So, You've Decided to Switch Careers: How to Know When to make "The Change"

Written By Dylan Stokes

Graphic Design by Jenelle Trader

Woman on a couch expressing fear of changing careers.

You’ve done it. You’ve looked at everything you’ve been working towards in your career, and you’ve decided that you don’t want it. At least, you think you don’t want it. How do you know when it’s time for a career change? 

Are You Happy?

This should be the first question you ask yourself when making any major decision. But that question is…loaded, to say the least. What does that even mean? 65% of workers in the United States claim that they’re satisfied with their current careers. That leaves 35% of people clocking into work every day feeling at least a little unhappy with where they’ve ended up. 

Figuring out where you are in these statistics is an important first step. If you’re one of the 65%, why bother with a career change at all? Heck, how many of that self-reported 65% are lying? To answer this question, you have to be honest with yourself and the decisions you’ve made, and that’s a hard thing to do. Who wants to admit they’re unhappy? 

Then, there’s the voice. The one in the back of our minds that tells us we’re fine. We don’t need to change. This voice tells us not to worry. The job that drives us insane or the career path that sounds like a nightmare isn’t that bad, actually. If we put our heads down and tough it out, everything will be okay. If change is the mighty T-Rex, then we’re two kids in the back of a jeep and the voice is Dr. Alan Grant, telling us that if we just stay still, it won’t hurt us. This voice wants to feel safe, and by proxy, wants us to feel safe, too. It does not want us to realize that we’re not happy. 

The Voice Knows All. The Voice Knows You.

The truth behind this voice is that it exists because we’re scared. This voice isn’t an insecure schoolyard bully trying to take us down a notch or two for fun. The voice is you. The culmination of your fears. You want to venture into the unknown, the voice screams at you to turn around. This is normal. Change, especially the kind of change that comes with switching careers, is terrifying. For many of us, our careers are an integral aspect of who we are. An extension of ourselves into our accomplishments and our goals. Who we are informs what we want to do with our lives, and vice versa. Lifelong ambitions, childhood dreams, and even that basic sense of security that comes along with a steady paycheck are tied to our careers. You have to decide to ignore the voice and take a leap of faith. 

So take it.

What Now?

So…at this point, we need to take a step back. It would be great if you could saddle up and head into the world to find yourself a new, purpose-filled career today. You might want to brush up on a few things first. We’re not talking about tricky interview questions or navigating a shifting job market, but those are important (check out the articles linked for more!). We’re talking about the single-most important question to ask yourself at this stage: What are you going to do now? 

It is important to remember that you’re not starting from scratch. Remember that place you were, right when you first entered the workforce? With no real skills or experience? You don’t go back! You’ve likely been working for a while doing something. You have experience. You have skills. You are a valuable worker in this market. Changing careers can make us feel like we’re back to square one, especially if we’re entering a new field. But that isn’t true. You have that advantage. 

If you have no idea what kind of career you might want next and don’t even know where to start, we can help! There are all kinds of online resources to help get you thinking about the next stage of your professional life. You can take career quizzes, like this one at careertest.com, or even check out lists of potential jobs and careers based on specific criteria. Lists based on salary (like this one at Investopedia.com) or even by personal satisfaction (who knew you could find job lists based on happiness?) are all over! 

The beginning stage can seem overwhelming. These sites are a great place to start. It’s important to remember that this can’t be the end. We can link you to every job list and career quiz on the internet, but these websites are useless beyond the initial stage. The only way to truly know if it’s time to make “The Change” is to make it. There will be obstacles, but the biggest obstacle of them all is you. It’s easy to feel like you’re not the right kind of person to pursue the kind of career that you want. There’s no easy fix for that. 

Who We Are Does Not Define Who We Can Be

Now that we’re all bummed out, it’s time to get philosophical! It’s true, there is no easy fix to the kinds of insecurities that can surface when considering something big, like a career change, but that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. Today, you might feel like you’re not the person you want to be, but that doesn’t matter. There’s always tomorrow. 

Becoming that person can absolutely come in the form of a career change. What we do for a living and where we do it are often indicative of who we are. They are essential aspects of who we present ourselves to be. Making a career in environmental sustainability reflects a passion for protecting our planet. Meanwhile, making a career as an executive at an oil drilling company reflects the opposite. 

We’re not talking about chasing the oft-coveted dream job, either. We don’t all have to achieve our highest ambitions to be successful, well-rounded people. Not everyone can be the Steven Spielberg of their chosen field. There is a career out there for you, and it might not be the one you think it is. If you love animals, you might not find your purpose in the Human Resources department of an insurance company. There are jobs that we work because we love them, and then there are jobs we work because we feel like we should. “It pays the bills, it puts food on the table. It takes care of my family.”

Change isn’t really a T-Rex. It’s not an apex predator waiting for us to let our guard down so it can tear us apart. The voice isn’t actually Dr. Grant, and we’re not lost in an ill-conceived scientific abomination of a theme park, fighting for survival. Your journey towards professional fulfillment by way of a career change can’t start until you tear down this facade of danger. You need to come back to reality and ask yourself, “is this the person I want to be?”

Check out our other fantastic blogs for resources on the next step of your career-changing journey. 

Have a Super Day! 

Dylan Stokes

I'm a passionate storyteller with a flair for the dramatic and too much free time. As a content writer, I seek to inform and entertain, but mostly entertain. I value the passing of knowledge, so long as we can have fun doing it.