How to Know When It’s Time to Make a Career Change

by Kevin M on October 16, 2012

in Career,Workplace

Would you make a voluntary career change? I’m talking about a career change driven by personal choice, not one forced upon you by a job loss.

What might cause you to consider making a career change, given that jobs are already hard to find?

{Find out which job hunting expenses are tax deductible!}

Common Reasons To Make A Career Change?

Make Career Change

Company Issues

You’ve probably known people who seem to be in perpetual crisis; well guess what? Some organizations are the same way. Much is made of synergy when it comes to organizations, but seldom discussed is bad synergy! It’s very real! If the top two or three people in a company or department are negative, suspicious, hostile or downright incompetent, those attitudes will filter throughout the ranks.

Every day you come into work with the feeling you’re fighting something but you can’t put your finger on exactly what it is—let me suggest it might very well be that negative synergy. You can’t fight it; it will be there in spite of your best efforts, and it will still be there long after you’ve moved on.

I had the displeasure to work for such a company in my first job out of college. Going to work was an emotional wrestling match every day. When I got there, it was even worse. Seldom did I have anything remotely resembling a good day at work. There were some good people in there, but they were snowed under by bad management and that portion of the rank and file who seemed to be able to play the game only too well.

I ended up leaving and never looked back. What I didn’t know at the time was that this small, privately held company was on the verge of bankruptcy!

Sometimes it really isn’t you–it’s the company! And staying can drag you down with them.

{Learn how being a part of the contingent workforce can help you make a career change!}

Industry Troubles

Sometimes entire industries get into big trouble. Being a refugee from the mortgage business (left in 2008) I know this only too well. I could have stayed in the business and worked in some capacity, after all I had been in it for years and knew a lot of people in the business. But an industry’s problems are usually too big for one person to work through.

When that happens, you have to come face-to-face with the stay or go question, and do some serious soul searching. Will you be better off to continue to make a go in an industry you know, or will you be better off trying your hand at something new?

As we’ve seen from the mortgage business, industry troubles can take years to work out, and you have to ask if “staying the course” is really in your best interests. That answer will be different for everyone.

Technological Changes

Sometimes technology dooms an entire industry, but at the same time it also creates parallel opportunities. The print media and the internet are an example. The print media has been struggling to survive and to find relevancy ever since the start of the Internet Age. So far, it seems to be losing the battle—virtually every projection shows it to be continuing to lose ground. But at the same time, new opportunities are arising on the internet, and while making the shift from print to the web may be difficult it’s hardly impossible.

The situation was similar for radio when TV became popular in the 1950s. Many of the stars of 1950s TV series were former radio personalities who had successfully made the jump. They decided to make the change into the new industry rather than to ride the old one down—technology changed the game forever.

Career shifts due to technology have been going on for a long time, so it’s something we should recognize and be prepared for.

The “Little Voice Inside”

Sometimes you just know that you’re in the wrong place, doing the wrong job. It could be that the career you have just isn’t cutting it—emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, physically or financially. Other times, it’s a sense that you could (or should) be doing something else. What ever it is, you owe it to yourself to investigate what the little voice inside is telling you.

I realize that this is hard to describe, but over the years I’ve learned that when the “little voice inside”—also referred to as “your gut” (as in “going with your gut”)—is telling me something on a consistent basis, I need to pay attention. The little voice inside could be the Holy Spirit (the “still, small voice” referred to in 1 Kings 19:12?) working in us, or it could be the blending of emotional and spiritual forces in us that the mind doesn’t quite understand.

{Find out how to honor God in the workplace!}

Living in a world driven by reason and rationality, such inner disturbances are supposed to be suppressed, but I think that when we do, we do so at our own peril. Feel free to disagree but that’s been my own experience!

A Burning Desire To Do Something Else

Not everyone agrees with the idea of following your passion to your chosen life’s work, and if you don’t please humor me for a bit.

We live in a world where job security is rapidly deteriorating, and as it does the idea of working for a paycheck alone isn’t as solid an idea as it once was. It may be more important than ever to work in a career that you truly feel passionate about. If you do, there’s a better chance that you’ll excel at your work, and become even more successful than ever. And even if you aren’t a success as the world defines it, you may be happier than you’ve ever been.

{In choosing a career path, do you choose money or happiness (or both)?}

Should you leave a well paying career to follow your passion? That’s something only you can decide, but it’s worth thinking about.

Make Your Move While You’re Still In Control

One of the advantages of deciding to make a career change is that you can engineer the entire transition. You aren’t leaving because of a layoff or a firing (though either may be a definite possibility in the future) and because of this you can maintain some control over the process.

Many people make career changes only after a job loss, which only seems to be a natural break in the career cycle. But a job loss can create financial need and a sense of panic, neither of which are conducive to a smooth career transition. Better to do it before the ax falls on your job, that way you’re still in control.

What ever the reason driving you to make a career change, it’s always best accomplished while you still have a job that way—at a minimum—you can take care of any preliminary career change requirements while you’re still getting paid.

What would drive you to make a career change, and how might you prepare for it?

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© 2012, Kevin M. All rights reserved.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amanda L Grossman

I think for me, when I don’t listen to that little voice in my gut I tend to get sick. I’ve had a very “sick” 2012….and yes, I’ve been ignoring the voice since last fall. Eek! I think it’s time for a change for me.


2 Kevin M

Hi Amanda–That sounds like stress! It causes all sorts of ailments. In my experience no attempts to suppress it are ever successful, at least not in the long run.



Great post…

If I may, I’d like to add a consideration…it’s not really distinct, but rather combines several of those mentioned. The moment you look at your boss and you don’t want his/her job (or even the one above it), it’s probably time to go. Whether your jump is to another company in the same industry, or something new altogether depends a lot on the other factors noted like company, industry or technology troubles.

Even if the “little voice inside you” is faint at the moment, start working on your backup plan NOW so that you can indeed make a move while it’s in your control.

Great post.


4 Kevin M

Hi Taosit–It might not be a bad idea to have a backup plan all the time. Every now and again you hear of someone getting sacked with no prior warning. Not typical, but always possible. A well organized parachute comes in handy at a time like that.

Also, just as important, I think that a backup plan serves you well in any job, even if you aren’t in danger of losing it. It can give you the confidence you need to do your job well, and that often comes from knowing you have options.

Feeling trapped is never a good place to operate from on any job.


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