You hate your job. You hate your field. You hate your career. Maybe you’ve been furloughed and it’s given you a new perspective.
Whatever the case, there is a right way and wrong way to go about changing careers. Here are the top questions to consider and some practical advice to get your started on changing careers:
Question 1: You’re in a funk and hate your job. What’s the first thing you should do?
The first thing to do is not quit! Stay where you are if you can. We will come back to this later, but don’t quit until you have a plan.
The second thing to do is a thorough personal and professional assessment. You have to determine if you hate your job because you truly hate your profession, or if you hate your life or your lifestyle. Maybe you love what you do but just not where you do it. Maybe you just don’t like a particular co-worker or aspect of the job. Maybe things at home are bad and it carries over to your work.
The most important thing is to determine that it’s really and truly your career, job, or field you hate and want to change, and not something personal that is creeping into your professional life. So, do some soul searching. Make a list. What’s going on? Be honest.
Question 2: You do a critical assessment and determine that yes, you hate your career. Then what?
If you’ve been absolutely honest with yourself, performed a rigorous assessment of your current situation, and determined that it is your career, then the next thing to do is another critical assessment of your professional likes and dislikes and figuring out what you should do professionally.
This is a good time to consider professional career coaching or counseling or a workplace-oriented test like Myers-Briggs. Either will help you assess your likes and dislikes, and what you are best suited for, professionally speaking.
If you don’t want to go a professional route, ask yourself some questions: What energized you at the office? What enervated you? What projects or assignments did you love working on? What specifically did you enjoy about those projects? Do you like to write? Do you like to sell? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? The key is to really determine what it is you love to do and are well suited for.
Question 3: You take Myers-Briggs or determined what you love or hate and what you should be doing. What next?
Once you have determined what you really love, what really interests you, and what you are well suited for, make a list of those careers and research them. Research the field, what the issues are, what the state of that industry is, what the salaries ranges are.
Find out everything you can about your preferred field, and find some local companies and talk to people in that field. Find out how they got started and how to get in the door. Can you do an internship there? Can you find a mentor in the field?
Question 4: Will I have to go back to school or start at the bottom?
That depends on the job. Some may require special degrees or certification, but you may already have skills that can be leveraged and transferred to your new field. You may already have what it takes. That’s why research and networking is so important. You probably already know people in that field. Talk to them. If you do have to go back to school, start slowly; you may change your mind once you get going.
Question 5: What about my current job? Should I quit?
No. You want to get your feet wet before taking the plunge, so start slowly. There are several other issues to consider:
First, if your new career choice requires a new degree, you will have to decide if you can do it while still working.
Second, you may be able to work in your new field concurrent to your current job. Consider an evening or weekend internship or a part-time or temp job.
Third, you may find that you can use your current job to catapult you into a new career. For example, let’s say there is a new skill you need for a new career, and it is one you can learn in your current job. You should stay put, but be careful—your current employer may not like you working there if they know you are getting ready to leave. You should take advantage of educational opportunities where you work, but don’t be duplicitous. Your boss may not like it if he knows you are using him to go elsewhere.
Question 6: Speaking of my current job, can I use my connections there? Can I use them as a reference?
You should definitely leverage your professional and social networks to find the career you like. Networking is one of the best ways to find a different job.
You can land informational interviews, internships, and mentors through your network, so work it. It’s also possible that you can find a more suitable career within your organization, so in-house networking is key. But be careful: You may not want to tip your hand that you are looking elsewhere for a job.
Question 7: How do I change careers within my organization? Should I tell my boss or supervisor I want to work in a different branch?
Maybe. Whether to tell your boss depends on your relationship. Your boss may not like the fact that you are looking elsewhere, but a smart company wants to keep good employees. Your boss may be the type who wants to help people move along.
Your boss will probably find out about you looking around, so it is prudent to let them in on it first so you can control the spin. Lay the groundwork that will mark you as an asset: volunteer for projects, extra assignments, mentoring, etc.
Finally, determine how things like this are done in your organization. What is the protocol? If its perfectly acceptable, tell your boss and meet with HR. FInd out what is available. Find a mentor. Maybe your boss will even help you along.
Question 8: What else should I consider?
In addition to brushing up on your job hunting and networking skills, you will need to:
There is lots of advice out there on the Web, including personality tests and other assessments. The Wall Street Journal has a good guide, as do many other publications. Do some soul searching, do some homework, make a plan of action, and move forward. Good luck!