The 7 most important questions to ask yourself before a career change
‘Act in haste, repent at leisure’, as the saying goes – and for career changers, this could not be truer. A complete career change is a major undertaking involving large amounts of time, effort and commitment – and because we spend so much of our lives at work, it’s important to get it right.
With that in mind, here are our seven most important questions to ask yourself when you’re considering a career change, with some guidance on what to do to maximise your chances of a happy outcome.
- Could you fix what’s wrong with your current job?
When you’re considering a career change, sometimes it’s wiser to try to fix the problems with an existing job instead of stepping into the unknown with a new one. Does your dissatisfaction come from the job itself, or is it more to do with a difficult boss or a feeling of boredom that might pass, given time? Is there something you could do to change that? Could you find a job in a different department within the same company? Could you ask for a promotion to keep you engaged, or a pay rise to make you feel more valued? It’s worth exploring every avenue of possibility before you decide to make that big move.
- Have you done the necessary self-reflection to find out what you really want from a new career?
A frank, thorough self-assessment of your values, skills, passions and interests is crucial when you’re considering a career change. That way you’ll be much clearer on whether a new career is really the answer. List out the things you love doing, the things you dislike, take a personality or assessment test to figure out what makes you tick, and ask yourself whether your passions and values align with the type of job or industry you’re interested in.
For a more objective view, it can be helpful to ask a trusted colleague or boss about how they would describe you and your strengths and skills, as well as areas for development. Understand yourself fully, and you’ll be much more likely to enjoy and succeed in the new career you’ve set your sights on.
- Are you being realistic?
It pays to have a reality check before jumping feet first into a new career. Connect with someone who’s already in the job you’re considering and ask: What is the job really like and what does it involve on a daily basis? Is it what you think it is? Does it pay enough? Do you have to work irregular hours?
Once you feel sure it’s really what you want, find out how the person got their job – that will help guide you on what next steps you need to take. Also try to get information on how competitive the field is and what its longer term prospects are so you’re prepared for the future.
- Do you have a professional development plan in place?
If you’re going ahead with a career change, it’s vitally important to develop a clear, structured professional development plan that helps you to understand exactly what you need to do at every stage of the career change journey. By setting clearly defined career goals and mapping out the steps you need to take to get where you want to be, you can more easily navigate towards your ultimate vision. Find out more about how to write a career plan here.
- Do you have enough valuable contacts within your business network?
As many of us have experienced, job opportunities often come down to who you know – and many job hunters find a new job more easily through networking with existing connections than via job boards, newspaper ads or cold-calling, especially when they’re moving into a new career. Continually develop your connections through industry associations, business networking events and online platforms like LinkedIn, so when the time is right you’ll be able to call on those contacts for advice, recommendations and support.
- Do you have the right skills and experience to succeed in a new career?
When you’re moving into a new industry rather than just changing jobs, some of your skills might be transferable but you might also need to gain additional skills. Are you prepared to re-train or start as a trainee or intern to gain the relevant experience? Can you support yourself financially if your salary decreases? Is it better to delay resigning until you’ve laid the groundwork to make entry into a new industry easier?
- Have you fine-tuned your job search skills?
Looking for a new career can be a full-time job in itself. Before you commit to a career change, ensure you prepare yourself by updating your resume, writing a persuasive, dynamic application letter template, polishing your interview skills and utilising key job search channels and business networking opportunities for your industry.
A career change requires reflection, planning and commitment. Ask yourself these all-important questions before you embark on the search for a new career, and you’ll increase your chances of success.