7 Key Questions to Ask Yourself Before Changing Careers

Changing careers is a big move to make. There are lots of things that you need to consider thoroughly before making any drastic decisions like quitting your job. According to specialists in the field, there are many factors that you should first think about carefully before concluding what your next move should be.

Sometimes the issue might not even be your career, but the company you work for, or the people you work with. Here are some questions that you should ask yourself to help determine if you are ready for a career change.

1. Why Do You Want to Change Your Career?

The first thing you should be asking yourself is why exactly do you want to switch careers? Sometimes less drastic changes are all that you need to enjoy your work once again. Have you been having a bad week? Has a particular project sent you to the breaking point?

Sometimes when your stress levels are high at work, it can lead you to daydream about a different career. But once the project is complete, or a new week rolls around, things start to go back to normal, and you’ll likely enjoy your job again.

Alternatively, the daydream could be one that is years old, in which case you should start thinking about it more seriously. In some cases, you may have hit the proverbial ceiling of your current career, and you are no longer feeling challenged or like you are progressing in your work. When this happens, most of us tend to move companies for a fresh start, but also to maintain the same level of position. The best advice: take this as the perfect opportunity to pursue a long-desired career change.

In many cases, people want to quit their boss instead of their career. Take the time to evaluate if it is your boss that is making you think about chucking it all in. If they weren’t in the picture, would you enjoy your work again? You could look at changing departments, or maybe it’s time to move to a new company. But just remember one thing: you might have a tough boss, or one who demands the very best from you. These can be the best people to actually have in your life. Called ‘mentors,’ these guides can become lifelines throughout your career – and they are uniquely qualified to help Millennials navigate the tricky terrain that lies ahead.

Alternatively, the issue could lie with the company itself. It can be frustrating if you are not receiving recognition for your hard work, or if no effort is being made to keep you and your team happy and motivated within your roles, or maybe a company policy is making your working life difficult.

Again, an easier switch would be to take a similar role at a different company within the same industry. Through this, you could find job satisfaction again without the big jump of a career change. Or it could be as simple as a lifelong dream that you’ve finally built up the courage to go for. If this is the case, answering this question will be easy for you.

2. Can You Afford a Pay Cut?

One of the biggest factors you need to consider before changing career is the financial implications. If you have a complete switch, there is a high chance that you will need to start at the bottom rung, which in turn will usually mean a pay cut. This could be quite a sizeable decrease in pay depending on your current position.

The main thing you need to think about is if you will still be able to earn enough to live. If you would be going from a managerial role down to an assistant, you may need to think about changing your lifestyle to accommodate that associated pay cut. Will the household income still total enough to continue as normal? Or will you need to make some adjustments?

This will be hard to determine until you get an idea of the average salary of the role you’re looking to move into. To do this, search for similar positions in your area on job sites. It’s important to note that there is no point at looking at salaries of roles based in New York City if you will be looking to work in Albany, as the numbers won’t match up.

Another thing to evaluate is how quickly you can progress to a higher salary. When getting an idea of the wage you could start on, also look at what more senior roles are paying. Doing so will give you an idea of the ladder you can climb, and what is required of those higher roles. You will then have an idea of how much work it will take to move up in a company and earn more.

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3. Are You Willing to Go Back to School?

For some career changes, you will be required to earn certain qualifications before you are considered for a role within the industry. For some industries, this could include studying at college or university to acquire the right accreditations. Depending on the courses and the industry, this could mean studying full-time for many years. It is important to think about whether this is something you can realistically do, or even want to do.

Alternatively, in some cases, you could complete the required learning by doing a crash course, or short course over a few weeks or months. These could be in the form of full-time or evening classes. Evening courses would be easier to fit in if you are still in full-time employment, resulting in minimal disruption to your employed status and earnings while you re-train.

Some roles will enable you to learn on the job. However, these are most likely to result in a pay cut as they are normally aimed at those who have no experience, such as school leavers. However, learning on the job can sometimes result in the quickest form of progression.

