Whether you’ve been in the same career for months or years, at some point, you may consider switching altogether.
Maybe you’ve been working a corporate job, but feel it’s time to start freelancing. Or maybe you feel you’re in a professional rut and a change of scenery would do you some good. Whatever the case may be, there are certain questions you should ask yourself before switching careers.
“We all experience times in our careers where we aren’t feeling fulfilled, energized, or impactful,” Rochelle Davidson, co-author of “Work Freely: Love Your Job. Love Your Life,” told Business Insider.
But the first thing to figure out is why you are considering a career change, she said. Is your current career no longer serving you, or are you feeling disengaged due to something you can shift?
“Take a step back and think about what inspired you to be in this job in the first place,” she said. “Are you trying to move away from something, or are you wanting to move toward something else? Running away from your current gig, without having a clear picture of what you do want, may have you making decisions that don’t ultimately serve you.”
We spoke to three career coaches to find out 11 questions you should ask yourself if you’re considering switching careers.
Answer the ‘career trifecta’ of questions — What are you passionate about? What do you have skills for? What does the world need?
When considering a career change, Davidson recommended asking yourself three things. What are you passionate about? What do you have skills for? What does the world need?
“It’s the career trifecta,” she said. “You have the greatest chance of success and fulfillment in your career if you hit that sweet spot where all three intersect. If the world needs it, yet it’s not something that inspires you or you don’t have the ability to be successful, you will get frustrated pretty quickly. You have the skills for it, yet you don’t love it? You’ll burn out. You love it, yet the world doesn’t need it or you don’t have the skills required? That’s called a hobby.”
For instance, she said you can like cycling, but that doesn’t mean you have the skills and ability to become a professional rider.
What is — and isn’t — working for you in your current career?
“Write out what isn’t working for you in your current career,” Allynn Taylor, career and life coach with Ama La Vida, told Business Insider in an email. “Is it lack of flexibility, micromanagement, feeling unfulfilled? Making this list will help you to get a visual representation of what’s compelling you to change careers and allows you to see what you do want in your next career chapter.”
Furthermore, it will help you create some clear boundaries and guidelines for what’s most important to you in a work environment so you’ll be happy and successful, she said.
“I also suggest writing out a list of the things you enjoy about your current career, so you have two reference points of what you do want in your next career and what you don’t want in your next career,” Taylor said. “If you are struggling to come up with things you enjoy, try thinking about what you wish you could do more of during your day. These may point to passions or strengths of yours that aren’t being fully utilized.”
Beyond your career, what is important for you in your life?
Davidson said since there are so many options out there career-wise, it can feel overwhelming at times.
“Anchor yourself in what you need as a human being, not just in your career,” she said. “If being at home with your children or your elderly parents is a priority for you right now, or having time to train for a marathon is a must, you need to consider that.”
“It is not just about having the job that completely fulfills your sense of purpose. Sometimes it’s about creating a work situation that allows you to do other things that are important to you.”
What are the barriers to entry in your future career, and how can you work through them?
“Any change you make will present challenges,” Roy Cohen, career coach and author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide: Success Secrets of a Career Coach,” said. “For example, some of these include lack of training and the right credentials, competition with other, more experienced candidates, ageism, or not having a network to tap into for your job search.”
He said the goal is to be aware of as many barriers as you can identify in advance and then prepare yourself to work around or through them when, and if, they surface.
What career will allow you to express your values?
“Your core values are those evergreen qualities that make you who you are, and when expressed in your work, usually lead to greater levels of fulfillment, energy, and performance,” Davidson said.
She said your values are unique to you, and can be anything from creativity to family to impact to autonomy to collaboration, and it’s important to know what they are when determining your next career.
“Consider what your values are — who you are at your best, what others count on you for — then think about how the potential new career allows you, or doesn’t allow you, to live those every day,” Davidson said. “You may be seduced by a potential job that pays you beyond your wildest dreams, yet if you aren’t able to truly be who you are, it will soon deplete you of what makes you, you.”
Are you willing to start at the bottom and work your way up?
Cohen said that making a career change is not necessarily a direct line and you need to ask yourself if you’d be willing to take a different position as a stepping stone to get to where you want to be.
“This could be an unpaid internship or volunteering, a job that includes parts of what you want but not all, or a part-time job or consulting assignment,” he said. “Any of these options will eventually lead to where you want to be but, for some, not fast enough.”
Similarly, Cohen said that if you are not willing to perform the grunt work required at your new job — or on the way to your new job — you may not be able to convince a hiring manager that your interest is genuine. You will both need to be aware of what you’ll bring to the new role and what is missing.
“When you believe that age confers wisdom, you are unequivocally correct,” he said. “But when you assume that prior experience and success entitle you to take on a more senior role, or be given a more senior title, you may discover that not everyone agrees with your assessment or value.”
What is your vision for your life, and what career will support you in manifesting that vision?
When wanting to make a career change, Davidson recommended envisioning your life 10 years from now. She said to ask yourself things like: What are you doing? Who are you with? What impact are you making? What are people saying about you?
“Once you have that picture of a life you love 10 years out, consider the career that will support you living into that vision,” she said. “Design your next ideal role, independent of specific options. Create the perfect job description that aligns with what you want. Then consider the next two to three roles you need to grow into in order to fulfill that 10-year vision, and the skills and experience you will need to accumulate.”
She added that every choice, from buying a $5 latte to taking a new job, will either be in service of that vision or hamper it, so it’s important to choose wisely.
Can you afford to make the career shift?
Cohen pointed out that most career changes involve some cost, either direct or indirect.
“If you need to be retrained, you face the expense of education,” he said. “And if you cannot work while in school, there is the opportunity cost of the income you have given up. And when you do make the career change, you may find that the entry salary is less than what you earned before. Can you afford to pay your bills on this new salary?”
How will this decision impact significant others?
Cohen said that whenever you make a career switch, there will be inevitable fallout for others who rely on you.
“When significant others are ignored, their needs and concerns take a back seat and they may resent your decision,” he said. “Have you vetted the decision with them and where they stand? Do they support and encourage you in taking this step?”
Does your new career plan fit into your life’s purpose?
Davidson said that when considering a new career, it’s integral to ask yourself what the bigger purpose is that you’re trying to fulfill.
“In the words of Simon Sinek, ‘Why do you do what you do?'” Davidson said.
She said to ask yourself: Why do you get up every morning? What impact do you want to make? And does this potential career fit that?
“You will spend a considerable amount of your time and energy with work, so choosing something that feeds into your personal sense of purpose will feed you, not deplete you,” she said. “It’s about thriving, not simply surviving. If you are just counting down the days to retirement, you’re likely not in a job that aligns with the impact you want to make.”
If you’re not sure how to connect to your “why,” Davidson suggested that you write out your eulogy.
“Write it from the place of how you would want others to talk about you at the end of your life,” she said. “Yes, this may sound morbid, yet it is a sure-fire way for you to create some urgency and intentionality in how you live every day — including your career.”
What pre-planning do you need to do before starting your next career path?
Taylor advised putting an action plan into place before making the transition from your current career to your future one.
“You have to be realistic and pragmatic regarding the transition and your personal situation,” she said. “Are there any new skills, education, or research you need to do in order to make this process successful? Do you need to save money to give yourself some runway to make the transition? Are you due for a big raise, promotion, or bonus? If the answer to any of these is yes, then postponing your transition may make sense.”
In addition, Taylor said she tells her clients that baby steps added together equal big steps.
“Break down your bigger goal as small as you can so that you don’t overwhelm and exhaust yourself reaching the goals you’d like to achieve,” she said. “Start with one thing you can do today.”