Changing careers can be a stressful event for a variety of reasons. One may not have a choice in their job change because of downsizing, or their industry becoming obsolete. One may no longer be able to continue in their industry because of an accident or health reasons. The reality is, that most of us will have to change careers a minimum of three times within our lifetimes.
For those who do have a choice in their career change, this can be a very empowering exercise. Having the ability to transfer skills to a new employer or industry indicates a high level of marketability that not every worker has. This does not mean that if one feels they have good transferrable skills, or believe they are not “paid what they are worth”, that they should quit their jobs today for brighter skies. Another reality is that securing employment is a privilege that not everyone enjoys.
When planning a career change, the worker must consider several criteria:
1. Do I have the necessary education/skills to move into a new job or industry? Do not take your word for it. Talk to someone who works in the new job or industry that you would like to break into. Often our perceptions of what workers do in their job is only part of the actual equation.
2. Is it financially feasible for me to transition into a new career now? This is a very personal decision, based on lifestyle and expenses. Expect to start a new career at the lowest possible pay for the given position. If you have no experience in the industry, you will need to be tested out before anyone can have any confidence in your skills.
3. Will I be able to handle the change in attitude toward me? If you have long-tenure in any organization or company, there is a perception that follows regarding knowledge level. When coming in at the bottom rung, expect your ideas to be dismissed as the newbie. This is not because your ideas have no value, but that one needs to work in an environment for some time before they are seen a contributing part of the team.
4. Do I have the right attitude? In each working environment, there are different attitudes and expectations of the workers. A worker coming from a more relaxed (in terms of dress code, language and timeliness) landscaping job may feel stifled when trying to transition into an office environment. Often jobs require continuous learning and require staff to be able to adapt to changing rules and/or legislation.
5. Do I have a realistic picture of the job? Again, do not take your word for it. Some individuals may think that counselling is a great job where you get to help people and the community – that is until they realize the mountains of paperwork that are tied to this job. Speak to industry professionals who have been in the industry for more than five years. They may be better equipped to tell you how the industry changes, and what to really expect on the job.
6. Will there be any impact on the rest of my life? Not something that many people consider is how a new job will eat up existing time. Teacher’s are a good example of the misleading attitudes that are spread about the job. I challenge anyone to find a full time teacher that works exclusively during the school day and does not take their work home with them. This is also true in the non-profit industry. Because both occupations require a certain amount of passion for the work, the job can in many ways become a lifestyle, not where the worker goes for eight hours.
If the choice to change careers is out of the worker’s hands, it can be a very stressful and jarring experience without external help. Those who have the choice to change careers have the power in the job seeking arena. Changing careers when one has secured employment is a difficult choice that requires many considerations. Be informed, and ensure the right fit is you, and not that the job or salary is the right fit for you.