Considerations before Switching Careers
Considerations before Switching Careers
Jirapong Manustrong /

Switching from one job to another is simple. Switching from one career to another takes a lot of work and persistence. You can’t be afraid to quit your current job and make a leap of faith into either school or a new workplace. If you feel like your paycheck just isn’t providing enough motivation to go to work in the morning, your productivity is down, and you’re embarrassed to talk about your job, it may be time for you to consider the alternatives.

What should I consider before I decide to switch careers?

Before making any sudden decisions, answer these questions:

  • Do you want to make a change because you don’t like your profession or because you don’t like your employer?
    • If your employer is the problem, consider finding a new job in the same field. Chances are, you’ll be happier in the new workplace and you won’t have lost any time in transit.
    • Are you feeling burnt out? A leave of absence may be more affordable and satisfying in the long run than a complete career change.
    • Are you sure you want to change your entire career, or are you focused on particular aspects of it? If you one want to change a few things, talk to your employer. You may be able to talk your way into more or different responsibilities. Exhaust your options at your current place of work instead of impulsively making the decision to change everything.
    • Before you quit your job, give it time. An impulsive decision may leave you in a worse place than you started. By all means, explore your options, but don't make a decision until you've thought through all of the possibilities.
  • Is making a change (and the education that may be necessary) affordable?
    • Have you researched exactly how long it will take you to attain your new credentials, calculated how much it will cost, and made a financial plan with your family?
    • Do you have money in savings to fall back on or a spouse who works regularly in case your education or job search takes longer than you expect?
    • Will you be able to work part-time through your transition to ease the financial burden of a career change?
  • Are you willing to commit the time needed to discover a career you’re passionate about and to complete the necessary training or education before starting?
    • Are you chasing your dreams or are you chasing a higher salary? Higher salaries are negotiable, but if you're only looking to change careers because you want a raise and not because you love your new field, you could end up miserable.
    • What is it that you are passionate about, and what careers are associated with your passion?
    • What talents do you want to use in your new position? What skills do you not want to have to rely on?
    • Do you need a new degree or certificate to pursue your dream job?
    • Are you willing to put in the time to earn a new credential?

What should I do before I quit my current job?

  • Do not make a spur-of-the-moment decision because you feel frustrated with your current job or are just in a bad mood. A career change is not going to happen overnight. It takes passion, drive, and possibly more time in school.
  • If you don’t know what you’d rather be doing, but know that you’re not fulfilled at your current job, experiment on your own time. Don’t quit your job right off the bat. Instead, take a few part-time courses at a local community college or shadow friends for a day as they go through their typical work routines. You may find that their jobs hold your [glossary_exclude]interest[/glossary_exclude] more than your own does. By testing different ideas of what may [glossary_exclude]interest[/glossary_exclude] you while you’re still employed, you are taking safe actions to find a new career while protecting your finances. It may turn out that a few changes in your current job are all it takes to make you a satisfied employee.
  • If you’re sure you’ve found a new field that interests you, do your research. Make sure that there actually are available jobs before you drop everything to pursue this. Plan out how long you will need to be in school and how much it will cost. Are you going to return to school full-time or part-time? Will you need to work part-time while you’re there to make your education affordable?
  • Contact college counselors and professionals in your new field. What type of education do they suggest may be necessary? What types of jobs will be available to you when you finish your degree? Are there internships, apprenticeships, or job opportunities available for students through local institutions?
  • Before quitting your current job, contact the human resources department or talk to your supervisor directly. Let them know that you are unhappy with your current situation and ask if there is anything they can offer or do to persuade you to stay. You may be surprised at your employer's willingness to work with you and retain you as an employee; you could be able to negotiate a raise or a shift in responsibilities. If you have your heart set on leaving, be sure to give appropriate notice (at least two weeks) and leave on good terms.

What should I do after I quit my current job?

  • If you need to return to school, make sure that you have all your application and financial aid materials ready and submitted before you leave your current job. If possible, wait until you've earned an acceptance to at least one institution before quitting your job. This is especially important if you won't have a source of income while you are in school. After you've accepted your financial aid package, talk to your new department head about scheduling, plan your coursework, and get started as soon as possible. Give your current employer at least two weeks' notice before actually leaving; if you schedule it right, you can go straight from your job into school.
  • If you plan on working, do some research on local businesses that offer jobs related to your field of study. Even better, if you can find a job in your field, try working for a while before returning to school so that you can be sure that what you think is your passion really is your passion. Once you’re sure, go ahead and sign up for the courses that you’ll need to further your new career.

Page last updated: 12/2018