Ask yourself these questions when before making the career-change leap.
The standard used to be that you (hopefully) stayed at your first job until retirement. However, it's become more and more common for people to switch companies, even fields, frequently. If you're thinking about taking the plunge and changing careers, you should stop and think before you hand in your two weeks' notice. Below are a few things to consider before switching to a new career field.
Can I afford to make this career change?
A good starting place when considering a career change is to look at the numbers. How will making this kind of change impact your finances? Is it going to push back your retirement date or make it harder for your kids to go to college? Will you be making more money, or will you be making less? Can your family handle the possibility of going without your income for a bit while you get back on your feet? What's going to happen with your current financial obligations while you adjust to your new job?
This isn't to say that you need to make more money in order to switch fields. In fact, many people drop down a few tax brackets and find themselves perfectly happy. What you need to know, though, is what's going to happen with your financial future. If you're happy with the answers to those questions, it may be feasible to switch fields. If not, it's best you plan things out further before switching careers. It's always a matter of balancing risks with rewards.
How would this career change affect my family?
If you're in a committed relationship and/or you have kids, changing careers is going to impact more lives than just your own. As such, you need to think about how making this change will impact others.
On a basic level, think about how this move will change the lifestyles of your partner and/or your children. Will they still get to see you as often? Will they continue to have similar lifestyles, or will they have to make major changes? Will your partner be able to continue on at his or her job? What about if you have to relocate?
Remember, the change you make now will have a huge impact on the future of those who love you. Of course it's possible that this change could be very beneficial, but you have to look beyond yourself when considering entering a new field. While switching over to a new career might make you happier at work, you need to make sure that it won't have a negative impact on your home life. That would just lead to you switching out one problem for another.
Would I need to start over? Am I OK with that?
If you're switching careers, there's a good chance you won't be able to take your current level of seniority with you. It's a good idea, then, to think through what it really means to start over.
You should always start with a bit of realism. Do you actually have the skills and ability needed to do this job? You might dream of being a rescue diver, for example, but you won't be able to get a job if you can't swim. If you do possess at least the basic skills, think about what you'll need to do to catch up — do you need another degree or type of certification? If so, how long will that take and how much will it cost you?
It's also a good idea to think about how much growth potential your new industry has. If you start over now, will you be able to climb as far up the corporate ladder as you like? It's not fair, but it's true that some jobs simply don't allow you much time to get to the top of growing industries. Make sure you know what the future could possibly hold for you.
Related: The Modern Guide to Career Transition
Will this career change actually change things?
The toughest question to answer is whether changing jobs will really change anything for you. Do you really hate your field, or is it just your current position with which you aren't happy? Do you think you'd be happier if you transferred somewhere else, or if you switched to a new company? Sometimes a new perspective can change things.
You should also double check with yourself to ensure a total changeup is really what you need, not just that you're in a brief rut. Even the most enthusiastic people lose passion for their jobs for a bit, so figure out if your desire to change fields is real or if you are just trying to get away from what's making you upset right now. In the same vein, take a look within for some answers — there's a chance it isn't your job that's making you unhappy, but something that's deeper. A career change may not be the fix.
There's nothing wrong with switching to a new career field, as many people do it every day. But it is important that you consider all the possibilities before you take the leap. Stop to think about how it will affect your family, your finances, and your mental well-being. It can absolutely be worth the risk to try something new, but you can feel more confident with your bold decision when it's well thought out and well-informed.
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