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  3. How to change your career: know your situation
How to change your Career: Know Your Situation

How to change your career: know your situation

Artwork by: Nelly Borisova

  • Time And Money
  • Big Changes vs. Not-So-Big Ones
  • Find SMART Goals

Starting a new career is an exciting, energizing, and self-affirming experience. But getting to your new career can be stressful and overwhelming, especially when you didn’t leave your last role by choice. You can smooth this transition by being prepared and asking yourself the tough questions at the beginning of your journey.

This blog post is part of the Things to Know When Planning A Career Change series. In our last article, we talked about knowing yourself - thinking about the internal factors that impact your ability to make a change. This time, we’re going to discuss your situation and the external factors in your immediate environment that could impact your career transition.

Time And Money

Of course, you don’t need a blog post to tell you that these are the most important factors to consider. You’ve definitely already spent some nights wondering about your budget. Instead of pointing out the obvious, here we’ll discuss some more pointed, specific questions you can ask and moves you can make.

Putting all your expenses together and seeing what you can cut back on in your monthly budget is the first step to understanding your financial situation. From there, it’s helpful to think of your time frame as an extension of your budget. How much time can you realistically buy for yourself using the money you have on hand? 

This is the key difference between needing a new job now and needing to have a new job a year from now. Understanding your monetary flow lets you know how much time you have before you need to be in a full time position, which in turn lets you know how much time you can dedicate to career exploration, training, networking, or other development.

Don’t forget that the amount of money you have is not fixed, and you may need to adjust when you factor in unemployment, COBRA, etc. If you have other sources of support, now’s the time to reach out. You may also look into freelancing or gig-economy roles - but remember that it’s a trade-off between that and time spent on your career search.

The truth is that career changes take time, and are also a lot of work. It’s important to understand exactly how much time you have so you can create a pace and a plan that works for you.

Big Changes vs. Not-So-Big Ones

Having a limited time frame doesn’t mean you can’t make a career change. Not every switch is a dramatic one. According to a LinkedIn study, most changes are kind of mild - going from sales to marketing, or from research specialist to project manager, for example.

This shouldn’t be that surprising if you think about it - it’s easier to get into a role when you’ve already spent most of your career building up applicable skills. Think of this as more of a career shift than a career leap. For more information on assessing your existing skills, talk to your career coach and check out the last post in this series.

Of course, people still can and do make huge life-changing career leaps, but you need to realize this will take more time and effort. A good place to start is the Ad Council’s Find Something New page, which uses Department of Labor data to show the most common career paths for the future and all the different training and development programs available to get you there. Or read our blog: reinventing yourself in the job hunt.

Find SMART Goals

Ultimately, comparing these two will result in a number of questions that only you can answer - the big one being “is this a realistic move for me?”

If you’re trying to leap to a career that requires a one-year certification and you only have six months’ worth of finances, then the answer might be “no.” But it also might not be. Maybe you  can spend those six months splitting your time between certification and building a side business.

Or maybe you can step down to a more junior level role to gain experience in your new field while doing training. There are infinite possibilities based on your individual situation.

It’s helpful to try to plan at least a few months into your future. Set a timeline for your transition and place goals for yourself along that timeline. Make sure those goals are SMART:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Attainable

  • Relevant

  • Time-Bound

Whether it’s a big jump or a not-so-big one, a career shift can be a stressful and overwhelming time. But it’s also an exciting and energizing one! You’re making investments in your future and finding ways to make your work fit your life - not the other way around.

With a little planning and some hard questions up-front, you can be on your way to many positive changes - maybe even a lifetimes’ worth.

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