Are you thinking about starting a new career? Most people end up changing careers between 5 and 7 times throughout their lifetime, so you’re not alone in wanting a change of pace.
There are many benefits to changing careers, especially if you’re feeling defeated or disillusioned with your current position. However, before you start a new career thread, it’s important to do your research.
Areas to Research
Make sure you gather information in these areas before you decide to change careers:
- Your own motivation. Before you get too deep in the weeds, take some time to reflect on your own motivation. Why is it that you want to change careers? There are many good possible motivations. For example, you could be interested in making more money, or working in a different environment. You could also simply hate your current job; if this is the case, it might be better to try and make changes to your current position before trying to go after something new. Additionally, considering your motivations can help direct you to the “right” next career.
- Education requirements. When looking at a career option, consider the education requirements. Do you need a 4-year degree before you can get a job in this area? Do you need an even more advanced degree? Or can you start with just a bit of upfront coursework? Education requirements alone shouldn’t turn you off, but they can help you determine the amount of effort necessary to get into a new field.
- Licensing requirements. Similarly, you’ll want to look up licensing requirements. For example, you may have an accounting degree, but you’ll still need to pass an exam in your state and meet other criteria to become certified as a CPA. Some licensing requirements are stricter than others.
- Salaries and benefits. One of the first things most people think about with a new career is the potential salary and benefits available. You can research average salaries for your chosen career online, but be aware that these can vary by location; a marketing manager working in New York City is going to make much more money than someone working in rural Ohio. Consider whether this salary level helps you achieve your long-term goals.
- Environment and stress. Think about the environment of this job, and the amount of stress it might produce. Are you stuck in a cubicle most of the day, or do you get to spend quality time outdoors? Are you typically expected to work long hours with infrequent breaks, or is scheduling more flexible? There are rarely objective answers to be found here; an environment that’s stressful to one person might be exciting and stimulating to another. Think about your own preferences when doing your research.
- Qualitative benefits. You might think of “benefits” of a job being things like health insurance or a retirement plan, but what about more qualitative benefits? For example, if you work here, will you get access to special privileges or discounts? If you follow this career path, will you feel more personally fulfilled with life?
- Current and future demand. Next, make sure you look at current and future demand for jobs in this field. How many new jobs have been added in the past year? Where is this career projected to grow? Some career paths are experiencing an intense shortage, and will be in demand for years to come, while others are dying out or are under threat of loss due to automation.
- Career flexibility. How much flexibility do you have in this career? If you get the experience and education necessary, will you be able to pursue many different positions? Could you move to a different industry? Would you have the ability to start your own business? More flexibility is generally better.
- Related careers. As you get more excited about a specific career, make sure you look up information about related careers. Are there similar positions that could provide you with more benefits or less stress? You might be surprised at what you find.
- Current professional attitudes. Finally, spend some time talking to people who are currently following this career. Are they happy working here? Are there things they would have done differently? Do they have any advice for you if you’re thinking about joining this field?
If you’re feeling confident about your decision to switch careers, or if you’re strongly leaning toward a specific avenue for your next career, don’t do anything drastic. Quitting your job prematurely or investing a lot of money on impulse could end up working against you. Instead, take your time, review your research carefully, and make the most gradual transition possible.