Career paths and work environments are far more dynamic today than they were in our parents’ and grandparents’ generation. People are far more likely to drastically change careers not only once but a few times in their lives. This has a number of benefits, the first being that individuals are less likely to be trapped in toxic and unhappy work environments. It is also a positive thing to have employees with a fresh outlook and slightly different set of skills entering the work environment. For instance, somebody who used to be a lawyer but then switched over to journalism will bring a remarkable amount of insight into the field that those with a strictly journalistic background do not have.
Career switching does have its downsides, however. The most important of these is the “grass is greener on the other side” syndrome. Switching from job to job in search of a professional paradise that does not exist can leave people bitter and frustrated. Here are three key questions that can help you decide if a career change really is what you need.
1) What Really Matters To You?
This may seem unnecessarily abstract but it is a critical question; it is about figuring out your priorities because what you believe makes life worthwhile is critical when it comes to choosing a career path. Some people are more goal-driven than others; they tend to thrive in jobs where there is a target to meet or a corporate ladder to climb and heavy competition. Others are driven by kindness and humanity, and still others more intellectually stimulated.
To answer this question it helps to look at what you do in your leisure time? Do you love competitive sports or would you rather curl up with a good non-fiction book. This helps to provide some insight into what kind of work environment best suits you.
2) Do You Want a New Career, a New Job, or Just a Holiday?
Feeling burnt out after a hard year can well make you feel like you want to run away, or do something that from the outside looks much easier and more relaxing. And a toxic work environment can destroy a job that you would otherwise enjoy. You need to carefully examine the motives behind your desire for a career change. One way to do this is to look at how you feel when you are doing the work itself. Perhaps you should try to work from home for a while to see if the work still interests and stimulates you? Are you being realistic about your new career or are you simply looking for an escape route?
3) What Are Your Transferable Skills?
The third question assumes that the other two led you to deciding that a career change is what you need. Here it is important to look realistically at what you can do professionally. There are many people who go back to university in their thirties, forties or even fifties to study an entirely new trade. This is very admirable, but isn’t a solution for everybody. Take a look at the skill set you have and compare it with what you need for your new chosen career. Then assess how feasible it is, and what kind of skills/training you need to acquire to get where you want to go.
Those who have made a successful transition from a job of labour to a labour of love don’t regret the decision for an instant; even if it does mean less money or more work. Sometimes it is only later in life that people truly realise what will make them happy.
This post was written by Natalie Simon, a Cape Town-based freelance writer. Natalie enjoys writing on career discovery and helping job seekers make informed choices.