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Like most things in daily life, job satisfaction ebbs and flows—so how can you be sure an urge to quit your job and change careers (or start a new one if you’ve been out of work) is something to take seriously and not just a fleeting mood? And once you’re sure it’s time, how do you go about finding a new career? Can you do it even if you don’t have a traditional college degree? To get a better handle on these questions, I checked in with Celine Martin, People Operations Specialist at digital marketing solutions platform Vendasta. Here’s what she had to say.
Is it Finally Time For Career Change? Watch For These Telltale Signs
According to Martin, four key indicators that it’s time to seriously consider career change are:
- Finding yourself disengaged in your day-to-day work
- Lacking energy and enthusiasm to get your work done
- Dreading waking up to go to your job in the morning
- Staying on a career path simply because of the pay, power, or title it offers
Even with these indicators in mind, Martin says it can be difficult to identify when it’s time to leave an industry—particularly when people are deep in the trenches of a career path. “It can be be easy to chalk up sources of unhappiness to individual, day-to-day parts of a job,” Martin says, “like certain compartmentalized tasks, specific unreasonable demands, or particular team members.” In order to really zero in on an industry itself as the reason for job dissatisfaction, Martin suggests analyzing where you stand with your work holistically—by looking at your unhappiness in broad strokes, Martin says you’ll be able to see if it’s a lack of passion for the overall work you’re doing, a lack of buy-in for the goals you’re trying to achieve, or the even the nature of the your industry and its culture that’s making you unhappy. If these things start to point to yes, there’s a good chance it’s time to consider career change.
Step One to a New Career: Identifying a Career Path That’s Right For You
Realizing career change is the best solution to your job dissatisfaction can feel overwhelming—you know you want to change careers, and that’s great, but with so many career options out there, where do you even begin? Martin suggests two basic approaches to get past this initial hurdle.
The first thing to do, Martin says, is to spend some time rediscovering your professional passion. “Ask yourself what motivates you to go to work everyday, what goals and initiatives excite you, and what kind of difference do you want to make in an industry or a firm.” These might seem like simple things, but they’re easy to lose track of when you’re deep in a career path that you’ve lost passion for, or if you’ve been away from the workforce. Circling back to what makes you tick professionally will help you find the best platform for achieving your career goals.
Secondly, Martin says that once you’ve developed a good idea of what motivates and excites you, it’s time to start doing internet research. “Even a simple internet search based on your motivations will bring up careers that are just waiting for someone like you,” Martin says. As your searching starts to yield general ideas, Martin says you can then start diving into specifics—researching different career paths within a promising industry, comparing salary expectations, getting a sense of industry culture, and seeing how these things fit with your career goals.
Finally, Martin suggests adding in-person leg work to your career path research as well. “Attending job fairs can be a great source for finding careers you might not know about or considered right in your area,” Martin says. Sites like Meetup.com offer a convenient way of locating job fairs and other career networking opportunities near you, and—when you attend these opportunities—Martin advises being broad in your approach and casting as wide a net as possible. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions and learn more about the different opportunities and career paths that businesses near you might have to offer,” Martin says. There’s no harm in seeing what job openings and options are out there, and you might come across something promising that wasn’t on your radar.
How to Proceed When You’ve Found a New Career Path
Once you’ve focused on a new career path, Martin suggests pursuing it relentlessly. “Start putting yourself out there as much as you can,” Martin says. “Attend industry networking events, seek out mentorship, reach out to local businesses in the same line of work, and get your name out there.” Similarly, Martin says to stay active on LinkedIn and start applying for jobs through online job boards and business websites—while it’s easy to talk yourself out of applying for jobs when you’re new to a career, Martin advises not to let your doubts prevent you from getting that application experience and maybe even finding a job that ends up being a perfect fit.
And, speaking of doubts, it’s important to dispel some common ones right off the bat. Whether you’re worried about being too old to make a career change, concerned that you don’t have the right degree for your dream job, or fear that you don’t have time to pick up the skills you need, all three of these recurring doubts are easily handled and shouldn’t be what’s keeping you from career change.
On the subject of age, it can be argued 40 or older is a perfect time for changing careers—moving to a career that offers flexibility, for instance, can open up time for the other mid-life responsibilities (childcare, caring for aging parents, wanting to take on volunteer service projects, etc), while a jump to a freelance career can reinvigorate your work life and contribute to your retirement down the road. Meanwhile, growing industries like tech continue to move from a focus on degrees to a focus on applicable skill sets—starting a career as a web developer has more to do with whether or not you know how to code and less to do with whether or not you have a computer science degree. And when it comes to those skills, don’t panic—career building skills like HTML and CSS can be learned in months as opposed to years. Yes, you might have to spend time up skilling your way into a new career, but it’s time that can be easily baked into the work you’re already doing to find your dream job.
To sum up, career change is a totally achievable goal—it will require effort on your part, but it’s effort toward something positive instead of working endlessly in a job or industry that simply doesn’t fit your needs. Think about what those needs are, do your research to find a career that meets them, and channel your confidence as you throw yourself into the job application process.
Scott Morris is Skillcrush's staff writer and content producer. Like all the members of Skillcrush's team, he works remotely (in his case from Napa, CA). He believes that content that's worth reading (and that your audience can find!) creates brands that people follow. He's experienced writing on topics including jobs and technology, digital marketing, career pivots, gender equity, parenting, and popular culture. Before starting his career as a writer and content marketer, he spent 10 years as a full-time parent to his daughters Veronica and Athena.