Someday you might find yourself sitting at your desk wondering what life would be like if you’ve chosen a different career path. In today’s world, it doesn’t even need to be a distant dream – career change is possible and many people take the steps to change their career paths in wild ways.
But change is not always easy. If you don’t approach the career change the right way, you might end up feeling sad and angry. So, what are the big mistakes to avoid? Here are the ten worst mistakes career changers can make to help you avoid them.
JUMPING INTO A NEW CAREER WITHOUT SELF-REFLECTION
A big mistake to make is simply rushing to your career change without giving it a proper thought. Career changers can simply look at a career and go after it without properly analyzing their skills regarding the new path. But if you just rush to a new career path like this, you can make the change a lot harder and end up in another role you don’t love – if you are lucky of even making the change happen.
It’s important to take a moment to self-reflect. You need to look at your transferable skills and your strengths (and weaknesses) in terms of your desired career path. Do you have what it takes? What are the areas you need to focus on improving? What are the unique skills you have?
You should also understand what it is that you’re looking for with the change. It would be useful to answer the following questions:
- What do you want from your career?
- What are you looking for from the new career path? What does it provide you that your current career path doesn’t?
The answers will help you understand if you’re making the change for the right reasons. You’ll understand the challenges but also the strengths you might have to venture on this new adventure.
PICKING A CAREER PATH WITHOUT PROPER RESEARCH
Aside from reflecting on your own skills and career wants, you should also study the industry and roles you want to move into before committing to it. Your idea of the career might not actually be what the reality is like and you don’t want to end up making the wrong decision. You want to dig deep and truly figure out what the industry is like and what you need to do to succeed in the new career.
It’s important to talk to people working in the industry. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people on LinkedIn, for example, and ask them about the roles. You can also talk to recruitment professionals to learn. Check out industry-related blogs and read job profiles from company websites. This will all help you get a clearer picture of what the sector is like and what it takes to succeed in the career.
Make sure you don’t just learn about the good stuff. Ask people to be honest about the negative things too. It’s important you make the career change based on a realistic view of what’s in front of you – you don’t want to end up in a career that won’t fit your skills or your personality.
MAKING THE CHANGE BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT HAPPY IN YOUR CURRENT JOB
There are also a number of wrong reasons for embarking on a career change and one of them is unhappiness in what you have now. Of course, it’s common to change careers if you don’t like where you’ve ended up – most people would be driven to the change just because they want something else.
But the point here is to understand that career change isn’t always the answer for unhappiness in your current job. Just because you are unhappy in your current role, doesn’t mean you should move on to a completely new industry. Don’t be disillusioned in thinking the answer is always career change.
You might not really be unhappy about the industry or your style of work. It might just be the organization or the team that doesn’t suit you. You could end up being happy doing what you are doing now by simply changing the company or taking a small break from it all – there are tons of routes to explore if you find yourself unhappy at work.
So, if you find yourself unhappy at work, analyze carefully what the reason is. Don’t start swapping careers until you’ve thought about other ways of making your work seem more exciting and motivating.
STARTING FULL-TIME STUDIES WITHOUT TESTING THE FIELD
With the above in mind, it’s important to research and explore. It’s a big mistake to just enroll in a full-time course and leave your old life behind. In fact, if you can get a bit of experience in the new field, you might find it easier to make the change later. You’ll be more informed about your decision and you’ll have a bit of knowledge in the sector already.
What this means is learning about the industry and the new job position. Aside from talking to professionals in the field, you might also want to read industry books (even textbooks!) and perhaps study part-time first. You can often find online courses or YouTube videos that give you an insight into the kind of skills needed in the industry. You could even consider volunteering if it’s an option in the field and get to know the industry a bit better.
This will all provide you more knowledge. You get to test the waters and check out how your skills might work in the industry. You won’t end up studying a degree that you won’t even use, wasting good years on the career ladder. But you’ll see if the change is what you really want and you identify the route to your goals.
LISTENING TO EXTERNAL FACTORS
A career change should always begin with you and not from an external factor. You shouldn’t look for another industry just because it seems popular or because your close friends are swapping careers. If someone tells your talent would better fit another industry, don’t just drop your career and follow their advice.
The desire to change careers must come from you. You must have the drive and passion to pursue this new adventure because your heart and mind tells you to. You can’t go after a career change purely because others are doing it or telling you to do it. Prestige, money and fame are external factors – you shouldn’t let them determine what you should do. Sure, you might start making more or become famous but these are not a reason for pursuing change.
The problem with listening to external factors is that it will eventually just come down to you. You won’t succeed in your career if you don’t actually have the passion – you’ll soon find yourself unhappy again, wishing you could do something different. It’s not a bad idea to take note of what is happening in the world around you and to listen to people’s opinions but don’t allow them to be in the driving seat.
NOT SPEAKING TO OUTSIDERS ABOUT THE CHANGE
While you definitely don’t want others to direct your career change, it would also be a mistake to do this all without talking to others. You don’t want to embark on such a massive project without discussing the ins and outs of the move with your nearest and dearest.
