woman holding coins and a piece of paper with the words make a change

Top 4 questions you need to ask before changing careers

It’s a new year – are you feeling that push to make a career change?  Maybe you actually hate your job, or have been feeling stuck for a while. The start of a new year can be a catalyst, and if you’ve been thinking about a career change for a while then now is a good time to take action. The temptation may be to leap into something new, but before you do that ask yourself some important questions. Here are the top 4 questions you need to ask before changing careers.

1. What is driving me to change career?

The first question you need to ask when changing careers is what is driving you to make a career change.  If it’s linked to not being happy  in your job, it’s time to understand what that really means. Drill down into why you’re not happy:

  • is it your actual job? the work you do? the direction your company is heading?
  • is it the culture of the organisation? does it grate with you and your values?
  • is it your boss? are you clashing?
  • is it your colleagues? are they hard to get on with? do you have anything in common?
  • are you bored? do you need more stretch and challenge?
  • is it all of the above?

If it’s only one element that is making you unhappy, then it is worth considering if a change in company or sector is needed rather than a complete change in career. Or whether you could make some changes to your current situation.

Action: Work out what is making you unhappy or unsatisfied before making any big decisions

2. How will I know what will make me happy at work?

You don’t want to leave one career that you’re unhappy in to find yourself in the same position in your new career because you’re not clear about what will give you satisfaction and fulfilment. Do an audit on your current job, but this time look at what you enjoy about it and what has been missing from it. Then make a list of everything you would want in your ideal job. Consider location, salary, hours as well as job satisfaction, culture, people, sector, challenge, etc.

Your wishlist is important as it will allow you to measure any new career options and work out what you might compromise on and what are your deal breakers. Being clear about what you need to make you happy at work means you can make conscious choices about what next.

Action: Create your ideal job list

3. Where do I want to be in 3 years time?

It’s easy to just focus on the most immediate change, especially when your current situation feels untenable and you’re desperate to escape it. But having a vision of where you want your career to take you will give you clarity over whether the  short term move is right. It helps you work out whether staying and making  things work or leaving for a transition role is the best way forward. Being strategic about each step and how it takes you closer to your longer term goal is really powerful, and one of the keys to long term career success.

Action: Create a career vision board

4. Can I afford to change career?

There can be financial implications to changing careers, and this can be very scary, particularly during times of economic uncertainty. Your choice of new career may mean you need to retrain, or take time off to get specific experience. Or you may decide to take a career break while you reposition yourself. Plus the first role you take in your new career can mean, although not always, a pay cut. The financial cost of the change can put you off as it feels too risky.

However, asking yourself what could I do to fund my career change can allow you to identify possibilities. For example, saving money  to give you a 3 month window of opportunity, paring back your living costs to the essentials to realise what the minimum is you need to live on, or considering how you could generate additional income in the short term.

Knowledge is power. Knowing what you need and knowing that you can still support yourself  enables you to manage risk and choose what is right for you.

Action: Take financial control and get to grips with the money side of your change

Now, having answered these questions you’ll be in a good position to make the best changes to your career this year.

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