7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Changing Careers
Posted November 17, 2017, by Yvette McKenzie
Career changes are becoming more and more common. Today, the average person will shift careers 5-7 times during their working life. The majority of the workforce will actually trade jobs every 12 months - and by your early 40s, you will have clocked up at least 10 different jobs.
Changing roles is now very common. So, if you’re frustrated in your current position, there are a few essential questions to ask yourself before you jump ship. Learn how to work out what really matters to you, and find a future job role that ticks all the boxes you might never know you had. Here are seven questions to ask yourself before you get started on the job change process.
#1 What's more important: title, salary or location?
Depending on at what stage you’re at in your career, you might have different priorities. When you’re younger and just starting out, gaining experience in a desired company and a suitable job title might be more of a priority. As you progress in your career and become more settled with family and other commitments (such as a mortgage) then location and salary expectations might become more immovable.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, “Some people are willing to make lifestyle changes because the intrinsic rewards of following a passion or making a difference are more important than a high salary in an unenjoyable career.” Consider this when planning to change careers. There is no right or wrong answer; it’s about taking the time to think about your career priorities and planning accordingly.
#2 What do I really appreciate when it comes to company and culture?
Forbes recently reported on the key causal relationship between employee happiness in their workplace and their general productivity, based on a US study by IZA World of Labor. Often people decide to change jobs because they simply aren’t happy with the day-to-day culture of their workplaces.
“Happy people - defined as people who frequently experience positive emotions like joy, satisfaction, contentment, enthusiasm, and interest - are more likely to succeed in their career,” the study says. Before you leap onto another job role, take some time to consider exactly what ‘makes you happy’ from a company culture point of view, and weigh up what you currently have with any new options that present themselves.
#3 How are my career progression prospects looking?
Another big reason people desire to shift career is that they feel that their chances of promotion are slim where they are. Sometimes it can be easier to transition into a new role with a better title and better prospects than to stagnate where you are.
But this is not always the case. If you’re employed in a role where you’re relatively secure, it pays to job seek (ethically, and never on company time) while still in your role, so you can test and sample the market before you leap. Get a good idea of what sort of roles might be out there, and assess the likely competition and what qualifications you’ll need; before handing in your final notice.
#4 What personal factors will I be dealing with over the next few months that might affect my performance?
When you transition to a new job in a different company, expect to be on a period of high engagement and potentially higher stress for the first few months as you learn the ropes. If you have any personal commitments coming up that will take some of your focus off your job, carefully consider how these will play in with your new role.
No one can predict the future, but it might be worth delaying a job change if you know you’re about to undergo a major life event; such as a health complication, getting married, new property purchase or family commitment – having said that, if a new job role offers better security or better remuneration – this might be another reason to “push go” on your plans to resign.
#5 Who will my referees be, and how is my current relationship with them?
Before you shift job roles, think about who’s best to vouch for you in the job seeking process. When putting together your list of referees, it's good to choose people from a few different areas of your life – professional, academic and personal. However, unless a potential employer asks for a personal reference it's best to stick to professional contacts.
#6: Who would mentor me in my new role?
Mentors are important at all stages of your career, from when you’re starting out, to heading for retirement, and every phase in between. Harvard Business Review found that “executives who have had a mentor earn more money at a younger age, are better educated, are more likely to follow a career plan, and, in turn, sponsor more protégés than executives who have not had a mentor.”
Consider who you’d be engaging with when you’re researching new potential roles and potential organisations and factor this into your career change process. You might find that the chance to work with or for someone you professionally admire might be a good reason to shift from your current job; alternatively, if you admire someone on your current team who can assist you in growing your future job prospects, this might be another reason to stay in your present role.
#7: Ultimately – what position will look better on my resume?
“Job hopping” too frequently used to be considered a career killer but times have changed. There are now multiple studies that show job hoppers are more ambitious and have more rewarding and stable careers. But how often is too often? Consider how remaining in your current role will look on your resume, compared with starting a new path, and factor this into your decision-making process.
Again, there is no right or wrong answer, but if you’ve had a history of changing several jobs in a row with less than 6 to 12 months of desk time, this might still be considered a red flag in certain industries, unless you can authentically back yourself up. The same goes for staying somewhere too long, and not gaining varied enough industry experience. Do your research before you transition, and don’t be afraid of getting opinions from your networking group.