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Why Now May Be the Time to Take a Career Risk

By Daniel B. Kline - Updated Dec 26, 2017 at 9:13PM

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The job market is hot, and the odds say you're probably not happy at work.

More than half of Americans (51%) are actively looking for a new job, while only 33% feel engaged in their current position, according to a recent Gallup study. Another 16% say they are "actively disengaged," meaning that they resent their jobs.

"They feel negative about work and the workplace, and are doing more harm than good when they come to work," Gallup Chief Scientist James Harter told CBS News.

The good news for those workers is that near-historic unemployment rates and a changing job market make now an excellent time to leave your job. That, of course, isn't a decision to make lightly or without planning, but it's one that many would benefit from.

Leaving a steady paycheck has its risks. There are, however, ways to minimize those risks while still making a big change.

A man leaves an office with a packed box.

Don't quit your job until you have a plan. Image source: Getty Images.

Make a plan

Simply finding a new job isn't taking a risk. It's also not going to solve your work problems in most cases if you're unhappy and unsatisfied not just with your company, but also your profession.

Finding happiness may require a total reset. That's a scary prospect for many people, but planning can make it an easier transition.

The first step is to identify what career you actually want. That could mean transitioning into a related field, setting your sights on a specific company, or finding a way to do something else entirely.

Get the skills

If you work in retail and dream about being a coder or a rodeo clown, that leap won't happen if you don't have the appropriate skills. It makes sense to start by speaking with someone in the profession and learning exactly what's required.

If that means a degree or a specific certification, you will need to make a plan to get those. In many areas (coding and rodeo clowning included) getting hired involves demonstrating an ability to perform the job even if you have a piece of paper saying you can.

Make contacts

While there are some emerging jobs where demand has forced companies to cast a wide net, in many professions it's still who you know that gets you hired. Making contacts can help you open doors and it's easier to do than you think. In fact, you may already know someone who can help.

On a personal level, put the word out to your real world and social media contacts. Do this discreetly in order to make sure your current employer does not learn you are working on leaving, but cast as wide a net as possible.

In addition to putting the word out, you should also actively try to engage people in your desired industry. This could be as simple as emailing people who do the job you hope to get and asking to have coffee or a drink. You will be surprised by how many people are willing to help.

Of course, there will be a lot of failure doing this too, but work hard to build a network. Attend industry events if possible and read any relevant publications.

Be bold, but reasonable

It's very important to be happy at work, but it's also important to meet your financial responsibilities. The strong job market makes this a good time to take a risk, but before you leap, look around and consider exactly how bold you can afford to be.

Don't ignore your passions or put your dreams on hold to make the safe choice. Do have a clear plan and make sure your finances are in order before you take the risks required to go after what you want.

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