Changing careers is no easy task. It’s internal work as well as external work. Mistakes in life are inevitable. It is how we learn. You will make a few mistakes deciding whether you should stay put, or change careers. However, why not learn from others who have made the process harder than it could’ve been? Avoid the following ten common career change mistakes so you can improve the odds to make the right decision regarding whether you should stay where you are or begin a new career path.
1 -Leaving without a Plan
Katy Piotrowski is a successful author who also has a Masters degree in education. Among other books about selecting a career or jumping from one career to another, she wrote “The Career Coward’s Guide to Changing Careers: Sensible Strategies for Overcoming Job Search Fears.” She warns that one of the biggest mistakes occupation switchers make is changing careers without a solid plan in place.
There is an old saying which states, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” In some instances, your eagerness to begin a new type of occupation may meet with success, even if you have not followed a proven plan of action. In most cases though, following a step-by-step outline that has met with success in the past is usually the best idea, regardless of whether you are changing careers or learning how to bake a cake.
2 – Having the “Grass Is Always Greener” Mentality
This really could’ve been listed at #1. In a lot of situations, this is the prime motivational factor that gets someone to change careers. They have been on their current career path for years, and simply are not financially or personally rewarded at the level they think they deserve. They see another field or career where everyone seems to be happy, financially appreciated, stress-free and ecstatic about what they do.
So they jump ship.
They quickly find that admiring the lush, green, beautiful yard of their next-door neighbor does not reveal the whole picture. If you can’t get your grass to grow and be healthy, but your neighbor can, don’t envy that person. In most cases, your neighbor has put in a lot of hard work, research and dedication into creating an enviable yard. The picture is not all roses, there are thorns involved as well.
3 – Considering only Money or Benefits
Regardless of how much money you make working for someone else or yourself, financial rewards will never make you enjoy a job you hate. You may be very good at what you are currently doing for a living. If this is the case, you are going to run into headhunters and others who recognize your ability. They would love to have you come and work for their firm or company. So they are going to make a very enticing offer for you to do exactly that.
Money will never buy happiness. You probably know someone who has exceptional wealth, but is always angry, upset and doesn’t seem to enjoy life. Do you want to be that person? It is not a good idea to take on a job where you double or triple your income if you are going to be spending all that extra money on self-medication, stress-relief, and stress-related medical bills. A career that is delivering serious wealth today is not guaranteed to be around tomorrow, so make sure that money is not your only motivation in the workplace.
4 – Confusing a Change in Jobs with a Change in Careers
Your job is what you are doing to make a living right now. Your career is the field you work in, the time you’ve invested in learning that work, and history of your employment in this area.
Someone who has a work history as a secondary teacher has a career in education. She may have several reasons for believing she needs to move on from teaching eight and nine-year-olds. For example, financial strain or feeling unchallenged at her job, or any other number of influences could make her believe this is not the work she wants to do.
This doesn’t mean that person should necessarily leave the education field entirely. Maybe teaching older children would bring the challenge that person is searching for in a job. Perhaps their dream is to be a college professor. However, they don’t know if they can mentally get through the years that it will take for them to advance to that level. In this situation, dissatisfaction due to a number of factors may cause that person to consider changing careers.
In this case, maybe a simple job change is what’s needed.
If you enjoy the field or market you work in, look at other possible jobs which could resolve the current problems you are having with your occupation. Also, if you like working for your current company and you are in sales but feel you need more money/challenges/responsibilities, you don’t necessarily have to go to work for another firm. Maybe a move to marketing or human resources would solve the problem. Don’t confuse switching jobs with changing careers to find job satisfaction.
5 – Changing Careers Because You See Someone Else Having Success
If you see a lot of people becoming successful in a particular career, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can as well. You may have to learn new skills and go through years of education first. Do your research. As mentioned earlier, don’t move on without a plan.
Find a mentor, talk to the people in your network, do market research and conduct informational interviews. It could very well be that this new career which looks like Nirvana is or is not exactly that. Just make sure that the decision you make is not based solely on the experience of others.
6 –Not doing a Self-Assessment First
Here is where the old “take out a piece of paper and make two lists” advice is recommended. What do you like and dislike about your current career?
