Thinking about changing fields? Read this first.
Now that the economy is giving some signs of opening up, clients are asking whether they should consider a career change and what the first steps might be if they decided to explore a change.
There are two set of indicators that might help you decide whether or not to explore a career change. The first set is external and involves the feedback you receive from your current work environment and from friends and colleagues outside your organization. The second set is more internal and has to do with the level of satisfaction or excitement you feel about your current job.
The most objective external factoris the length of time you’ve been in your present position. Although job hopping will not enhance your resume, staying at a company much longer than five or six years – without a solid record of promotions or increased responsibility – can be perceived as lack of driveor foreshadow possible difficulty in adapting to a new company.
Keep a ‘job journal’ in which you spend a few minutes a week recording what you’ve accomplished that week. If you don’t have much to record or you’re recording the same activities every week, you might think about a change. Similarly, if your salary growth has slowed down or stopped, that might be an indication that it may be time for a change. A frank talk with your boss, in which you share your longer term objectives, will allow you to assess how realistic the match is between your career aspirations and the possibilities within your company.
At least as important, pay close attention to the subjective feelings you have about your current job and how it does or does not support you in reaching your career and personal goals. Even if the type of work is satisfying to you, if the organization is not a good fit, you may experience some of the following symptoms:
- Unwillingness to get out of bed in the morning
- Fatigue or boredom
- Anxiety, tension, depression
- Changes in eating, drinking, smoking habits
- Resentment or lack of acknowledgement
- Feeling underpaid
To begin exploring a change, think about the skills you really enjoy using. Think also about the aspects of your ideal work environment: the colleagues you enjoy, the values that are important to you, the management style you prefer, your ideal salary. Doing the exercises in a book like What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles might help you identify the change you want to make. You might also research careers that interest you online or in professional materials. And talking to people who currently work in areas that interest you is an excellent way to explore new possibilities. If you could ‘shadow’ someone in that field, i.e., go to work with them for a day, you could ‘test’ what it would be like for you to work in that area.