Naturally, it’s important to discuss the topic with your family – especially if you’re in a relationship with someone. Your family can have all sorts of insightful opinions that can help you reflect on this decision. You might also find it useful to talk to your closest friends, the people that know you the best and who might be able to help you examine your own reasoning behind the change.
But on top of this, you should talk to colleagues and other professionals about the change. This gives a more professional angle to the situation – you can talk more about what the career change at this point means professionally. If you know someone who’s changed careers, you definitely talk to them to get tips on what you should expect.
Now, talking to a career or recruitment specialist can be extremely useful. You can get concrete help in terms of what things you might need to do and the steps you should take to make the change as smooth as possible.
Speaking with professionals, colleagues and even friends can also help with networking. Reaching out to people in the industry is crucial for making connections and getting your foot through the industry door.
ALLOWING MONEY TO BE THE DECIDING FACTOR
The above mistakes have already briefly touched on the subject of money. Career changers shouldn’t ever let money be the deciding factor. In the long-term running after money won’t make you happy or to help you feel professionally fulfilled. You might end up with a bigger salary but burnt out because you don’t enjoy what you are doing.
If you just follow the money, you will find yourself longing for something else. You can end up becoming bitter or bored at what you do. Ultimately, if you aren’t happy doing what you do, you won’t be very good at it and this can hinder your ability to make money. You might find yourself stuck on a career ladder not being able to climb because the desire is not there.
It’s OK to want to earn a good living but changing careers isn’t the only way to do this. You should always be thinking of different ways to put your current talent to work – find those passive income streams or ways to make more money.
If you’re just disappointed at how much you are making but you still like your industry and job, you should do a few things. You need to:
- Check what the industry average is for your role. If you are making a lot less than the average, you might want to consider talking about a raise with your boss. If you are earning a lot more already but you’re still not happy, consider seeking a promotion or taking a step upwards in the career ladder.
- Think what you want the money for and whether there are other ways of feeling more financially fulfilled. Consider saving or looking into investing options. Explore your thinking around money – why do you want it and what it would mean for you? Perhaps you are just trying to reach a specific income because your thinking around money is flawed.
NOT PLANNING FOR THE TRANSITION MENTALLY AND FINANCIALLY
It’s a big mistake to think your career change will be a breeze. Jumping into a new career won’t happen overnight in most cases and you need to be prepared for what this can mean to your wellbeing and finances. Don’t approach career change lightly.
If you need to step out of the career ladder in order to make the change, it can be tough on your finances. It’s important to plan for this and have a budget in place for getting through the era of unemployment. You need to be realistic – you might have to change your lifestyle before you get a new job. It’s important to also have a realistic approach to finding a job and your finances. You shouldn’t think you’ll only need two months to get the job – if the third month starts and your savings have run out, you’ll be in trouble.
But career changers shouldn’t just plan their finances. Changing from one career to another can be rather taxing on your mind even if you really want the change. You might love the industry but being back in school might not be quite as fun. It might also become a mental struggle to survive the lonely days of job hunting when you’ve been used to sitting in the office with other people. Even the new job might not seem as excitable after a few months – it’s easy to get the honeymoon blues.
You should have support along the way. It’s important to talk to someone about the things you’re going through and to remember to wind down. Don’t just let your life be consumed by the change – go out and do other things too.
FORGETTING ABOUT THE JOB APPLICATION SKILLS
Finding the right role in a new industry is not just about your skills and abilities. You shouldn’t just focus on your skills when switching careers. You also need to be practical about the whole process – you will, essentially, need to be good at applying for jobs.
If you haven’t been job-hunting in a long time, you should take enough time to brush up on your job application skills and knowledge before you start. This can help take some of the stress out of the process. You’ll make the process much smoother and you can, hopefully, find yourself in a new job much quicker.
What you need to do is:
- Understand the job application process.
- Learn to write the best resumes and cover letters.
- Perform well in the job interviews.
If you don’t focus on these skills on your career change journey, you might find it stressful and uncomfortable. You might not be as good as presenting your transferable skills and you’ll just end up frustrating yourself over the lack of job interviews and offers. Being good at applying for jobs is an important skill and it can help you succeed in your new career change.
STARTING TO SECOND-GUESS YOUR ABILITIES
When you commit to the career change and when you’ve avoided the above mistakes, you need to put 100% of your effort into making the change happen. If you know it’s what you want and what you need at this point in your career then go for it with all you got and don’t start second-guessing.
It won’t always be easy and it might seem like you can’t do it at times. But it can be done! Your skills are not just suited for a single career and there are stories of people changing careers well into their forties and fifties! If you believe in the change and you are passionate about it, then you can do it. You need to trust your ability and your decision – your skills will find a fitting career if you just remember to look for it in the right places and with the right intentions. So, continue to work hard and stay focused.
THE BOTTOM LINE OF CHANGING CAREERS
Career change is possible. However, it will take time and you need to do your research. Don’t expect to know what a different career would be like or to think it’s the only road to happiness. You must be willing to evaluate your own skills and desires and to learn about the industry you’re getting into before you make the change.
But when you’ve made up your mind go full steam ahead! It can be the best decision you’ve made and provide you with a rewarding career.
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