bottom line. It’s also not uncommon. Up to 70% of Americans don’t feel passionate and are disengaged from their work.
Burnout is essentially a lack of passion for the work that you do, often because people feel they’re not given the opportunities to reach their potential.
This can be the result of a poor working environment, an unsupportive team, or the realisation that this career wasn’t what you thought it might be.
As there are a number of potential reasons for feeling this way, It’s imperative to know what they are before making any dramatic decisions.
It’s important to identify if you’re working in an environment that may be preventing you (and others) from reaching your potential. For example, if you feel afraid of making mistakes, this may be a sign that your environment is preventing you from learning valuable lessons and making progress in your career.
Ultimately, positive work environments are more productive, because the people that create the environment are happier and have their needs fulfilled.
“In studies by the Queens School of Business and by the Gallup Organization, disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects. In organizations with low employee engagement scores, they experienced 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth, and 65% lower share price over time.”
From the Harvard Business Review Article: Proof that positive work cultures are more productive.
Google recently produced research that looked into the factors that led to the creation of effective teams. They found that the teams with the biggest impact typically have a specific set of needs fulfilled:
- Clear Goals
Identifying if you feel these needs are fulfilled, or not, or even somewhere in between. It should be possible to find out where your career dissatisfaction stems from and what’s making you an unhappy, or disengaged employee.
By also breaking these down into workplace, and personal factors we can identify if the problems arise from where you work, or your current career path.
Respond to the following questions with a Yes or No answer:
- Are you given freedom to learn from your mistakes rather than having them held against you?
- Do you trust your colleagues to complete their tasks?
- Are decisions made effectively within your workplace?
- Do you understand how your work contributes to the goals of the organisation?
- Are you satisfied by how much you’re compensated for your work?
- Do you feel you are challenged by your responsibilities?
- Is your work meaningful to you?
- Do you feel positive about the outcomes of your work?
- Do you feel positive about the outcomes of your industry?
- Do you enjoy the day-to-day tasks involved in your job?
- Do you feel you’re using your abilities to their greatest effect?
If you mainly answered no to workplace factors:
The majority of your concerns fell under the workplace category. This means you most likely enjoy and value your work, but are trapped in an environment that is preventing you from reaching your potential.
There are two solutions in this situation:
1. Talk to your manager. Voice your concerns and try to find solutions to your problems. By attempting to shape your environment, you may be able to continue down a career path that you find value in.
2. Find a new job on the same career path. If talking to your manager about the problems you’re facing is not possible, then it may be time to seek new job. The benefit of this is that you can switch environments and continue on a career path you can create value and see meaning in.
If you mainly answered no to personal factors:
It’s time to start thinking about a new career. If your workplace is supportive and offers opportunities to grow, but you see little meaning, or feel it’s not work that plays to your strengths, then It’s probably time for a re-think!
Don’t worry, you’re not alone! In 2015, LinkedIn reported that about one-in-three job applicants successfully transition their careers. They’re pretty good odds.
Choosing how to transition is just as important as deciding to change careers. Try not to see this as a sudden transition, but a journey to finding the right career for you.
There’s another big question to ask yourself and it will help you to assess how ready you are to change careers: What are you willing to sacrifice?
Loss aversion is a huge psychological barrier for people when making decisions and that’s no different when it comes to changing careers. When you start to think about switching careers you also need to think about the aspects of your current lifestyle you might be willing to resign.
Review the four items below and think about how willing you would be change them.
- Location - depending on the career you want to switch to, you may be required to move towns, cities, or even countries. Is this something that is possible for you personally and financially?
- Pay/Benefits - to what extent are you reliant upon your current income, is this flexible? For example, can you move to a smaller apartment, move to a cheaper neighbourhood, reduce any current expenses?
- Relationships - to what extent will you risk relationships that you have built during your career? Will people in your personal life be supportive of your decision to change careers? Will a change in lifestyle impact these relationships positively, or negatively?
- Seniority / Responsibility / Level of impact - It’s likely that when switching careers that despite finding more meaning or happiness, you will initially have to take a more junior role. This means a pay cut and less responsibility (unless you’re setting up your own business). For example, do you have any uncertainty from going from consulting and leading, to taking orders and doing other people's dirty work?
After reading this list, you’re most likely thinking one of two things:
1. I’m not in a position to sacrifice some, or all, of these! And that’s okay. There are potentially two solutions in this scenario:
A. Prepare yourself. If you still feel a career switch is for you, preparing for these sacrifices may be possible. For example, saving money to help offset changes in pay or costs of relocating, discussing your plans with people who may be affected by your change in career. The only non-negotiable item here is likely to be your willingness to sacrifice your seniority or level of responsibility. This is largely inevitable and if it concerns you then ….
B. Don’t change careers (yet). You may not be ready and that’s okay. This may in fact be the sign that you’re in the right career and you just require a change of perspective or environment.
2. You’re happy to sacrifice everything! In which case you just need to set you on the right path for discovering what your new career should be! This is what we’ll tackle in the next chapter: How to decide what career path you should take.
You should now have a better idea about:
This is probably one of the hardest decisions you can make, but also potentially the most beneficial. People who switch careers tend to find more happiness and meaning in their work and, in turn, people that are happier tend to feel more satisfied with their work.
Being satisfied and happy with your career is important for many reasons, but for perspective: YOU’LL SPEND 13 YEARS AND TWO MONTHS OF YOUR LIFE WORKING! The only activity you’ll commit more time to in your life is sleep!
That’s why it’s equally important to take the time to understand if you can find happiness in your current job before making this switch. If you find meaning and purpose in your work a change in job, or a promotion may be even better than a career change for you. Especially if you’re concerned about making sacrifices to find happiness.
Ultimately, switching careers shouldn’t be a rushed decision. It’s important to identify why you feel this way so that you can take the right step on the path to a fulfilling and meaningful career.