There are various reasons why someone might decide that changing careers is a necessary next step. Maybe you sit in the parking lot at work rehearsing your “I Quit” script over and over again because you desperately want to be doing something else. Or the Sunday night blues aren’t just something you see in social media posts.
However, there are also times when leaving your sector is not the best course of action. I know this because, as a certified career transition coach and executive resume writer, I meet a lot of professionals who think the solution to their work problems is to change fields. And while it can be totally worth it, it’s a big enough step that you want to make sure you’ve explored other (less extreme) options, first.
Too often, people consider leaving behind an entire industry before they’ve fully explored other routes. And it doesn’t make sense to throw away years of experience or leave a field you actually love or excel in because of something that’s fixable.
With that in mind, here are three things that drive people to change fields for the wrong reasons (so you can be sure to avoid them):
1. Because of One Bad Boss
Your manager doesn’t make time to provide feedback—except once a year to blindside you with a performance review you didn’t think was fair. Or maybe your company has a lackluster culture where people pretty much keep to themselves and can’t be bothered to get to know each other. So you think, this career is not for me.
By all means, if you hate going to work each day, look for a different job! But keep in mind, companies—and managers—vary. So instead of deciding that the field you’d always dreamed of working in is a wash, see if there are other organizations in the sector that do things differently.
Before You Change Careers
Make a list of pros and cons about your current career. So, you hate the environment—but what about the work itself? Set up informational interviews with people doing similar types of works at different places. This will help you learn if the whole industry is competitive and cutthroat, or if that’s just how things are done where you are currently.
If you discover it’s isolated to your organization, then get your job search materials ready. When you interview at other companies, be sure to inquire not only about the scope of work, but to ask lots of questions about company culture and management style. This way, you can avoid being in the same predicament a second time.
2. Because of Money
I often consult with teachers who want to leave the profession because of the comparatively lower pay. While they don’t pull in a six-figure salary, most teachers enjoy the two months off in the summers, the two-week winter vacation, and weeklong spring breaks. And not many other professions have that same flexibility.
I also consult with attorneys who are satisfied with the high salary and the bragging rights of the firm title, but are sleep-deprived zombies who are sick of having to show face at the office at 8 AM on Saturdays when the managing partner does his rounds. Perhaps considering a move into business consulting seems like a great transition out of law, but I advise unhappy lawyers not to overlook the potential for government jobs or in-house corporate roles with shorter work hours and retirement pensions.
Before You Change Careers
Keep in mind that shifting into a role with greater salary potential or less hours may seem alluring, but don’t consider those factors alone. Sometimes shifting fields may require you to start at the bottom and work your way back up (which yes, can mean an immediate hit in pay or flexibility). Also consider that you may not be able to take that planned anniversary trip you arranged in your summer vacation schedule since you will now be a 12-month employee instead of a 10-month employee.
It’s OK to admit that work-life balance may play a bigger role in your personal needs than prestige and glory in working at a Fortune 100 company or a law firm. Create a list and rank things in order (salary, benefits, work-life balance, personal happiness, skills growth) of importance to you.
And if your current workplace has a different set of priorities, consider the possibility of switching to a smaller company or one with a different business model. What many coaching clients find after a few sessions is that it’s not the career change they need, rather it’s a shift in the types of companies they have been employed at for the last several years.
3. Because They’re Bored
You’re feeling like your life isn’t quite what you’d expected and so you passively read job postings. You see a position that looks cool and with the itch to change something you decide to quit your job and go for positions like the one you saw. After all who wouldn’t want to get paid to travel and drink beer, watch Netflix, or run the Royal twitter account? All of those sound like more interesting jobs than the one you’ve got.
That may be true, but your mom was right when she quoted Ben Franklin to you: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” (What? I’m the only one with a mom who quoted that?) If you’re taking a pay cut, you’ll need to save. If you want to move to a sector that requires certain skills, you’ll need to learn them. And above all, you want to make sure you’re not dealing with larger issues of restlessness, which may follow you to your new field.
Before You Change Careers
Before you make your grand exit, create connections with professionals in the industry you’re considering, consult with a career coach, research companies, read all you can about key players and trends. Being well informed is not only the smart thing to do; it’s the right thing for your career.
By doing the detailed research, you’ll be giving yourself a reality check. Yes, you’ll still have to do something each day, and this new line of work may—or may not—be what you’re looking for.
While changing careers can feel like a rebirth, jumping ship is not always the right answer. Do your homework, think things through, put together a plan, and consider the reasons why you want to change careers before you take the ultimate plunge headfirst. That way, you can avoid being several months down the road and wishing you’d never made the leap.