By Holly Barry, @HJBarry
According to a recent government study we are set to spend an average of 99,117 hours at work, which equates to around 11.5 years of our lives. As well as this, statistics show that 80% of us end up in the wrong career, whilst 51% of twenty-somethings already regret their career choice. These figures are staggering and indicate that the majority of employees are unsatisfied with their current position. So while it may seem an inconvenience to consider a career change in the short term, those figures should put it into perspective. Of course, we all know how easy it is to fall into a career path that isn’t exactly ideal, as financial ties, family responsibilities or other obligations pressure us into accepting jobs that might not be a great fit.
Whilst switching jobs may seem like a massive upheaval, it is essential to find happiness at work in order to achieve a sense of fulfilment and maintain good mental health. If you’re consistently stressed, are stagnating in your position, or you no longer believe in the company that you work for, it might be time to start considering a career change. Below we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to help you through the next phase in your professional life.
Is there ever a right time to move jobs?
In short, the answer is yes. There are a number of signs that indicate it’s time to consider changing careers. If you feel undervalued, find that you do not gel well with your team or find it difficult to air grievances, it is time to consider a new position. You should equally consider changing your career if you find your job lacks challenge and is so monotonous that you dread going to work, or if your job is so overbearing that you feel as though you don’t have a second to take a breath. If you’re still unsure about whether now is the time to change your career, Forbes has put together a quiz to help you decide.
Before making such a big decision, consider what it is about your career that is making you unhappy. Is it a lack of progression? Do you need more challenging work? Are you ready to take on more responsibility? Is your workload too heavy? If you are reluctant to leave your company but find that you are facing some of the above issues, consider talking to your manager. As a valuable asset to the company, your manager will undoubtedly want to help you meet your professional needs, by moving your career on to the next step or relieving some workload pressures.
Whilst ability, knowledge and skill are all significant factors that affect your career prospects, employers also have a part to play in job-satisfaction. If you seldom receive feedback from your manager it is easy to feel adrift at work with little understanding of whether you have progressed, this can be disheartening. Moreover, if you are not in an acceptable working environment and have not been provided the correct equipment and enough time to perform your role, this will damage your morale. Finally, if your employer does not offer any incentive for good performance, it is easy to feel undervalued and stagnant. If you feel that your employers are not holding up their end of the bargain, or that you are unhappy at work, it’s time to explore other options and consider moving into a different industry.
Industries to Explore
With all of the career options out there it is difficult to decide what it is you want to do and how to get there. First and foremost, don’t panic. This is not your one and only opportunity to change careers, if you decide that your new job isn’t for you, it is perfectly acceptable to change again. Don’t buy into the myth of a ‘true calling’ as often finding the right job is a matter of trial and error. Consider the types of skills and tasks that you enjoy doing and are good at, compile a list and then have a look at some career planning websites such as Prospects or TargetJobs. It is also worth researching industries that are currently hiring outside of their professional network, the internet being the first followed by venture capital and network security.
Whilst the impulse to switch career immediately may be strong, it is often better to change your career over a period of time. Once you have settled on a career goal, begin researching what experience and qualifications you need to do the job. Consider brushing up on your education by taking night courses, attending the open university or completing further education part time. Of course one of the problems of changing a career is finance. If you have a partner, consider whether they could support the family on their income whilst you retrain. If you are looking into higher education, research your funding options as a mature student, paying particular attention to the bursaries and grants available at individual institutions.
In terms of practical experience, you should contact somebody in your desired role to ask them questions and potentially shadow them for a day. In addition, begin building a network of contacts who work in your desired industry, either through LinkedIn or by attending networking events. Lastly, update your CV, cutting any superfluous experience. Keep it succinct, to the point, and no longer than two pages.
Reaping the Rewards
Although a career change can initially mean that you are financially worse off, in the long run the benefits to your personal well-being and workplace satisfaction outweigh the short-term financial discomfort. Reading personal stories about those who changed their career mid-life can be useful and reassuring, for example Viv Oyolu was interviewed by The Telegraph alongside three other women who made drastic, but successful career changes later in life. Viv initially started out in banking, and after many years successfully moved into youth work and then radio presenting.
It is also worth bearing in mind that many of the skills you have picked up in your current career are transferable. This means that although you may have to do some retraining, you might not be as far behind as you initially thought. If you do have to do a little retraining plan ahead financially, ensuring that you have enough savings to support yourself and your family through this period. To ensure that you see positive results from your career change, set yourself deadlines and realistic goals. Don’t apply half-heartedly for jobs that you are vaguely interested in, because the likelihood is that you will be rejected and this can be discouraging in the long run.
If you’re worried about being seen as a job-hopper, don’t. Companies can no longer guarantee lifelong employment. As well as this, career changes happen more often that you’d expect in the millennial age, with the average worker changing jobs up to 14 times in their lifetime. Changing jobs is also a means of challenging yourself. Being completely competent in your role allows your brain to switch off and stagnate. New jobs bring with them new challenges and more stimulation. Once mastered, these new challenges will help bolster your self-confidence and develop your skills.
Whilst you may be considering changing career for your personal wellbeing and happiness, changing jobs is also great for your professional life. It ensures that you remain flexible, in touch with the outside business world, and up-to-date in terms of your skills and knowledge. So begin your search for a new challenge and take the plunge, you may find a little risk will reap much reward.