10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Make a Career Change

By DonShook

I have been fortunate to work for some of the largest companies in the U.S., and I have also had the pleasure of working for myself. There are pros and cons to working for the “big guy” just as there are being self-employed or working for a small firm. We tend to feel more secure knowing we’ll have a paycheck coming on a regular basis. When you are self-employed, this type of security can be fleeting. On the other hand, when you work for someone else, you have to rely on their acknowledging your skills and contributions to the health and wealth of the company. Politics often gets in the way of your job security.

There is no shame in working for someone else if you are doing what you truly want to do. But as long as you work for someone else, you will work at their whim. It is for these reasons that I believe the only true security is in knowing you have skills and abilities which are marketable, and knowing how to market them is the key to success. Realistically, whom you work for is not as important as your level of satisfaction, both intrinsically and by way of a great paycheck. Making the decision to change careers, or to even go into business for yourself, is one you should not take lightly. It’s not an easy road on your own – this article will help guide you through the thinking required to get a handle on your current career track, take steps to secure it, and even to step into a new career field if you choose to.

Many people don’t like their jobs – it is part of being in the working world. Even people who claim to love their jobs still have days when they think going to work can be just too much to bear. However, the truth is that you just may be on the wrong career path if your level of job satisfaction drains on your energy, your relationships, and your success at work. The best way to really see that it might be time for a career change is to honestly look at how you feel about what you do. This is really a very easy process through a daily work journal.

First, record how you feel about going into the office or workplace every day. Be honest with yourself and write down your true feelings. Are you dreading walking through the doors? Does the thought of it give you that queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach? Maybe you feel alright once you get there, but then in a short while you find yourself becoming bored and unable to concentrate.

When a specific job situation comes up, write down your reactions to having to complete that task. Let’s say your boss has given you the assignment to research past profit margins for one of the products your company produces. He wants a comprehensive report done and on his desk within two days. Are you angry about having to complete the task in such a short amount of time? Do you feel someone else should be doing the work, since you have so much on your plate already? Or does it make you happy to be trusted with an important job? Write down how that makes you feel.

In your work journal, jot down your feelings about your co-workers. Do you generally get along with everyone, or do you find yourself constantly at odds with people or a specific person? The key to a work journal is to write down exactly how you feel about various aspects of your job and then look for recurring themes. Are you unhappy because of the people you are around or because of what you are doing? Perhaps you just disagree with specific company policies or are no longer challenged with the work your specific department does. After you have identified the reason that you are unhappy with your job, you can start to take steps to look for ways to improve your current situation at work or to begin looking for something else.

Still not sure if you should make a career change? Think through the following questions – your answers will clarify your next step, whether to move into a new position in your current company, go to a new company, change careers or go into business for yourself.

1. Are their opportunities to grow within your own company?

If you want the opportunity to grow your career, it’s important to be in a company which will allow you to do that through succession planning. Perhaps you want greater responsibilities or a position higher up on the corporate ladder – if you cannot achieve these things in your current position or with your current company, then big changes are coming your way.

2. Are you bored in your current career?

If you decide to change careers, you may want to make sure it’s your occupation in general that is boring you and not just your current job. If it is your occupation, you should consider a career change. However, if it’s your job or assignment, consider discussing your work with your supervisor. You don’t get what you don’t ask for. Of course, if you don’t have a collaborative relationship with your supervisor, having this conversation is probably not a wise idea. Time to move on.

3. Are there new jobs available within your field?

When there are few jobs available in your field, a career change truly might be in order. Since opportunities are limited you may want to start exploring other occupations that have a better outlook – be sure these occupations relate to your interests. Otherwise you’ll be trading one headache for another.

4. Do you want to earn more money?

Who doesn’t? Keep in mind happiness does not come with higher earnings. The bigger the paycheck, the great the responsibility.

5. Have you kept up your skills to current standards?

Upgrading your skills in order to remain and continue to grow in your current occupation will take some effort. If you aren’t satisfied with your career anyway, you may want to start exploring other options rather than stress about what you need to do but don’t have the desire or motivation to do.

6. Do you want to do something more with your life?

In general, if you find your career unfulfilling, it’s time to find a new career. Being happy with your job can contribute significantly to personal fulfillment which is something we all need. So, definitely make a career change if you say “True” to this question.

7. Do you want to pursue a lifelong passion?

Go for it or at least consider it as an option. Make sure you do your homework first to determine that this career is the right choice for you. Pretend you’re a student and ask to shadow someone in the field you’re interested in. Keep your eyes open and ask lots of questions.

8. Have you discovered a new career which matches our skills?

As long as you’ve researched a possible new career choice, there’s really no reason you shouldn’t pursue it. There are times in life when we should follow our gut instinct once you’ve ruled out practical objections. Though in some cases, I might even overlook logical objections and make the choice to change anyway. There comes a time when the choice is so compelling, and our instincts are leading us in that direction, that we have to make that choice.

9. Do your original career choice and your current situation no longer match?

There’s a reason why you got an education in the first place. Was it because you wanted to, needed to, or felt forced to? Your present state may no longer match those past wants, needs or requirements. Decide if additional training is all you need, or if it’s a complete change. Then move forward and don’t look back.

10. Does your current career stress you out?

If your life has changed significantly since you first began your career and your work is causing your personal life to be at odds with your business life, you’ll have to make a choice. Unless you want to do nothing but work, you really should choose personal happiness. There’s enough stress in life without your work contributing to it. Before you decide to change careers, you should figure out whether it’s your occupation that’s stressful or just your particular place of employment or the people you work with. If it is your occupation, then change careers.

Of course, making a job change is never easy. Having a regular paycheck and job security is important – there’s no doubt about that. But if you’re unhappy in your job and feeling unfulfilled, are you doing yourself a favor by staying there? We spend a lot of our time working, so it really is important that we do something meaningful and which will enhance our lives.

Making a career change is a scary step. At least it can be! But when you are unhappy with what you are doing, why shouldn’t you go after your dreams and take a stab at something that you are pretty sure you will love while getting paid for it? The key is to be confident about what you want to do and then just go for it! If you need to take some classes to work where you want to work, then do it. It doesn’t matter how old you are – or how young you are. You can make a career change anytime and under any circumstances. It just takes commitment and a little hard work, but it can be done.

Shelly Lisoskie is a dynamic leader, collaborator and strategic thinker experienced in entrepreneurial business, K-12 and college administration, training and speaking. She has authored books on technology and customer relations management. In 2007 Shelly started her first blog as a way to support her college faculty. This blog developed into a resource link for K-12 and college leaders. She continues to support leaders from all areas of community and business life through her blog, Today’s Leader Online ([http://todaysleaderonline.com]), where she writes about career growth, leadership strategies, and also provides audio archives of interviews with such respected leaders as Jill Geisler of The Poynter Institute, Dr. Robert Thomas of The Accenture Institute of Boston, and Leo Babauta, of at Zen Habits and author of The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential, in Business and in Life.