Is it ok to change careers?

Is it ok to change careers?
One's career can end up being beyond the profession we have initially entered into as a result of years of study in that discipline (for example: accounting) Various factors such as family, school teachers and location can influence our initial study and/or work choices. However after entering that career, we may discover that the day to day work itself is not quite what we expected and is not creating an ongoing interest. But don't panic - you can take heart in the knowledge that it is estimated most people will change careers a minimum of six times during their working life [OECD].
If you are standing at a career crossroad it is important that you check to see what signals you are receiving to ensure that every move you make is a winning one.

1. Growing Self Discovery = Proceed
Exploring and experiencing the world of work enables self-awareness and growth as we identify our strengths, dislikes and future directions.

Are you;
  • discovering that certain elements of the role are more appealing than others e.g. leading a team as against the cost accounting work?
  • applying transferable skills i.e. skills that you have effectively used in one area are transferable e.g. negotiation skills used during a neighborhood dispute are customer service assets.
  • Do you have a growing interest in a cause e.g. world hunger,
  • Are you finding an increasing desire for greater lifestyle balance,
  • Do you recognise that your long term success requires broader experience; You may be realising that to "make it" you need experience outside of your current role, organization or perhaps even in another country. Dependent on the need, it can be very satisfying to gain the necessary experience in a voluntary capacity e.g. leading a local community group.

Consider enhancing your career by not necessarily taking a forward step up the career path but a sideways or backwards step in order to gain the essential experience required to arrive at your desired professional future. It may not be your dream job at first but may provide you with the key skills & knowledge for further changes later on.

2. Discontent = Caution
If you have a growing feeling of discontent with your work and with life, you need to attempt to isolate the particular reasons for this. By identifying these reasons you will be hopefully be able to avoid recurrence in your alternative career choice.

Ask yourself the following:
Is the discontentment with;
  • the organization e.g. its direction, values, its lack of organisation...
  • your profession e.g. long term relevance,
  • lifestyle balance e.g. adequacy,
  • your current task / position / e.g. lack of challenging roles
  • your current boss e.g. they are unorganised, control freaks, arrogant.

A really helpful exercise is to make up a positive/negative list regarding making the change. This should enable you to discover whether it is one factor that currently causes the others to be out of balance and to identify what you are seeking in a change.

A case study example:
For Lyn a desire for greater lifestyle choices, lack of job recognition and a need to create a secure future have been the catalysts. Embarking on a transition strategy, Lyn has chosen to remain in the current role, while under-taking training and developing appropriate networks in preparation for a confident and successful career change.

3. Check Before Proceeding
Seek objective council regarding both your intended move and feedback on the transferability of your abilities and skills from significant others e.g. friends/family, manager, work colleagues or other peers. If their objectivity is a concern, seek a professional career coach.

Remember the responsibility and final decision is yours. Don't ask what you should do, rather search to discover what other concerns and comments they may suggest about the direction you wish to pursue.

Recognise that you are moving out of your current comfort zone and prepare with appropriate transition strategies. Changing careers is never an easy thing but people do it all the time and you can do it.

A stimulating read is "A Business of Your Own" by Pru Goward as it tells the journey of 32 Telstra Award Business Woman.

In conclusion three key checks [Vogel 2/02];
  • does the new job/career offer a challenge?
  • will it add to the sustainability of your career and lifestyle?
  • what is the breadth of the path it offers?

- Merilyn Hill

Articls with thanks to