Four common career change mistakes to avoid

Deciding to change careers involves a lot more than just making one decision, there are a lot of ways that it could go wrong. Here are some common career change mistake to avoid replicating…

Making the change for the wrong reasons

Chances are, if you’re changing careers because you’ve come to hate what you’re doing, you’ll find yourself desiring something that is the polar opposite to your current role. Career coach Kathy Caprino says that she found herself in that situation.

“I really couldn’t stand what I was doing or who I was doing it for, so I ran to the farthest corner of the professional world I could find – marriage and family therapy,” she says. “In hindsight, my training as a therapist was a fabulous endeavour for me (it gave me life-changing skills and experience that I use every day). But living the professional ‘identity’ of a therapist as a career – and dealing as I did with the many dark sides of human experience – was in the end not what I wanted.”

Instead, she recommends not waiting until you’re “desperately unhappy in your current situation” to make a change, and improving your situation before you leave. “Then, when you do leave, you’ll be able to achieve the next level of success and you’ll have made clear, rational decisions that will move you forward successfully. Running away will not solve your problems – they’ll just be repeated in the next career.”

Not having a financial plan

Changing careers can mean taking a pay cut as you move into a field where you have less experience, or it could involve a period of retraining where you won’t be earning at all. In order to do this, you’ll need to make sure you have a plan for how you’re going to deal with your finances and be able to live.

“Get financially fit. Debt is a dream killer and so the very biggest stumbling block is money,” Kerry Hannon, author of Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness, says. “And if you can somehow get yourself in shape financially – maybe it’s downsizing or something – then you can make that shift. Because one, you might have to pay for your education so you can get the skills and two, you may have to start over at a lower salary than you were before.”

Idealising your dream career

It’s easy to get carried away with your dream career, but it’s important to be realistic about what your new career will actually involve. You might think that it’ll be the best thing you’ve ever done, but you need to stay grounded and investigate all parts of it. Corinne Mills, managing director of Personal Career Management, says that one client she worked with spent three years of his life – and a lot of money – to complete a course in sound engineering, only to then realise that the job didn’t work for his lifestyle.

“What he hadn’t realised was that the work was mostly freelance,” she says. “It involved travelling around and very little job security – it just didn’t fit in with his financial and family needs.”

Giving up too quickly

It can be tempting if things don’t go as you’d hoped with your career change to just give up and go back to what you were doing before. But stick with it and it will get easier.

“It takes time to feel at home in your new job,” Mark Strong, a career and executive coach based in New York, says. “People who have changed jobs before know that well. But it’s hard for everyone the first time.”


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