Considering a Career Change? Think Through These 5 Things First

Q. Lately I’ve been toying with the idea of switching not just jobs, but industries. How do I decide if it’s time for a career change?

Bold moves, such as changing industries, can be life affirming. There are numerous potential benefits, like a heightened sense of happiness, less stress, improved health and being in better alignment with what you really desire. Before making the big move, though, I’d suggest you consider my tips below.

1: Write out a list of the good and the bad.

Make a list of all the good things and the not-so-good things about your current job/industry and what you expect in the new one. Be sure to prioritize them, identifying the non-compromise aspects of what you want from the new industry. The reason this is important is that you want to be clear about why you want to move. For example, if you’re changing jobs/industries because you don’t like the people, then you could very well have this problem in the new industry. If, however, you really enjoy working outdoors and your current industry keeps you at the desk all day, then this becomes a more concrete reason.

2: Is the grass always greener?

Spend time thinking in detail about what it is that attracts you to your new industry. Expanding on the list of good vs. bad you’ve already written for your current industry, do the same for your new industry. What excites you about the move and how do you see your life being different? Are there more flexible working hours? Is there more or less travel? Is it more intellectually challenging? I support bold career moves, as long as they’re well thought out. Otherwise, you could fall prey to “the grass is greener on the other side” thinking and be disappointed when the new industry doesn’t live up to expectations.

3: Research your new industry and start networking.

Making connections with people who are already in your intended industry will make the transition easier. Look at attending industry events, conferences or workshops. It’s a good way of networking with people who could be invaluable in recommending positions or tips for making the transition. Write up a list of established companies and keep an eye on job openings. Subscribe to journals or industry magazines. It makes it easier to spot the latest trends and will also help in you being informed and in preparing for any interviews.

4: Engage in further study or training.

Before switching industries, you may need further training or study. Consider the additional skills you’ll need to give yourself the best chance of success. You could plan to study part-time while staying in your current job, or you could take short courses. Also look at your current list of skills and consider which of these can be transferred to the new industry. This can be very attractive to your new employer if you have skills in other areas that can be put to use in the new industry.

5: Get your finances in order.

When making big career moves, it’s helpful to get clear on your financial situation before moving. Depending on how established you are in your current career, you may need to take a pay cut as you switch industries. If you’re planning to start your own business, then keep in mind there’s a startup period where cash flows may be tight. I recommend making sure you have a clear budget in mind—like the minimum monthly payments you’ll need to make—while you get yourself established in your new industry.

[Editor’s Note: This is our last post in a series with Julie-Ann Tathem. Stay in touch with Julie-Ann Tathem and Tathem LLC by following her articles, following her on Facebook and Twitter or by contacting her directly at]