When it comes to changing career, there’s one question you need to ask yourself early on – do you need a new job or a new career? Because let’s be clear, as life-changing as it can be, a career change is not easy. It can take time, it can mean adjusting your income for a period, it can be emotionally gruelling. And why go through all of that if actually all you need is to dust off your CV and find a new job, doing the thing that you’re already good and experienced at?
Leap into a career change when all you need is a new job and you can miss taking relatively easy action to make a good career even better. Equally, plump for a new job when you really need a bigger change and you can stay unhappy at work for longer than you need.
So it’s important to ask yourself ‘do I need a new job or a new career?’ and to have some structure for coming to a considered answer.
Focus your thinking on three key sets of issues:
Sometimes we love the work that we do but the way we have to do it stops working for us. It could be that the hours are anti-social and now that you have kids that doesn’t work, that the pay has stopped being enough because you want to buy a house, or possibly that the commute is grinding you down.
If there are lifestyle factors involved think about whether there are ways of addressing these whilst still doing the same job – for example, by reducing your hours, getting a promotion in a new company, or working for a firm closer to home. If you can’t make changes that will address the lifestyle mismatch, then a switch to a different career could be necessary.
Our values come from lots of different places – our parents, education, friends and what we see around us. They are intrinsic to who we are as people, even if a lot of us aren’t particularly clear on exactly what our values are. Sometimes a disconnect between our values and the work we do can make us feel uncomfortable or even a bit grubby, without us really understanding why.
Getting clear on your values can shine a light on whether there is a fundamental disconnect between them and your job.
Again, if this seems to be a problem then you need to ask whether the issue is with your current job (“I’m never going to be happy working for a fizzy drink company when health is such a core value for me”) and could therefore be changed by doing the same thing in a different company, or whether that wouldn’t solve it (“Autonomy is really important to me so I need to be in a profession where I can set my own pace”).
Finally, reflect on whether the work that you do is fulfilling and helps you feel like you’re making the impact on the world that you want to. Does it excite and inspire you, do you feel passionately about it, does you feel like you’re making your life count.
If not, then again it’s time to think about whether that could be changed by working at a new company that gives you more purpose (“If I did the same thing at a smaller, more-people focussed company, I’d feel like I was making a difference”) or whether it’s the job itself that is the problem (“I need to do something that works one-to-one with people, rather than as part of a big corporation”).
With a bit of structure to our thinking, it can become clearer whether the problems we are experiencing in our current job are down to what we do, or where or how we’re doing it. And with that clarity, we can move on with more confidence.
To sum up…
To get clear on whether you need a new job or a change of career, ask yourself:
1 Can I do my job in a way that better suits the lifestyle that I want, or would I need to do something totally different?
2 Is there a way of more closely aligning my job to my values, or are they fundamentally out of line?
3 Would I be able to feel fulfilled by and passionate about this work, or would that take a bigger change?