Dos and Don’ts of a career change
Among other things that Google suggests when you search the term ‘Career Change’ are ‘Career Change at 30’, ‘Career Change at 40, and ‘Career Change at 50’. This signifies that people are always exploring alternative career options at all stages, for reasons varied and different. Although the societal and economic structure we live in doesn’t allow much room for experimentation and exploration, one cannot deny that more employees than ever are taking the plunge, and not once, but often. In fact, this age, when the urge to switch career (not jobs) takes over, has reached new lows, for young professionals, with only a few years of experience are wanting to change their fields more than ever before. But as any career counsellor, or anyone that has successfully, or unsuccessfully, changed their careers will tell you, the task at hand is not easy or enjoyable, by any stretch of imagination.
Not everyone can go onto write a bestseller after working as an engineer, and behind every story of an ex-bank executive running a successful café, there exist over a hundred stories that don’t make it. The point is, people have different reasons fueling their decision to make a switch, and it is essential to pin down yours. If your motivation is built on the shaky grounds of ‘He-did-it-I-can-too’, you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment. Remuneration, Job Satisfaction, Boredom, Burnout, Interest in other fields, chasing a dream are a few reasons why people go onto risk the comfort of the regular and the stable. Your reasons can be similar, or completely unique, but make sure they are well founded. Do not look for answers from your friends, boss, or family to whether you should make the switch, for the answers will be found only after introspection. If you have arrived at a decision already, a few tried and experienced tips will make the process of transition a little easier:
- Be prepared to slog: You might not want it, but you will end up reading, researching and conversing a lot. Even getting a new job will be a task, for convincing employers of a career change, and your skills in a new domain will be a deterrent. So be prepared to be disappointed, run around, follow up, and proactive at all times. When you finally join your new job, you will have to put in extra effort, work more hours, to be at par with others who have studies it or been doing it for previously. That’s a lot of consistent and hard work.
- Figure out your finances: Starting in a new field at an entry level might mean taking a massive pay-cut as well. Save those bonuses, cut down the extra expenditure, and calculate all your finances before you begin the process. Until you feel financially secure enough to devote a few months, or years to the process, the pressure of not earning enough will be the biggest factor which might make you give up early. This is a critical step as resources like meetings, trainings, books, and courses will require you to invest in them.
- Set a realistic deadline: In alignment with the above point, set a realistic time frame about how things will unfold. How long will you learn, seek and work, in order to achieve what you aspire for. This deadline can span months or years, depending on the path you choose, and you must stick to it. Also allocate the amount of resources, monetary and otherwise, you will be needing at each step. The ‘When’ is as important as the ‘What’ and the ‘How’.
- Have a support system: Being a rebel can only get you so far, for at a certain stage you will have to embrace the systems around you and seek their support. Getting your friends and family onboard with your decision, and making them see reason as to why you are making the move will save a lot of time and energy. Seek a mentor in the field you aspire to enter, and reach out to people in your network, as wide as possible.
- Give up on a whim: Do not give your current job up on an impulse. Identify whether the cause of your discontentment is variable (your team, your office location, your boss, your salary) or fixed (job dissatisfaction, disinterest, burnout). Try your best to remedy the source of the problem, and only if your fail to do so, consider changing your career. Bottom-line, if you can do absolutely anything to salvage your current career, do it before you ditch it.
- Try your hand at every opportunity that comes by: Remember the timeline you made while preparing for the transition? There’s no point making it, if you don’t plan to stick to it. More importantly, there is benefit of making it, if you are going to quit your current job with no plan in mind. Streamline and zero in on the field(s), you want to get into, before you get to it. Applying to every single opening on job portals, and hoping something will work out and you’ll grow to like it, is a flawed approach.
- Rely on connections too much: Do not give up where you are right now, because someone has given you their word about getting you a new job. Such connections pan out on ground lesser than you’d want to believe. Even if the said person tries their best to get you selected, which they often don’t, chances are the only thing they can do is get your CV to their employers’ desk. If your plan is entirely made around your connections putting in a good word for you, don’t bet on it, and leave enough room for you to actually intervene and make the required effort. Make sure you are in-charge of what happens once your leave your current job, not someone else.
- Give up too soon: The oldest advice in the book, do not give up after the first rejection or the first criticism. Will it get tough? Yes. Will you doubt yourself? Yes. Does that mean you’re bound to fall flat on your face? No. If your reasons, conviction and motivation to learn and try something new is strong enough, no interviewer can make you believe otherwise. Taking every disappointment as a learning step is easier said than done and you will be tested exhaustively on the same. So, seek support wherever needed, because once it falls into place, it will be worth the wait.
Changing you career is an exhausting process. Not everyone who goes down this road emerges victorious, but everyone who goes down this road ends up learning a lot. If you decide to enter a new field, a thousand questions will appear, and it will take dedication and commitment to find answers to all of them. In the end, the only thing that matters is, how driven of individual you are, for changing your career might turn out to be the best decision you take in your life, or could go the other way.
Did you change your career as well? Or do you know someone who successfully did it? Share your story with us in the comments!