If you are feeling trapped in your job, you are far from alone. It’s easy to feel jaded by long hours and unfulfilling work. You may even be miserable enough to wonder, “Should I make a career change?” But all too often, there isn’t an easy answer.
You may have an extensive network, education, and training in your current field. You may feel tied to your salary, health insurance, or generous paid time off—especially with a growing family to support.
You may worry about starting from the bottom in a new field. Or, you may be dreading the pay cut that potentially comes with it. In your heart, you may know it’s time for a major shift, but you aren’t sure how to make a career change. Here’s how to make the transition.
Start with a healthy emergency fund (plus a little extra!)
In a perfect world, you would always have a fully-funded emergency fund. Three to six months of living expenses in cash is usually enough to deal with most of life’s curveballs. But changing careers may feel like stepping into the unknown.
It’s tough to know exactly how much money you will make.
Your new benefits package may not cover as much. Or, you may have a longer, more expensive commute. There is no guarantee you will land the perfect gig—which could mean starting the job hunt all over again.
With so much uncertainty, it’s critical to set aside as much as you can. Apps like Twine make it effortless—and may protect you from spending the money on something else.
Figuring out how to make a career change.
If you are struggling with how to make a career change, it may help to think about why. You could meet with a career counselor to gain deeper insight into which decision is best. Are you dealing with burnout? Or, do you dislike your current career trajectory? Each choice requires some amount of savings. Your options may include—but aren’t limited to:
- Changing jobs. Before diving into a new career, it may be worthwhile to try another job, first. A new role may be invigorating and may remind you why you chose your current path to begin with. But you may need some extra cash—especially if there are a couple of weeks without a paycheck. Or, other unexpected expenses like a car repair.
- Taking a break to recharge or travel. If you are feeling burnt out, you may be thinking about a short-term break. Whether you decide to take a sabbatical or to quit your job, you will need money to cover expenses while you aren’t working. A side hustle or freelance gig may also help bridge the gap.
- Pivoting to another field. Changing careers is a major decision. It may involve paying for more education, taking a pay cut, or having fewer benefits. This route may be the most expensive, so it will require a lot more planning.
Should I Make a Career Change? Coming Up With a Plan
Once you have decided on a career change, the next step is crafting a plan to make it happen. Try to be patient. You may be eager to see immediate results, but strategic planning may save you a lot of trouble later.
- Choose your new field. If you are still wondering, “Should I make a career change?” you may not be ready. Once you are sure, start with some research. A career coach may be able to narrow down your choices. If you already know where you are heading, learn about the skills and experience you will need. See how much you may expect to earn. Or, start meeting with companies for informational interviews.
- Work on your professional network. Start networking in your new field right away. Invest the time to improve your LinkedIn profile. Look for a local professional organization to volunteer with.
- Invest in education and training. Depending on your new career, you may need to go back to school. Do you need a certificate, degree, or graduate degree? Will you need new credentials? How likely is a new employer to invest in these things? The answers may factor into your next moves.
- Clean up your resume. If your resume is still tailored to your old career, it may be time for a refresh. Work on highlighting your most relevant experience and expertise. If you are struggling, don’t be afraid to hire a professional to help.
Don’t make a career change on a whim.
As painful as your current job or career may be, it’s not wise to make an impulsive decision. The truth about how to make a career change is simple: it takes time. Shifts often take years of planning. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow your heart.
But being strategic may improve your chances of success.