4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making a Career Change

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“A change is as good as a rest” — or so the age-old saying goes. So, are you ready to take on a new challenge? If you have grand career aspirations outside of your current career path, now may be the time to consider a change.

But, how do you know whether making a change is the right thing to do? In this post, we take a look at four of the core questions can you ask yourself before you decide upon a career change. The answers can then help you decide what your next move needs to be.

1. Why do I want a career change?

Start with one simple question: Why?

Perhaps you’ve been flirting with the notion of a career change for some time. You’re not alone. In fact, 90% of British workers are “unhappy” with their jobs, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2023 report. Before you can start looking into new, exciting prospects, it’s worth spending some time investigating why your current role is falling short of the mark.

Think about what is making you look further afield. It may be that your current role doesn’t challenge you, for example. You might want to go after a higher-paying career. You could have a deep-seated desire to do something that you’ve never had the courage to chase. Ahead of handing in your resignation, think about what it is that is really pushing this decision. The next question might help you with your answer to this one, too.

2. Is it the career or the company that is unfulfilling?

Do you actually want a new career…or simply a new job? While choosing to switch careers is valid and, frankly, admirable, it takes both time and dedication on your part. You will need to work hard for it. So, with that in mind, you need to work out of it’s just the company, role, or industry that’s the issue, or the whole career path itself.

Consider whether you are just bored of your current role or company, rather than wanting a whole new career. If you have been in the same job for a matter of years, it may be that it is no longer fulfilling you or challenging you - most jobs have a 2-3 year shelf life, after which a change is often needed. How do you feel about the function of your job, and the impact it has? If your concerns feel more existential, then perhaps a complete change is required. If you want to stay in the same industry, it might just be a new role you’re looking for.

3. What do I want out of my working life?

What is it that you want from your career? You may never have considered what your driving force is, but now is the time to do so. For some people, the answer is clear-cut. They might want a high salary, an impressive job title, or even the chance to travel as they work.

However, for many of us, getting down to the crux of what we want takes some introspection. I’m a firm believer in the idea that you need to gain true value from your work, and know why you’re doing what you’re doing day to day.

While that looks different for everyone, here are some of the main benefits you might be seeking from a change:

  • Higher income: working hard for the money you make is honourable. However, if you feel you are not getting a sustainable income for you, it may be time to re-evaluate your career. Re-training or pivoting to another career path with higher pay prospects could be the answer. It’s worth looking at the options that are out there, and researching which job will match your financial goals.
  • Flexibility: flexible work patterns are becoming the “new normal”. A massive 71% of workers view this as important when they are seeking a new job. That may mean being able to choose your own hours, remote work, or the ability to travel as you work. Searching for a career that accommodates your ideal lifestyle could be the answer here.
  • Meaning: do you want a job that gives you a sense of purpose? If there is a cause that is close to your heart, it may be worth following that career path. Moving into a social impact role where you have the opportunity to make a real difference in the world could be the way to go.

Pinpointing what it is that you want from your job — and why — is a great place to start. Armed with this information, you can start to investigate viable career options that suit your needs and wants.

3. What will this career change involve?

You have a new career in mind and you’re finally ready to go for it. Okay, now the real work begins. You’ll need to start mapping out your plan of action. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources out there, which will help you identify what steps you'll need to take in order to make your new career a reality.

One of the easiest ways to understand what employers are looking for, and therefore what steps you yourself need to take, is to look at relevant job postings, as well as LinkedIn profiles of those that do what you want to do. Check out the criteria for these roles and consider how your strengths, skills and experience align, and what gaps you need to fill. This quick exercise will give you a realistic idea of what the career change will involve, and where to start.

Your individual action plan will then depend on your current standing i.e. the experience and education you currently have, where you aim to be, and the gap between these. Here are the steps you may need to take in order to bridge the gap between where you are now, and where you want to be in the future:

  • Retraining: if you are looking to enter a new profession that demands it, you may need to retrain. What does that look like for you? What schemes or programmes are available? What is the time demand of this process? Can you take evening classes or complete a qualification online? Review all of the available routes first, and decide what might work best for you.
  • Gaining experience: chances are, you don’t have work experience in the field you are hoping to enter. Do you need to get some? If you cannot get an entry-level role without having some formal experience first, it’s time to get creative. You may need to take on an internship, look at work placements, arrange informal work experience, or even check out voluntary roles.
  • Rebranding yourself: once you’ve overcome the first two hurdles, it’s time to sell yourself to hiring managers, recruiters, and/or your contacts. How can you show them that you are the ideal applicant for the job? It’s important to get all of your professional materials in order. That includes your CV, covering letter, and online presence — such as your LinkedIn profile, and any other profiles you have online. Ensure that every element of your application, and personal brand , tells the same career story, highlighting the strengths, interest, and knowledge you can bring to this new career.

4. What is a reasonable timeline for this career change?

Tomorrow never comes. If you’re continuously putting off your career change, nothing is ever going to change. Now, you don’t have to plan your career change down to the nth degree. However, it’s smart to have a realistic idea of when you will be able to start building up relevant work experience, and how long it might take before you can start applying for new roles, reaching out to your contacts, etc.

Start by creating a road map that will lead you to your new career. You can break things down by how long each part will take. For instance, if it takes you six months to gain the qualification that you need, factor that into your timeline. Should it take you a year to complete an internship, you also need to include that in your plan. Be as SMART as you can be with your goals, while also leaving some leeway that you can use if things don’t run smoothly. Keep re-visiting your plan over time to keep you on-track and held accountable to your progress.

Final thoughts

Making a career change can be a challenge, but so is anything in life that is worth doing. When you can answer the above questions with clarity, you will hopefully feel more prepared to start taking the first steps in your new direction.

If you’re really not sure where to start with any of the above, do get in touch and we can discuss working through the above questions using the career change programme I offer.

Alice Stapleton

About Alice

Alice coaches those who want to change career but don’t know what they want to do instead. She offers Career Coaching designed to help graduates, early to mid-level career-changers, and parents returning to work gain a clear vision of what career is right for them, and how to achieve it. She is also an accredited Coach Supervisor.