Changing Jobs Professional Development

Changing Careers? Avoid These 5 Biggest Mistakes

Written by Peter Jones

You think you’re ready to change careers. You’ve got all the right stuff to make a change: you’re extremely good at what you want to do, confident in yourself and your abilities, clear about your expectations and goals, and you have the courage necessary to take the leap.

Before you do, however, make sure not to make any of the following mistakes:

1. Don’t wait until you’re desperate

It’s never a good idea to make a giant life-changing decision from a place of desperation or despair. If you’ve gotten to the point where you absolutely hate your job and can’t stand going to work, that is—counter-intuitively—the absolute wrong time to change careers.

See if you can improve your situation and your day-to-day enjoyment of your work first. When you’ve stabilized a bit, that’s when to take a step back and decide what direction you’d most like to go in. It will save you a lot of backtracking if you quit your corporate finance job to join the circus on a whim and need to find that middle ground. No need to go through this taxing process twice.

2. Don’t forget you need to eat to live

Courage and pluck and a big fat dream are not enough to pay the rent. Before you embark on this crazy life-changing change of course, make sure to lay some solid financial groundwork to support you throughout your transition. Make sure you have enough of a safety net, and that you can make enough to maintain your lifestyle once you make it to the other side of the chasm.

3. Don’t lose sight of what you want

If you’re going to shake things up, make sure to do it right. This will help you avoid going through this process twice. Make sure you really examine—first and foremost—what you want. What values matter to you, what sorts of parameters are deal-breakers for you, what you want to accomplish with your career, etc. Then figure out the kind of actual work that will satisfy those needs. Then, and only then, pursue that work. Guesses are not your friend.

4. Don’t forget to ask yourself the tough questions

Dig deep. Revisit mistake #3. Have you really figured out your motives? Are you looking to make a drastic change for the wrong reasons? Would there be ways to accomplish everything you want and get everything you need within your current field? Even your current position? Figuring out what’s workable about where you are right now is a very useful skill, and it will save you being dissatisfied wherever you end up.

5. Don’t give up

Big transitions like this don’t come easily. If no one hands you a new career on a silver platter, don’t get too discouraged. Remember to persevere. If you’re not working hard enough to make this happen, it might be because it isn’t really what you want. But if it is? Just keep keeping at it.

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