January 11th has officially been named Career Crossroads Day, as it is the one day of the year when most people consider changing their career. This comes as no surprise, so soon after the stress of Christmas, when we face another year in the same job struggling with all the same problems. Considering making the leap into a new career as a harmless daydream is one thing, but if it has been on your mind for a long time and you really can’t bear the thought of staying where you are, a career change is always an option, regardless of age or qualifications. It all depends on how much you want it and what you are willing to do to make that dream a reality.
There are many reasons why we crave change, ranging from burn-out to the desire for a complete change of scenery. According to a study by Arden University, a third of people considering a change of career feel they are under too much stress, and another third are looking for a higher salary. Unsurprisingly, 21% name boredom as the main reason behind their desire to leave. Quite often those with a history of working in an office will change careers for something much more physical that will bring more movement into their working day. It can be difficult to know whether the desire for change is genuine or simply a case of the grass is greener on the other side and unless you have experience in the alternative career, making that move can be intimidating. In some cases, after a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one, people realise that they have changed so much they are no longer suited to the job they have been doing for many years. This can lead to retraining as a therapist or nurse, enabling them to help other people as they have been helped. Just because someone has a natural talent for a certain job does not mean it has to be their career forever. Sometimes it is the job that takes us out of our comfort zone that is the most beneficial for personal and professional development. If you are wondering if you need a change, Chrysalis has written up a list of 6 signs it’s time for a career change.
As with most things in life, from relationships to careers, sometimes it is difficult to know whether you need to separate from your current situation entirely or simply fix some of the areas you are unhappy with. Leaving one job for another can even make things worse, especially if you stay in the same industry. Before making the decision to move on from your current job, work out exactly what aspect of your life is making you unhappy and how you can realistically change it. Even those who are in their dream career can have rough patches or periods of boredom or frustration. These rough patches eventually balance out, so it is important to look at your experience as a whole and notice when and how long ago you started to feel the desire to change careers. What changed when you started feeling this way? Forbes has a useful list of 5 biggest mistakes career changers make, ranging from giving up too quickly to ‘The Pendulum Effect’.
One of the reasons people write off even the idea of changing careers is education. The thought of having to go back to university or struggling to complete a degree part time alongside their current work and home life is enough to put anyone off. While some careers do require a higher level of training and qualifications, that doesn’t mean that a career change is impossible. Even today, when everyone seems to have multiple degrees and doctorates, experience is still priceless. If you can demonstrate your ability to do the job to a high standard, an employer is likely to overlook a lack of qualifications, or even offer you the relevant training alongside the job. If you are considering a change of career into something completely different, volunteering can be a good first step, to allow you try it out and gain some experience before committing to the change for good.
Perceived success is often a driving force behind the desire to change careers. Getting caught up in the idea that a salary is representative of worth or level of success is misleading and hurtful. This can be a particular problem with peers, when subtle mentions of income and financial stability can undermine others in the group. Trying to keep up with someone else’s idea of success is almost a guarantee of unhappiness. Money is an important aspect of a career, but it is not a matter or earning the most; as long as you can afford the life you realistically want to lead, this should be enough. Studies have shown that earning enough to cover the cost of living is essential, but a household income above £70,000 does not bring a greater level of happiness. Focus on what you truly believe to be a measure of success and happiness and work towards that instead. While financial instability can be a cause of stress, many people in lower paid jobs, such as care work or therapy, prefer the value of knowing they are helping others and doing something meaningful with their time. Psychology Today delves deeper into 5 things to consider when making a career change.