Some people stay in the same career, while others pivot several times. Here’s how to know if it’s time for you to change careers and how to approach it.
We spend more time working than any other activity, so if we’re in the wrong career, it can seriously impact our quality of life. While quiet quitting and rage applying are taking off and most people no longer want to overstretch themselves for a job, we also don’t want the hours we do spend working to be unhappy. If you’re stagnating professionally, it might be time to consider being your own boss or figuring out what the best career is for you.
“The desire to change careers often depends on your personality, life goals and background,” explains Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist who has helped many patients through career changes, “Some people are driven to change careers often whereas others prefer to stick with a specific career—even if it’s not ideal for them.”
Why should you consider changing careers?
If you’re thinking about changing careers, it’s important to dig into why. You might be looking for a new challenge or want more flexibility. “If you ask yourself, ‘should I stay or should I go?’ you are already in the exploration phase of a career change,” explains Kelsea Warren, founder of The Seamless Coach.
“Self-reflection is a vital part of the process, as those who pause to self-evaluate become more attuned to both their short-term and long-term goals and needs,” Dr. Manly says, “A few of the most beneficial reasons for considering a career change include the following: an urge to get ‘unstuck’ and follow one’s passion, personal and career growth, the desire to be fairly compensated for one’s efforts, achieving work/life balance and the desire to find a positive work environment.”
How to get ready to change careers
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Before making a change, Warren recommends clarifying why you feel it’s time to go by asking yourself a few questions.
- Is what I’m feeling circumstantial or might it improve with time?
- Is the catalyst the role itself, the work environment or something in my personal life?
- Do I need to change careers entirely, or do I need a different role or work environment?
Assess your strengths
Take a skills assessment or speak with a career counselor to better understand your strengths and interests,” suggests Michael Samuel, founder of CEOMichaelHR. “This can help you identify potential career paths that align with your skills and passions.”
Use your imagination
“Imagine that you could pursue any career,” Dr. Manly suggests. “Journal about that career and what it looks like, on a pragmatic level, to pursue it.”
Shifting careers may take some planning. “If you determine that your ideal career is feasible, create a pro/con list about the career path to gain clarity on what the shift would entail,” Dr. Manly says.
“Connect with individuals in the industries or job roles you are interested in,” Samuel suggests. “They can provide valuable insights and may be able to connect you with job opportunities.”
Dr. Manly suggests setting one specific macro goal (“I want to shift in a career in graphic design by the end of this year”) and then supporting it with at least five specific micro goals, which might look like creating a new resume or taking a course.
If you can, obtain the support of your family and friends to encourage you to pursue your goals. “If you meet resistance along the way, it’s important to self-reflect, and you may want to obtain professional support such as psychotherapy to support your journey,” Dr. Manly recommends.