Changing careers often is the new normal— but make sure you grow while doing it
Changing careers is a big and important decision. You invested years in building your career, spent long hours, maybe even weekends at work, sacrificed private and family life. All that to get the recognition, promotion and better salary. But then something happens. You begin to lose interest in your current job. You don’t like the organizational culture you work in. You are not using your full potential. Your values don’t coincide with the values of the company you work in. You are not satisfied with your salary. In any case, you are not happy and you want change.
Quick view on the data
Don’t worry, you are not alone. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, average worker today stays at each of her jobs for 4.6 years and according to the Future Workplace “Multiple Generations@Work” survey 91% Millennials expect to stay at a job for less than three years. That means that over the course of your working life you would change between 10–20 jobs. Compared to your parents’ and grandparents’ traditional 20-year capstone to a career, it is a tremendous change.
Pros and cons of changing careers
A change that has more pros than cons, for sure. When you change careers, you again get the feeling of excitement, motivation, readiness for new challenges, greater job fulfillment, interest for the new working environment to name a few. These are all more important to workers today than to any previous generation. The goal is to find happiness and fulfillment in our working lives, as shown by Net Impact’s survey, not focus on stability, raising a family and “settling down” as Baby Boomers did. Indeed, since we as humans have proven to be terrible at predicting what will make us happy, it is crucial that we find it through trial and error.
But that freedom comes at a price. Financial insecurity is the worst in past half century. If you quit your job before finding another, you may end for months without stable income and have to rely on your savings or living with your parents. Or both. Still, it seems like a decent price to pay in a world where you can gain so much once you land a dream job.
Fundamental questions — time to reflect and research
After deciding you want to change your career, next step would be figuring out what your new career would actually be and why. The answer should be mostly based on your own interests, skills and experience. What do you really like doing when you are at work, or in your spare time? What excites you and energises you? What are your values? Spend some time to (re)discover yourself and identify these core values, because they will act as your compass during times of uncertainty and change. Then, take some time to research the types of careers that centre around your interests and values. Do these careers reflect what you like? Do you feel excited when you think about doing this work? Can you imagine yourself in this new role? Think of the skills and experience required. Do you have what it takes? Can you use some of your current skills and experience for the new career? What new things do you need to learn, what training or education does the career require? Research specific companies in your desired field. Learn about their organisational culture, core values and technology they are using. Research the industry and the system the companies are operating in as well. What problems or challenges are they facing? Can you offer a possible solution with your knowledge, skills or experience? Make an effort to learn as much as you can about job prospects, work-life balance, salary estimates and required skills. Do your homework. It is important to be knowledgable about your new field before you begin looking for a job in it.
Companies want you to grow
What about the employers and companies? How do they perceive people who are changing their careers (also called job-hoppers)? There are certainly a lot of companies who still look at a resume with multiple transitions as a negative and may even disqualify an applicant based on that alone. They question such job-hopper’s motivation, skill level, engagement on the job and ability to get along with other colleagues. For companies, losing an employee after a year means wasting precious time and resources on training & development, only to lose the employee before that investment pays off. On the other hand, there are more and more companies who are distinguishing those job-seekers who hop from company to company but in a similar job from those who are getting promoted and building their scope. “We want evidence of somebody who is growing”, says Judy Gilbert, a director of “people operations” at Google’s YouTube. For the job seeker then, telling an appealing story about your career’s twists and turns is now an essential aspect of self-marketing. But it’s also true that companies are seeking out employees who like to move around. These are the very people who can lead companies toward new markets and ideas. “We’re seeing more and more jobs that simply didn’t exist five years ago but were created as a result of employees driving toward new goals and objectives,” says Chris Hoyt, a recruiting strategist at PepsiCo.
Changing your career is a life changing event and it is not a decision to be made lightly. However, with today’s technology, connections and information available, there is a way to make the transition less painful. You as a job seeker are among millions of people who are looking for happiness and fulfillment and is ready to change careers to find it. More and more companies as talent seekers want dynamic career shifters who will bring new value to their company. With smart choices and scope building, there is an opportunity to make both sides happy and growing.