The key is to learn how the industry you want to move into works, whether taking the time to qualify will be beneficial, or if learning on the job in a lower paid role will result in quicker progression and pay increases.

4. What Does This New Career Offer That Your Current One Doesn’t?

Is your current career holding you back in some way? Some industries present a cap in your potential earnings which may not align with your long-term goals for work or lifestyle. One way to get around this would be to start your own business, but this also requires a lot of dedication and funding to make it work.

In this case, switching career to one that has a ladder more suited to what you want to achieve would be a wise decision to make. Instead, maybe the normal office 9 to 5 just doesn’t offer you the work satisfaction you desire, and you would rather be in a career where you can make a difference.

It could be that you simply got stuck in the industry that you took your first job. You never intended to stay for long, but suddenly years have passed, and you are still in the same place. It’s time you take the first step towards the rewarding career you crave.

Will switching to a new path allow you to work remotely? This could be ideal if you are looking to spend more time at home with your family, something that many regular jobs don’t accommodate. Or you want to change to a career that involves a lot of travel, allowing you to visit parts of the world you wouldn’t have otherwise.

It is important to weigh up the differences between your current career, and the one you plan on taking up. Some may require initial sacrifices to allow the long-term gains you are looking for.

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5. What Will the Long-Term Opportunities Be?

Before taking the drastic step to change careers, you need to evaluate the long-term benefits and opportunities the switch will bring you. Will there be a defined ladder for you to climb? Is there a clear path that you can follow, or is there a level of uncertainty? This is an especially important consideration if you are having to take a lower role as you will want to start progressing as soon as possible.

It’s also wise to find out if this is an industry-wide ladder, or if it differs from company to company. Can this new career lead to certain benefits that you are aiming for? Will there be an opportunity for remote working, or cutting down your hours to spend more time at home?

Once you’ve worked out the ladder, you can look at the job descriptions of higher roles to assess if they match up with your long-term work goals.

6. Will Your Family and Friends Support Your Career Change?

Finding out if you’ll have the support of your friends and family can be a tough question to ask. Their backing will be influenced by a wide range of things, including if a change of location will be involved, income, and your mental wellbeing. If you provide the main source of income for a household and a career change will see your earnings take a big hit, this could cause a lot of stress not only for you but your family too.

On the flip side, if the people around you can see that your job is affecting your mood and health, and you are looking to change to something you will enjoy more, they should support the positive change you are trying to make.

This isn’t to say that either situation will be more or less likely to result in their backing, but having it will make your move easier with your friends and family behind you. If you’ve done your research into what the change will involve, how you plan on tackling it, and the benefits it will provide either for yourself or collectively, then their positive support should come naturally.

7. Will Your Previous Experience Help In Your New Career?

If you have any transferable skills from your old job, this can put you at an advantage. It could mean you require less training, giving you an edge over others applying for the role.

For example, if you are coming from a managerial role you bring with you the associated skills that come with this position, such as decision-making, working well under higher pressure, or the ability to lead and motivate teams of people.

Alternatively, skills within technology, software, or hardware can be easily applied to almost any role. If you are good with computers, you will probably find it easy to fit into a role that involves working with them in any capacity.

Even if your career change is a drastic one to something on the opposite end of the scale to your current work, there will almost always be some skill that you can bring with you. Something as simple as problem solving or strong communication skills can be valuable in your new career, so make sure you identify what you can use to your advantage.

Changing career is never an easy decision to make, so it is important to consider all your options before taking action. In the end, sometimes you need to take a leap of faith. If you don’t make a change, you’ll never know what it could do for you.

Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor

Contributed by Richard Kao, sales director of COSSales, a U.K.-based office and tech solutions provider. Richard has first-hand experience of how a happy, motivated team can affect the success of a business. When he’s not busy assisting B2B clients, he’s often reading blogs and experimenting with the latest marketing trends. Find COSSales on Twitter.

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