How do you know when it's time for a career change?
Maybe you've worked in the same job for years because it's what you studied in college. Perhaps you got lucky and were offered a decent paying, stable job by a well-intentioned friend or family member. Or like many, you probably didn’t have much of a choice and had to take an available job just to pay the bills. Though it was supposed to be temporary, 10 years later you are still there.
OR… You might love what you do, but not where you work or who you work for. What you thought was the perfect job ended up being a nightmare. It could be a micro-managing boss who always criticizes and takes credit for your work. Or else, it may be too demanding requiring 80-hour work weeks and leaving little or no time for anything else. It may have you feeling undervalued and replaceable, after all you get payed less than your babysitter!
For many though, you are simply just not satisfied or being challenged enough. What’s worse, is that you’ve become so complacent that it’s hard to imagine taking any risks and possibly ending up in one of those nightmare positions. Here is a Three-step approach for determining if and how it is time to make the transition.
Assessment plays a vital part in not only helping you determine your career path, but also deciphering when it's time for a change. Before you jump into your next career path (disaster) only to end up disappointed again, ask yourself these questions:
- Which career interests and values are most important to you? If money and experience were not factors, would you be doing what you are doing now? The first type of assessment you should take needs to identify your interests. Once you identify what they are, assess your current job to determine how much time you are performing tasks that align with these interests. Remember, some interests are only meant to be hobbies, not necessarily career paths. If you are unsure, try volunteering or doing part-time/freelance work first to see if it truly is a career possibility. Recommended Free Assessment: O*Net Interest Profiler: https://www.mynextmove.org/explore/ip
The next assessment should determine which values are most desirable in your professional life? Work values include schedule, work/life balance, salary, impact your work has on others and achievement, to name a few. If lack of any of these leave you feeling unsatisfied in your current role, they shouldn’t be overlooked in your next position. Finding a role that includes these is equally important. Description of Common Work Values: https://www.onetonline.org/find/descriptor/browse/Work_Values/
- What is your preferred Work Style? What types of things come naturally to you, motivate you to want to work and give you the feeling of accomplishment? Is it diving into a variety of tasks and projects, solving complex problems independently or leading a high performing team by creating vision? You shouldn’t overlook your preferred work styles when determining career satisfaction. They might be the key to what your current role/job is missing. There are several assessments to choose from that target personality in the workplace. One of the most well-known ones is the MBTI, many are based off of it. Recommended Free Assessment: Jung Typology Test: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp
- Are your skills transferable? After all, you have probably spent many years in school or working somewhere to gain the experience and knowledge to have succeeded in your current role. That shouldn’t and doesn’t have to go to waste. There are tools to identify your current skills and be able to measure them against other, more preferred, occupations to see how qualified you are. You will probably be surprised at how many of your skills are transferable. Recommended Free Assessment: Skills Matcher: https://www.careeronestop.org/toolkit/Skills/skills-matcher.aspx
Take time to process and evaluate the results of these assessments. Reach out to a professional if you can’t reach clarity on your own. There are many coaches and career experts that can provide further insight and guidance.
You may find out you are in the right job but you just need to make a few changes. Maybe that new promotion you received as a manager is not the best role for you. Or perhaps there is an opening closer to home or with more flexible hours. Otherwise, you might need to change companies, while holding onto some of the tasks, responsibilities and perks that made it hard to leave. For some, after considering all other possibilities, it may be the time for a complete career makeover.
Whatever you decide, assessing where you are presently is important and necessary. This is something that should be done regularly and not just when you've become unhappy.
Once you've determined the right path for you, it's time to get busy. What connections are needed for you to move forward? Connections are people, knowledge and skills you need in order to do the job or role you are seeking.
- Who are the people you need to connect with for an internal transition or for a job elsewhere?
- Do you need to gain more knowledge in a particular field or sector, requiring additional schooling or certifications?
- If it's skills, which ones do you already have that are transferable? You may need to work with a career professional to help you identify these skills, get them on your resume and speak confidently about what you bring to the table in an interview.
Identify the skills you already have with needed ones. A professional, a trusted colleague and even honest family and friends can help you determine what you bring to the table and which areas you may need to develop to find a better fit role for yourself. Keep an open mind, ask questions and be honest with yourself about what you are good at. Remember, just because you’re lacking in a certain area doesn't mean you are not qualified. You need to highlight what you are best at, but also find ways to incorporate skills you want to do more of. That is the reason you are doing this.
What steps are needed to close gaps? Once you've determined your connections, you'll also need to identify resources you currently don't have access to. This is where you'll need to decide how you'll close these gaps in order to meet all of your connection needs. Don't spend time focusing on a particular skill if it's not relevant to your long-term goals. For example, don't go get a teaching certification if your intention is to move toward counseling.
Now that you’ve done the grunt work, it’s time to target your intended career path.
The results from the Assess step should have helped identify the top career skills, work values, professional roles and environments that will be most satisfying in your next job. The results from the Connect step identified resources you will need to achieve proficiency in those desired areas. Decide which goals are most important to you.
It is now time to transform them into ACTion Goals. You do this by identifying for each:
A – Attainable action you need to take
C – Concrete result it will yield
T-- Timeframe it should completed in
Example: You have identified that you need a resume that highlights your preference for coaching others. You have experience doing this. It should be a rather easy goal to complete.
ACT goal: Identify 3-5 examples of my coaching experience, and highlight that as a qualification on my resume by next month.
Ideally 5-7 ACT goals should be created for any position change, but can be less for internal transitions. The goals should provide a path for closing all necessary gaps and targeting new professional goals.
So to recap, progressing through these 3 steps should help you:
- Identify if and what career change is necessary
- What, who and where you need to make connections to obtain this change
- How you need to proceed in order to make it a reality
It is important to go through all the steps thoroughly when seeking this type of change. It should be slow and organic when done correctly, from deciding to executing. The end result will hopefully mean a more desired and successful career path.