How to tell when a career pivot is right for you

Here are the signs to consider that a career switch is right for you, according to second-career experts.

You may be sitting at your office desk right now, dreaming of working somewhere else. In your dream, you have a completely different career. Sometimes, our visions of the life we want to have are flights of fanciful distraction from a fulfilling life we already have, but sometimes, those inner voices are telling us something important.

Here are the signs to consider that a career switch is right for you, according to second-career experts:

When you stop learning

Robb Holman, founder and CEO of Holman International, said that before you make a hard pivot into a new career, you should ask yourself, “Will it help me to gain new skills or improve existing skills?” And if the opportunity on paper is not perfect, consider if there is room for growth by asking yourself, “Will this opportunity evolve into something I truly want to do?”

Learning meaningful new skills was the reason why corporate lawyer Jacob Licht made the radical decision to become a thirty-something unpaid intern for the U.S. government so that he could become a trial lawyer. In the book, “When to Jump: If the Job You Have Isn’t the Life You Want,” Licht advises second-career searchers to leap for learning.

“Jump to learn. When I was in a corporate law job with clients, my learning curve had slowed to a near stop. Particularly when you’re earlier in your career, learning needs to be the number one priority in what you do, much more so than a paycheck, maybe even more than stability. Those skills you learn early on are going to catapult you further in your career and faster than other folks.”

When you have a game plan

Your dreams can be unrealistic, but it helps if your plans for how you will attain this dream are realistic. That means treating the dream of a career pivot seriously by planning for it seriously.

Before you pursue your passion project like a full-time job or before you agree to take on a different responsibility at work, take time to consider the timeline of your ambitions. Set deadlines for yourself, so the career-switch question leaves the fantastical realm of “if” and into the more achievable realm of “when.”

“How primed are you to make that change? Is it a slam dunk, or will it require some re-creation? How about your finances? Do you have the money to spend an extended time in the transition process without income, or do you need to keep a steady stream flowing?” career coach Curt Rosengren advises. “All those things will have an impact on how quickly you can realistically make a change. If it’s not an immediate change, set a date, and start taking steps towards it.”

When your gut is telling you to

Ultimately, only you can know when it is time for you to make the leap for a second career. Only you can know how you want to spend your days.

Even when every other advisor says the career pivot is risky, don’t dismiss your inner voice that is curious and willing. Doing a job that actually makes you happy in the end is worth it. That’s the advice Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg has for everyone who is considering a career pivot.

“The question I’ve come back to again and again in my life is, ‘What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?’ That question gave me the push I needed to make big jumps: from government to the tech sector, from Google to a company called Facebook run by a twenty-three-year-old,” Sandberg told When to Jump. “Each time some people I really trusted told me I was making a mistake. Each time, they might have been right. But my heart told me otherwise. I wanted to jump. And I’ve never looked back.”

Monica Torres|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at mtorres@theladders.com.