Your career is a big part of your life, so naturally you want a job that makes you feel fulfilled. However, not everybody is fortunate enough to land in their desired career path from the start. After all, you can’t really know how well you’ll mesh with something until you go out and do it. Some of us get a few years in at a specific job, and then realize it’s time to make a pretty drastic change.
Taking a leap in your career can be a terrifying and exciting experience. Beyond those butterflies in your stomach, it’s also a time that’s filled with a never-ending amount of questions: What’s next? What do I really want to do? Am I making the right decision? This type of change deserves some thought and careful consideration.
Ask yourself these five questions and you’re sure to arrive at a conclusion you can feel good about.
Is it what you’re doing or who you’re doing it for?
Your employer and company culture can have a major impact on how you feel about your work day in and day out. It’s important that you know the difference between not liking your job and not liking your company.
Grab a notepad and pen and list what exactly is frustrating you about your current situation. This is your time to vent, so go ahead and be honest with yourself.
Look to see if this list is specific to your position, such as your work isn’t creative enough or you’d like the opportunity to work with people more? Or are your items related to your current employer—like your boss is a micro-manager and the lack of flexibility is a drag? It’s important that you take your time to think about the differentiation. After all, you might not need to or want to change careers; you might just need to switch employers.
What do you want?
Now’s the fun part—you get to decide what’s next. You’ve determined what you don’t want, so what do you want.
So a lot of research to find something that will make you happy. What do you enjoy spending your time on? Write down everything that makes you feel fulfilled and inspired, connect the similarities and tie those into one job.
Not only does this help get your ducks in a row for your next move, but it also will give you confidence and encouragement. You always want to feel like you’re running toward something—not away from something.
Is it a realistic career path?
You knew a reality check was coming, and here it is. Identifying your dream job is one thing. But ensuring it’s realistic is another.
It might seem disheartening, but don’t look at this as a step that’s meant to deter you from your goals. Instead, make it a part of the process to bring you back down to earth and ensure you’re being practical about your expectations and still pay your bills.
Do you have the skills necessary for the career you really want?
Now the follow up question: Do you have the skills and expertise to do it? Would hiring managers consider you for open positions, or would they simply roll their eyes and toss your resume straight into the trash?
When making a career shift, there are going to be a few gaps to fill outside your expertise. Don’t be alarmed when you can’t check all the boxes right away. However, it’s important that you do have some transferable skills necessary before jumping in.
If you find you have some pretty big shortcomings, don’t panic. Determine what you need in order to transition to that industry. Do you need to go back to school or get a certification? Would an internship be helpful (even if it’s unpaid)? Yes, it can make your reality check bounce...but you don’t want to go through the work (or worse, leave your current job and steady paycheck) to find out you’re unprepared.
Who can help you with this switch?
Even if you have transferable skills and an impressive resume to bring to your new career, it’s still going to be a scary transition. You don’t have any hard experience to share with potential employers, so you’re going to need some other tricks up your sleeve.
Review your network to find any existing connections in the industry you’re aiming to break into. As they say, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” and this sentiment can be especially truthful when you’re looking at changing careers.
Making a big change in your career is equal parts nerve-wracking and exciting, but it’s also a choice you want to think through carefully. Ask yourself these questions before making any moves and you’ve already taken your first steps to a career change.