Things to consider before a career change

So the job you’re doing isn’t ‘sparking joy’.  You’ve reached the maximum happiness output you feel you’ll achieve and the job isn’t all you hoped it would be.  Maybe you’re worried you’ll be wasting your (£9,000 if you’re lucky, but more likely £27,000) BSc, your PGCE or your Masters (and an additional £9,000).  Maybe you’re concerned that all the networking in your current field was for nothing.  And maybe you’re apprehensive of taking a pay-cut.

When considering a career change, all of these worries are completely legitimate and it might be worth thinking about them before embarking on a big life change.

Typically, Baby Boomers and Gen Xs followed a traditional career path by working their way up in a particular field.  Often, a degree spear-headed an individual to the top of the CV pile and retirement was set at 65 years old.  Famously, Millennials (also known as ‘Gen Y’) reject the one-fielded career trajectory (#notallmilennials).  Degrees are more commonplace, the Wellness industry pervades our working lives with a work-life balance being an ever-reaching goal and home-ownership at an all-time low (so why even bother to save for a deposit?!)  And on top of this, the age of retirement shifts further and further away as we move closer towards it.

A few years ago when I was considering leaving teaching, my best friend introduced me to ‘Squiggly Careers‘.  Founded and run by Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis, their courses (and now a book) introduce workers to non-linear career journeys and how to succeed in the modern workplace.  Devising two lists: ‘must have‘s and ‘mustn’t have‘s helped me to decide what I wanted my next career move to look like and what I hoped to achieve.

Naturally, hindsight is a wonderful thing and I can’t be sure I’d be writing this post if my career change hadn’t been a success.  But maybe because it has been (after a bit of a stumble and lots of support from my parents), I might have something to say for the Great Career Change.

What do I need to think about before handing in my notice to pursue other career goals?

  1. Will leaving my current job or career make me happier?

  2. Is it financially doable to leave my job without another lined up?

  3. Can I support myself whilst looking for another job and if I have to take a pay cut?

  4. Will being out of work to find another role make me less desirable for a position?

  5. Do I need to re-train?  (Many people who who have taken a traditional route in the career field you seek will shout a resounding ‘yes!’ but I wonder if this is because they’ve had to train and work their way up.  Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t need to do another degree, this time in Literature or Journalism.  I didn’t even need to do a course in Copywriting.  I could use my skills as a teacher to get into publishing.  Think about the transferable skills you have and how your interests align to that of your new career.)

  6. Am I willing to start from the bottom of the career ladder again or will I be aiming at a mid-level role?

  7. Who do I know?  Can I have a taster day with a friend or family member in a particular field I’m considering?  Network!  What clubs, classes, talks can I attend to find like-minded people in my coveted career?  Can I find insiders’ tips for landing a job?

  8. Will pursuing a career in __[insert aspirational career]__ make me happier?

  9. (Beware the ‘hedonic treadmill’.  Catherine Gray introduced me to this concept in her book, The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary (thank you WildWoman for the book).  In our constant ambition to achieve the Next Best Thing, we chase after things we believe will improve our overarching happiness but we quickly adapt to our baseline happiness.  Seeking greater highs doesn’t actually achieve greater gains.  Bear in mind that many experienced business professionals frown upon work-hoppers.  It’s a fine line between changing jobs to expand experience and changing jobs as soon as we feel bored.)

For all the flack Millennials receive of being the Snowflake Generation, I feel we have absolutely got it ‘right’ with the value we place on our mental and physical health.  If we’re not careful, we can begin working less than a minute after waking up by checking our emails.  We can work right until we go to sleep by sharing one more post on LinkedIn after dinner.  And we can message colleagues and share snippets of information from books we’re reading for pleasure.  Everyone’s aware of the negative impact from constant notifications and we know we shouldn’t have screen time in the two hours before bed.

Books are being published warning of phone addiction and reminding us to leave our work at the office and apps can be downloaded that monitor our phone usage (somewhat ironically, I feel).  But as freelancing becomes more and more commonplace, and for many of us, our working lives exist in the same four walls we sleep at night, it can be difficult to maintain a balance between working time and downtime.

It’s important to consider your personal motivations for changing careers; whilst a better work/life balance may be a driving force, the grass can always seem greener and for those of us to jump across the fence to different fields of work, it’s a bloody hard slog initially and we often have a lot to prove.  Hindsight will always help with a decision but in the absence of this, we need to trust ourselves to make the right decisions.  Seek advice from others but remember it’s only you who has to choose whether to change careers.


If you’ve experienced a career change and wish to add tips to the list, please do comment below.

Photo from Pexels.


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