November 29, 2023


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How to Know if You Need to Change Careers, and What to Do Next

6 min read
How to Know if You Need to Change Careers, and What to Do Next

Deciding to change careers can be a daunting task. But sometimes, it’s the right move to ensure personal growth, job satisfaction, and overall well-being. Knowing the key indicators that suggest it may be time for a career change will help you make this important decision and take the next steps toward a fulfilling new career.

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How to Know if You Need to Change Careers

People go through different experiences and thought processes when deciding on a career change. However, you’ll most likely relate to one or a combination of the following:

1. You’re Not Motivated by a High Salary or Promotions

person in blue long sleeves holding dollar bills

If pursuing a high salary or promotion no longer fuels your drive, it may be a sign that you need to change careers. Monetary rewards are sometimes the only factor that keeps you in your job. If not even money can make you get up in the morning to go to work, you may have reached the end of the road.

2. Your Best Skills Aren’t Utilized

Skill underutilization can lead to stagnation and dissatisfaction. Not maximizing your skills can lead to demotivation, frustration, boredom, and disengagement at work, which can ultimately lead to low productivit. If your core strengths aren’t important to your current job, it’s time to assess if you need to change careers.

3. You’re Underperforming

bored man in business suit looking listlessly at his laptop

Consistently underperforming despite your best efforts can be disheartening. Take a closer look at the reasons behind your underperformance. Is it due to a lack of interest, a mismatch between your skills and job requirements, or a stagnant work environment? If it’s one or more of these, it may be time to change careers.

4. Your Contribution Seems Negligible

Feelings of being undervalued and unappreciated can erode your job satisfaction and motivation. You might be working beyond office hours, but if your work does not reflect on company goals, job satisfaction, monetary rewards, or employee feedback, you should take a step back and evaluate. Are you only being insecure, or maybe, this just isn’t the field for you?

5. You Want to Do Something Else

troubled woman looking at her laptop

Sometimes the desire for a career change stems from an internal longing to pursue a different path. You may have a childhood dream that needs to be realized or a goal you can’t achieve in your current job. If you’ve felt this way for years without taking action, it may be time to switch careers.

6. Your Circumstances Require It

Sometimes, family responsibilities require a career break or a shift to remote work. Health considerations and the need to relocate are other factors that drive career transitions. Is your current job worth putting these personal circumstances on the back burner? If the answer is no, you may need to change careers.

How to Plan Your Career Change

Now that you know the possible reasons for a career change, it’s time to take action. Here’s a simple plan to get you started:

1. Reflect on Your Core Values

sample core values list on Google Keep

Reflect on what you value most (a simple note-taking app like Google Keep can help). For example, staying in your current job might mean maintaining stability and having influence. Leaving to pursue freelance work might mean more flexibility, family time, and space for your other passions.

If family and flexibility are more important to you than stability and influence, then the choice becomes easier. Becoming a freelancer might mean starting over in your career, leaving a more comfortable position, and taking a considerable risk. But when you consider your core values, you will realize that the sacrifice is all worth it.

2. Take a Break

Take a short break or a long sabbatical (if you can afford it) to rejuvenate and gain clarity. You can use your vacation to self-reflect, explore new interests, or pursue short-term professional development opportunities.

Instead of spending each day going through the same routine, learn how to spend time working on your personal development. Taking action can be as simple as listening to an inspirational TED talk or making an effective career journal to guide you toward greater career goals. Delaying your decision on a career change may only lead to regret.

3. Find Out What Intrinsically Motivates You

Greater Good Magazine Purpose in Life Quiz

Money is considered extrinsic motivation; it’s what you feel when you complete a task for a reward. But intrinsic motivation is what you need to turn your job into an exciting and challenging career. Harvard Business Review emphasizes that without intrinsic motivation, you’ll struggle to complete your tasks and sabotage your own professional success and growth.

Look for fulfillment beyond external rewards, and explore avenues where your true passions and purpose can be realized. If you need help figuring out where to start, take some online tests to learn how to find your purpose in life (Try Greater Good Magazine’s Purpose in Life Quiz).

4. Consider a Lateral Move

Sometimes, a career change is only a workstation away. Explore the benefits of moving to a different role, department, or regional office within your current organization.

A lateral move has many benefits. If you like your company but not your job, a lateral move allows you to continue enjoying the benefits of staying in your company. It also keeps you competitive for higher-level roles in the future, especially if you want to aim for a manager role.

Identify your professional goals to determine if moving to a new role within the same company is best for you. Afterward, you can ask your manager or human resources head for their insights. They can also point you to the right opportunities in your company.

5. Join Professional Communities

meetup freelance events in new york

Networking is a valuable skill for freelancers and employees. Friends and ex-colleagues might become your first clients. They can also refer you to job openings that need your skills.

Networking tips for career advancement will help you build your own professional community. These communities can give you support, guidance, and mentorship during your career transition. You might find Facebook and LinkedIn groups dedicated to your industry beneficial. You can also try platforms like Meetup or Eventbrite.

6. Start Researching Your Next Role

Once convinced that you must explore a different career path, research potential roles. Consider the following before you apply to any role:

Consider employing the help of a mentor or career coach to give you valuable insight into potential roles. A coach can help you set goals and provide a specific timeline for achieving these goals. Meanwhile, a seasoned mentor can guide and emotionally support your career change journey.

7. Update Your Resume and Online Profiles

pdf sample one-page resume

Once you’re set on a new career, tailor your resume and online profile to fit your next role. If you’ve worked for quite some time, you’ve probably already built a reputation in your field. Effectively positioning yourself in your new career means revamping your online presence and CV.

When writing your resume, highlight your transferable skills. For instance, if you’re a teacher who wants to transition to a marketing role, emphasize the communication and people skills you gained in your job rather than classroom management skills. You don’t have to include all your job experiences; instead, focus on your most relevant ones and try creating a one-page resume.

8. Look for a New Job

A job search is like a full-time job, so you must be smart about it. Attend career fairs, utilize job boards like Indeed and LinkedIn, and contact recruiters in your target industry. Use the best job search apps for iPhone and Android to receive important job alerts even while on the go.

Start Exploring Your Next Career Today

The resources are all available for you. All that’s left is taking that crucial step to leave that gray area of indecision. If you’ve been listless, demotivated, unappreciated, and underutilized in your job for a long time, it’s time to take action. Apply these tips to decide on the best move and successfully navigate your career transition.

If you’ve decided to leave your current role, explore online tools to help you successfully pivot your career. Review the best job sites and online apps to start your next career move on the right foot.


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