Sometimes, we can steer our opinions in one direction or another and unconsciously misguide our decision-making process. If you are not honest with yourself while performing this exercise, the decision you make could be the wrong one.
Aside from your likes and dislikes, list the skills you love using on your job (very important!), in your hobbies, and in other areas of your life. What do you enjoy doing? What are those things that, when you are actively engaged in them, give you joy even though they may be difficult?
Look at your two lists. Do your abilities and interests align correctly with this new career you are considering?
Another great self-assessment exercise is to perform a SWOT analysis on yourself.
This means considering your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of the new occupation you are considering. Perform the same analysis on your current career. When you do this, the information you develop can be used during job interviews. You can drive home the point that illustrates what you are good at and the things you like.
7 – Changing Careers without the Necessary Skills, Techniques, Experience, or Education
Some people are outstanding in the interview room. They see a career they like, they set up an interview, and they really “wow” their potential employers. If this sounds like you, congratulations. It is good to know how to win the interview process. This doesn’t mean that you should be looking at a new career, however, if you don’t have the necessary skills or experience to do well in your new job.
There is also the case of changing careers because you have a friend or family member who wants to do you a favor. They own their own company or are otherwise influential in the hiring process. They hear you are disenfranchised with your current career, and they are more than happy to give you a chance. The money and benefits look great, and you know that since you will be working with someone that is close to you, you will probably be given a better chance to succeed than most.
Even so, excepting that job if you do not have the experience or skills required is going to be a bad move in almost every situation. This could even ruin the relationship with the person who helped you start your new career. The good thing about skills and education is that you can always earn more. If everything favorably points to you changing careers, get the certification or skills needed to be successful, before you make a move.
8 – Considering Only a “Rainbow in the Sky” Picture
Do you remember the first time you had a schoolboy or schoolgirl crush? The object of your childhood affections could do no wrong. He or she was perfect in every way, at least in your eyes. The truth of the matter is, that person was just as imperfect as you and everyone else. Through the rose-colored glasses of love, you simply could not see anything but perfection.
This happens a lot when someone becomes complacent or bored with their current occupation. Their subconscious wants to find some way to justify moving onto another career. So in their mind, they look at all the positives of jumping ship to a new employer. They may even dream of a perfect case scenario where they move from the ground floor to CEO in record time, enjoying financial success, benefits, and the respect of everyone around them.
Life is simply not that way most of the time.
You need to consider both the positives and negatives of your career change. Imagine a worst-case scenario. Then think about the best possible outcome. Where you will end up will probably be somewhere in the middle of those two situations. If you change careers with only a perfect outcome in mind, you may find yourself career jumping for the rest of your life, and consistently unhappy with the results.
9 – Not Building a Financial Base First
Once you weigh the pros and cons of a possible career change, you need to plan for the worst. It is fine to hope for the best, but you should also be prepared for another outcome. You can ensure you have the best possible opportunity for success when you develop the skills and abilities needed in your new career, you work harder than everyone else, and you stay dedicated to a long-term picture.
To ensure this is possible, you should have the necessary savings in place to support your move.
The results you are looking for will probably not come overnight. There will be speed bumps and hurdles to overcome while you adjust to your new employment. You will have to learn the ropes, and the process could take longer than you hope for. In some situations, you could spend a year or more successfully transforming to this new reality.
You should always be saving money, regardless of what you do for a living. This way, when the perfect opportunity presents itself, you have the financial capital required to fall back on if everything doesn’t go the way you thought it would.
10 – Expecting Instant Success
If you have followed all of the previous advice in this career-changing guide, you will not fall prey to this common mistake. Still, many people expect a career change to be an instant cure-all for the problems they have in their current career. In some cases, you may be fortunate enough to benefit from your skills and hard work immediately upon taking on some job.
This will not always be the case.
Think long and hard about staying at your current workplace if you expect some change to deliver overnight results. Change in life is inevitable, but sometimes it can be a very gradual process. Look at your own career now. You probably had to work through several years of advancement, training, skill development and dedication to get where you are now. Odds are, you will have to do the same when you begin an entirely different career.