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4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Switching Careers

By Maurie Backman – Feb 23, 2019 at 9:34AM

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Ready to do something totally new professionally? Make sure to check these items off your list first.

Whether it stems from boredom or a desire to pursue a passion you've always bottled up, switching careers is a move that's often worth pursuing at various stages of life. This especially holds true if you're not satisfied in your current industry and are slowly but surely creeping toward the point of burnout.

That said, the last thing you want to do is change careers and wind up regretting it after the fact. Here are a few questions you therefore must ask yourself before taking that leap.

Smiling man in suit against pink background.


1. Am I in a strong place financially?

Switching careers often means taking a lower-level job and a lower salary to go along with it. And while you might think you won't mind earning less, once you're forced to make lifestyle changes to accommodate your income downgrade, you might quickly bemoan your decision. Before you change careers, ask yourself if you have enough money in savings to tide yourself over during that transition period in which you're building back up in a new field and aren't earning at your usual level. If you have a decent amount of money in the bank, you might dip into your savings for a year or two to maintain your lifestyle while you navigate your new role (or series of roles). But if your finances are shaky at best, you might want to hold off until you're in a more secure spot.

2. Is my personal life stable?

We all have things that come up in our personal lives that make for an unsettled situation. Having a baby, for example, is a wonderful thing, but it can certainly upend your home routine and cause worlds of stress as well. Before you switch careers, think about how stable things are at home and whether the time is right to introduce another dose of upheaval into your world. In some cases, it might pay to wait six months or a year until things settle down.

3. Do I have the skills needed to excel at this career?

Maybe you've always dreamed of abandoning your boring job as a lawyer and pursuing a career as a graphic designer. But if you're not up to speed on the latest design programs, your chances of landing a decent job are apt to be fairly slim. Before changing careers, do some research and make sure you actually have a shot at getting hired in your desired field. If not, build those essential skills before moving forward.

4. Have I tried dabbling in my new career before fully diving in?

Maybe you've always dreamed of writing for a living. But while it might seem like the kind of job you'd enjoy, if all you've done professionally thus far is crunch numbers as an accountant, you're hardly in a position to know whether writing is something you really want to do full time. Before changing industries, try doing whatever it is you want to do as a side hustle first. This won't work for all fields, but in some cases, it's feasible. For example, if you're convinced you want to be a writer, spend a little time on evenings and weekends getting paid to do so, and see how well you're able to cope with editor feedback and client criticism. You might love it; or you might realize the grass isn't actually greener on that end of the career spectrum.

There's nothing wrong with changing careers and giving yourself the chance to explore exciting new opportunities. Just make sure the timing is right, you're reasonably qualified to jump industries, and you actually know a little bit about what you're getting yourself into.

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