Changing careers can be a complicated maneuver –and a mistake can set you on a course in the wrong direction. Read below about five common career change blunders and how to fix them.
1. Running from your career because you’re burnt out
If you’re been struggling in your current position for a long time, you’ve most likely grown to hate your job and you want to run as far away from it as possible. Take this example from one of my clients: Mary couldn’t stand her profession, so she ran to a new field: marriage and family therapy. Living the professional identity of a therapist – and dealing with the dark side of human experience – was not what she wanted. Mary needed a second reinvention to find what truly worked for her.
The way out of the blunder: Don’t wait until you are desperately unhappy in your current situation to make a change. Wherever you are today, reclaim your power in it. Make your situation better by building more respect, finding your voice, growing your skills, and becoming more competent. Then, when you do leave, you’ll make a clear, rational decision that will propel you to the next level of success. Running away impulsively will not solve your problems – they’ll just be repeated in your next career.
2. Making a change without doing self-reflection first
Want to become a CPA? If you don’t like math, it will be an uphill battle. Just because a career sounds as if it might be a good fit doesn’t mean that it will be. Certainly don’t quit your job or invest time and money into education until you are sure this is the career for you. You can’t find work you love without first determining what makes you tick.
The way out of the blunder: It’s wise to go back to the basics – know who you are, what will make you happy and then map out a strategy for a transition that fits who you are. Identify your true interests and passions, skills, and work values. This process is called self-reflection or self-assessment.
You might start with making a list of the things you like doing and conversely, those things you never want to do again. Also, consider taking career-focused assessments, perhaps with the help of a career coach. The more information you gather about yourself, the more accurate you will be in pinpointing the career for you. This process can be involved, complex, and even fatiguing, but it will also be illuminating and help guide you to the right career.
3. Trying to make the change all alone, without support or a mentor. Changing careers is a difficult process that requires a variety of resources and a lot of support. Without this support, you’re likely to lose your drive and motivation.
The way out of the blunder: While it’s helpful to look to friends and past colleagues for support, don’t limit yourself to people you already know. Instead, develop a new network of people inside your chosen industry, including a new mentor.
With a mentor, you’ll get introduced to new contacts, find out what life is really like in your industry, and discover which skills are needed to succeed in your new career. If you’ve been attending networking events and utilizing social media, you may have met someone you admire who will be able to help you. Ask this person politely for coffee and formally inquire if they’d be willing to mentor you.
4. Making a change because someone else wants you to. Because it’s virtually impossible to make a career change if your heart’s not in it, it must be your decision. Never make a change because someone else thinks you should. Your parents/spouse/friends/family members don’t have to live with the new career – you do. Switching careers based on pressure from outside sources will likely lead to dissatisfaction in your new career and resentment toward the person or persons who pushed you in that direction.
The way out of the blunder: If you are happy in your current position and make a decent living, don’t change to accommodate the standards, opinions, or judgment of anyone else. Reiterate your happiness and success in your current position anytime a career change becomes the topic of conversation.
5. Making a change without a financial plan. You can’t usually go from making $75,000 in one career to retaining that in a new job (and industry) without time and effort. Making both a job and industry change usually means taking a pay cut. Since you’ll be new to your field, you won’t have the experience to command a high salary and it may take several years to get your salary back to its current level. Therefore, you can’t automatically assume to maintain your standard of living.
The way out of the blunder: When considering a career change, you must plan ahead financially. Find ways to reduce your overhead, save extra money in advance of the move, or consider taking a second job. Pre-planning will make the change much less stressful. During the transition, allow room in your budget for professional expenses — training costs, professionals association membership fees, technology needs, and more.
Work with your career coach to develop a timeline for your reinvention as well as a backup plan, and measure those against the financial resources you have available to fund the change. Is there sufficient wiggle room? What will you do if the transition takes longer than planned? When will you begin to generate cash? With a Plan B, you’ll feel much less anxious about financial matters during the reinvention.
Next month, we’ll share five more blunders and solutions for each! To get more tips for your career reinvention, download our ebook