How to Navigate a Career Change: Tips from Professionals Who’ve Been There Before

“Career change” can mean a lot of things.

The phrase encompasses both the good and bad side of employment – you’ve found a new mission for your life, you got sick of your old job, you were fired or were laid off. Regardless of the reason behind a career change, you’re going to face transition. And most likely, the Bureau of Labor Statistic says, that transition will happen about every 4.5 years.

stormy road

Dealing with that transition can be a pretty difficult process depending on how much time you had to prepare for it. A without-notice firing can send you into a tailspin while a planned transition usually comes with a gentler season of change.

There are plenty of opinions out there about how you should conduct your job search and handle your transition. We’ve collected some of the best insights.

If You’re Thinking About Leaving, Be Certain and Methodical in Your Decision

The feeling of being trapped in a job you don’t like can be pretty suffocating. If the pay is good, you might be afraid to leave because you’re not sure if you can command the same salary at your next job. If the pay is poor and you’re just scraping by, you may worry that the absence of a paycheck could ruin your financial life.

Because so much is often at stake, it’s important to make a logical decision as opposed to an emotional one, says career expert Karen Elizaga.

A few years ago she talked with Fast Company about the nuances of career change. Her advice to those thinking about changing careers? Jumping ship isn’t always the answer and don’t react too quickly.

Take a moment to analyze why you feel the way you do about your current job. Is there a possibility that you could change your emotions by changing your mindset?

“Sometimes simply changing your mindset or how you approach your work, how you work with others or how you take care of yourself outside the office can help [turn your career around] to better suit your strengths,” she said.

man and tie

If a change in mindset doesn’t work, then it may be time to leave. But that doesn’t mean you should take the first opportunity that comes along. We’ve all known someone who’s jumped ship at a job they hate only to land a job they end up hating just as much or more.

While a change in environment is nice, the honeymoon phase wears off pretty quickly. So, Elizaga said, be wise in your choice.

“If you’re really secure about where you excel and where you fall down, you can look outside and say, ‘Now that I know the kind of person I am and the kind of job I would enjoy, I can look out at the universe of jobs that are out there and make the move,'” she said during her Fast Company interview.

Know Your Long-Term Goals

If you’re clinging to the railing of a sinking ship, you don’t want to jump into a lifeboat engulfed in flames. Your goal is, after all, to leave the ship and stay alive.

When you’re preparing to leave your job for a new position or new career track, you need to have a long-term plan mapped out, says BroadbandTV CEO and Founder Shahrzad Rafati.

“What do you really want to get out of your career? What are your long-term goals? I always believe it’s important to think five to 10 years ahead,” Rafati said in a Fortune article. “The change that you make should be a logical step in an overarching direction.

Rafati also elaborated on the questions you should ask yourself before you leave because, she said, they should guide you to the job that will meet your needs:

  • If you’re leaving a place because of a poisonous work environment, you should focus your search efforts on a company that values positive workplace culture.
  • If you can’t stand the fact that your boss expects you to work late, search for a position within a company that values work-life balance.

Wrapping It Up: Be Smart About Your Career Change

When you’re in a place you hate, it’s really hard not to want to take the first job that comes your way. Truth be told, it’s equally as hard to acknowledge that a change in mentality could result in a change of your thoughts about your job.

Rather than take the easy way out – changing jobs without doing some soul-searching – you should make a concerted effort to understand why you feel the way you do about your job. Know why you don’t like where you’re at, what you need from your next job and, ultimately, where you want to be 10 years from now. Tough questions will lead to wise decisions.

Or, as S’well CEO Sarah Kauss said in her 2015 Fortune article, “Facing the unknown will always be daunting. But thinking of the short-term move in relation to your long-term career objectives can help make a career transition more appealing.”

Leave a Reply