It’s a popular belief that the average person will change careers between five and seven times in their working life. It may be an urban myth, but it’s an appealing one. Where our grandparents had a belief in a job for life, the idea is likely to fill most of us with dread.
If you’re reading this as someone who hates their job and are thinking about changing to something different, you should first consider whether you really want to. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that there’s comfort in familiarity. But if your current position is making you truly miserable, there are a few factors to consider.
Firstly, is it your industry that’s making you unhappy or your place in it? Many professions have changed beyond recognition in recent years. The legal system has undergone wholesale reform, with many practitioners finding that the job they enjoyed no longer exists. Conversely, if either your priorities or your employers’ requirements have changed you may find that there is a better fit for you elsewhere in the same sector.
Networking can be key here. If you can talk to others in your industry with a similar role and priorities you can find out whether they are affected too. Finding a new post which matches your current skills and experience is a lot easier than changing streams altogether.
Next, the tricky part. If you do conclude that a complete change is needed, what do you do? You may have been in the same business for a long time, it could even have been your dream job once. If you have a goal, great. Skip to the next bit, nothing to see here. If not, start with your skills. It can be easy to lose sight of the fact that the things that equipped you for your current job can transfer somewhere else. Whether you’re good at negotiation, organisation or creation, it’s all transferable. The Meyers-Briggs personality tests aren’t a hit with everyone but they can get you thinking about your personality, motivations and the types of work you might enjoy.
Of course, when you’ve found your dream career and are ready to run off into the sunset, boring practicality gets in the way. Unless your goal is to live naked in the woods, foraging for nuts and berries, you’re going to need to keep a roof over your head and buy food. This is where it’s time to get down to brass tacks and look at how much you really need to earn. A lot of this will depend on your personal circumstances and whether there are family members who need to participate in the exercise and agree to your plans. The household bills aren’t going to go away (although a visit to a financial comparison site won’t hurt), but do you need the gym membership or satellite TV? If you need to take time off to study or take a more junior role in order to retrain, things might be tight for a while and being realistic about the sort of pay cut you can stand to take now will stand you in good stead later.
The next reality check comes with the altered daily routine. Going to a new job makes it easier in terms of routine, but if you’ve started your own business then you’ll need to establish brand new working patterns – but that’s for another article.
In the end, there is no one size fits all solution. You can only find the right one for you.