There’s a good chance that some loss or personal crisis will put us at a crossroads in our careers, forcing us to question whether we’re satisfied with a particular profession. Here’s what you should know before going down a new career path and switching industries.
How to know if you should change gears
Many people define themselves by their line of work—and why not? You devote at least eight hours a day to it. Making a switch therefore should take a lot of thought. Above all, know why you’re thinking of moving on from your line of work. If it’s not something you can see yourself doing until you retire, maybe you’ve got the right idea. However, a bad boss may only require a change of companies, not a change of professions. If changing your lifestyle, taking a pay cut and starting all over sound preferable to staying the course, maybe you should listen to that voice in your head. Oh, and if you’ve given it enough thought and still want to move forward, do yourself a favour and take the leap soon. Fortune favours the bold.
Know the risks involved
Before going ahead, make sure you are physically, mentally and financially fit to prepare for the stress of making the switch. Having no outstanding debts gives you more freedom to pursue paths that might not pay off right away (or even in the next three to four years). You should also be prepared for any potential salary cuts. See a financial advisor to make sure you know where you’ll have to cut back spending, how much debt you can safely take on to make ends meet and how much to save up for a safety net—a fund set aside specifically for if you need to pull the plug, ensuring you don’t burn through savings while searching for a new job. The mental and physical aspects are also important, as no amount of motivation can balance out the stress you might experience.
Where to get started
Your career change may seem like the most pressing thing in the world—especially if its spurred on by a personal crisis— but you need to take it easy. If the switch requires an upgrade in skills or more education, don’t go all in. If you already hold a four-year degree, it’s unlikely you’ll need more than a certificate to show you’re serious. Take a fundamental class and see if you enjoy it. Then another. You can also tap a mentor who already works within the industry to clue you in on some of the realities of the job and dispel assumptions about pay, workload and lifestyle. Another way of seeing what a different industry is really like is by volunteering, interning or moonlighting part-time so you don’t have to make a huge commitment. If you don’t need any particular re-education, be sure you still do one thing every day that puts you closer to your new job, such learning code online or blogging, while on the hunt for a position.
Manage the missteps
Mistakes will inevitably happen, and you’ll consider giving up. You may even find yourself mourning your former career path. But do you remember when you first got started in your former line of work? You turned out alright, didn’t you? Just like back then, it will work out if you keep putting in in the hours and stay committed to your new direction. Also, it pays to remember your relative inexperience can make you feel less confident in your new position—this too will pass as you learn the tricks of the trade. Creating a detailed career path with progress indicators, goals and a roadmap to where you want to go will help keep your eye on the prize, even when things are looking down.
Forging your own path
Many industries, and perhaps most, have a clear and easily-researched path to the top. But what if you’re striking it out on your own as an entrepreneur or a startup founder? The best advice in such a case is to go with your instincts, and not your aspirations to make money. Before starting a company or brand, be very clear as to how you want to grow as a person from the experience or what problem in the world you believe you can fix. This will keep you motivated no matter how much you make. Likewise, if you eventually hire on employees that you think can do a better job bringing this vision to the world than you can, voluntarily take the backseat. If you can do this without reservation, you know that you’ve created a truly world-changing venture.