Career Discovery
March 5, 2024

How to Know When to Change Careers

Career changes are more common than you might think. Many people spend years in a specific career or industry before they realize it simply isn’t a good fit, or they’re passionate about something else.

But how do you know when you should change careers? Is it ever too early—or too late? Let’s take a look at common signs that a career change may be just the thing you need.

Should I Change Careers? 3 Signs It May Be Time

1. You’re Experiencing Burnout

Your body may know it’s time to move on before your brain does. Take cues from how your body feels throughout your work day. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Am I already agitated when I wake up on work days?
  • Do I feel emotionally and/or physically drained at the end of most work days?
  • Am I experiencing a decrease in my physical, mental, or emotional well-being?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as an experience “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Feeling exhausted, cynical, negative, distant, and less effective are all classic signs of burnout in a professional context.

2. You’re Being Undervalued

Signs that you’re being undervalued at your current job include:

  • Zero autonomy/lack of trust: Being micromanaged is a tell-tale sign that your workplace isn’t utilizing you to your full potential or giving you the autonomy that is appropriate for your skills and level of experience.
  • Lack of recognition: There’s always room for improvement, but achievements should be recognized and celebrated, not glossed over in order to focus on minor mistakes.
  • Imbalance in pay: Fair compensation is important for any career. If you’re being given more responsibilities without a promotion or pay raise, you’re likely being undervalued.
  • Being ignored: If your input or ideas are always ignored, or if you’re consistently seeing others with less experience being promoted over you, your career may be at a standstill.

One way to determine if you’re being undervalued is to research comparable positions using tools like Glassdoor. Be sure to take into account your experience level, geographic location, value of benefits, and any other factors when determining if your current salary is appropriate. If you discover that what you make doesn’t match other salaries in your field, it may be time for a career shift.

3. You’re Losing Your Ambition

It can be hard to recognize that you’re staying in a career when your passion or ambition have disappeared. Take some time to reflect on your career thus far. Ambition can wax and wane over the course of a career, so ask yourself:

  • Has my career changed? Change gives opportunities to learn new skills, conquer challenges, and rise to new heights. If your career has pretty much stayed the same, it’s a sign that it’ll continue to do so—and it’s hard to be ambitious if you don’t believe you’re making an impact.
  • Has my motivation changed? Maybe your motivation straight out of school was to make as much money as possible, no matter the hours, but now, you’re more motivated by stability and good health benefits for your family. If your motivation has changed, your current career may no longer drive you the way it once did.
  • Have my goals changed? Your initial goal may have been to gain job security, but now you want a career with growth opportunities. If your goals have changed, it may be time for a career switch.

How to Make a Career Change

If you’ve determined it’s the right time to switch careers, how do you accomplish such a big goal? Take time to prepare for this change by:

  • Identifying your current skills: What can you take with you from your current career? What skills do you have that will apply to your new workplace?
  • Deciding what you’re looking for: Maybe you know you need a change, but you’re not sure what you’re switching to. That’s okay. There are many growing careers that welcome, support, and train jobseekers from other careers.
  • Researching what’s required: Depending on how drastic of a career shift you’re making, your desired role may require certain skills, trainings, or certifications that you currently lack. Research what’s required on most job postings, and find career training programs that suit your lifestyle and goals.
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