Should You Change Jobs or Even Careers? Here's How to Decide

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  • It's unlikely that you'll stay in one job (or even one career) for the duration of your working years.
  • Make an honest assessment of your current job to decide if you need a change.
  • Don't underestimate the importance of skills you've built in your current career if you look to change industries.

Change can be scary, but it's often necessary for growth.

Gone are the days when a person could conceivably spend the whole of their working years with one company, or even with the same job title. If you've been feeling as if you're just going through the motions at work, you're yearning for new challenges, or experiencing issues like a lack of respect from management or even wage theft, you're not alone.

I went through a career change myself in 2021, and I've spent 2022 further refining the types of roles for my new industry that I'm interested in. I had certainly changed jobs before, but my position changes were previously within the same industry. It was a big deal for me to realize that my old career wasn't serving me emotionally or mentally anymore, and its financial drawbacks were getting harder and harder to ignore in the face of the rising cost of living and the damage done to that particular industry by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But how can you really know if you've got the job blues or the career-as-a-whole blues? Here are a few questions to ask yourself to decide whether to leave your job or your entire career behind.

Am I enjoying this type of work?

Ultimately, your job may just be a means to an end (namely, making money so you can pay your bills and achieve your financial goals). But since you spend so much of your waking life at work, it's nice when a job also satisfies you in ways that go beyond funding your checking account. If you can feel yourself growing weary of your current role, but you still enjoy the type of work it entails, that's a sign to try applying for similar positions in your current industry. But if you dislike your work, or a majority of it, you may be happier if you change careers altogether.

Will I be facing the same problems in a similar role?

If you're having problems at work, to the point that you're thinking of leaving the job, it can be easy to tell yourself that it's just this workplace, and if you find a new company or organization to work for, all your troubles will evaporate. Unfortunately, this is almost never the case; all jobs and all careers come with some measure of hassle. It's about finding the hassles you can live with, laugh at, maybe roll your eyes about, but that ultimately don't impact your work life to the point of making you wish for a new job.

If your problems in your current role involve a micromanaging boss, a soul-crushing commute, or even just not quite enough money, merely changing jobs might be enough to improve all of these factors. But if you're facing serious industry-wide issues like extreme competition for not enough roles, positions that require advanced degrees but are not compensated accordingly, and a desire to work remotely but no way to pull that off in a job like yours, it could be time for a career change.

Do I have opportunities for advancement?

If you're the kind of person who likes to upgrade their job title every so often, it may be harder to do that in some industries. Speaking as someone who spent their former career working for small nonprofits, full-time job openings within my organizations were rare, and there was often no room to grow into a new role with the same organization because of how varied the jobs were and because of how few existed to begin with. In a workplace with funding for as few as just five full-time positions (I worked for others with even fewer, too), I was effectively siloed into the role I was hired for initially. If this is your situation as well, changing careers may lead to more options for growth, both for your professional skills and for your earning potential.

Can my skills be used in another industry?

Contemplating a career change can be hard if you currently work in a niche industry and have built your career firmly into it -- trust me on this. But you may be surprised to know how vital some skills can be for all jobs and industries. Soft skills in particular are extremely important, and the U.S. Department of Labor calls them "the competitive edge" when it comes to getting hired. Soft skills include being an effective communicator, team player, and problem solver at work. While you can certainly work to improve your soft skills, they can't be taught at work in the same way that, say, a certain software program could be. And some hard skills are also applicable to a variety of industries. My old career was definitely niche, but I found that my research, writing, and editing experience led to new opportunities for me.

Whether you decide to change jobs, take on a new career, or even just stay put, it's important to continue investing in yourself and your happiness. Thinking honestly about your current work situation can help you answer the above questions and ultimately make the right choice for you.

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