Most Americans Want to Change Industries. But Is That Smart?

by Maurie Backman | Published on Sept. 8, 2021

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There are risks involved in switching careers -- but benefits as well.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of people to rethink their careers. Some people are looking to switch jobs to continue working remotely. Others are seeking more flexible schedules for a better work-life balance. And many are contemplating a career change.

A good 48% of Americans are rethinking the job they want, and 53% would retrain for a career in a different industry if the opportunity presents itself, according to Prudential’s latest Pulse of the American Worker report. If you're thinking of switching industries, be aware of the pros and cons so you make the right decision.

The benefits of changing industries

Switching to a new industry could work to your advantage in many ways. It could lead to more fulfilling work. It could also open the door to career growth, especially if you move from a more stagnant industry to a developing one.

Switching careers could also lead to a higher salary. Earning more money could mean an opportunity to pad your savings and meet big financial goals like buying a house.

The drawbacks of changing industries

On the other hand, there are certain risks you face when switching to a new industry. You may not like the new work better -- something you may not realize until you give a new field a try.

Plus, switching industries often means starting at the bottom. If you're only a few years into your career, that may not be such a big step backward. But if you've worked for 20 years and you make a major change, it could result in a huge step backward. It could also mean earning a lot less money, at least to start out with. Make sure you can afford a pay cut before moving forward, and prepare to earn less for several years, until you're eligible for a promotion.

How to approach an industry change

Before you switch industries, know what you're really getting into. It's good to speak to people who work in the industry you're looking to break into and get the inside scoop. Find out what their day-to-day tasks entail, how they feel about the industry's prospects, and whether they feel the industry as a whole is relaxed or cutthroat. At the same time, research salary data for that industry to get a sense of what your earnings might look like once you've established yourself in that field.

Moving to a new industry could be a solid move for your career -- one that leads to growth, more meaningful work, extra money, and an improved work-life balance. Just do plenty of research before you take that leap.

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