By Annie Favreau
Are you ready to take your career in a new direction? Maybe you’re unsatisfied in your current role. Maybe you’ve been off of the job market for a while. Maybe you’re simply ready to find a job that’s a better fit for who you are.
Whatever your reasons, changing careers can be incredibly rewarding. But big transitions aren’t always easy. Before striking out on a new path, you’ve got to learn how to avoid these five common career change mistakes, so you can make a successful switch.
Mistake #1: Leaping Before You Look
If you just leap into a new career without any reflection on what wasn’t working in the last one, you’re sure to repeat old mistakes. Take time to figure out why you want to change. What specifically about your current position, team, or industry is causing concern?
It’s equally essential to spend time identifying your strengths, interests, and—most importantly—values. Knowing what you want from a new career is just as crucial as knowing what you don’t want.
Mistake #2: Sticking to the Familiar
Don’t limit yourself to career options that are familiar or popular. In particular, don’t pick a career just because you have friend who’s been successful in that area. Changing careers is all about finding a new path that’s right for you. And sometimes that means exploring further off the beaten track.
Mistake #3: Focusing too much on Practicalities or on Passion
If you only focus on the practicalities—what job will make the most money and give me the best benefits?—you’re likely to end up in a career you don’t enjoy. In the long run, this can take a high toll on your personal happiness and health.
On the other hand, you don’t want to blindly pursue a passion that won’t pay the bills. The key is finding a balance between what you enjoy, what you’re good at, and what people will pay you to do.
Mistake #4: Not Investing in Your Education
Not every career change requires a new certificate or degree, but it’s important to make sure you have the right skills and qualifications for your new job. For many people, continuing education is the right choice. Don’t go back to school without a clear plan (see Mistake #1), but recognize that training—whether through internships, certificates, or a new degree—can be an investment in your future.
Mistake #5: Expecting Change to Happen Overnight
Career changes aren’t quick-fix situations—successful transitions take work and dedication. But remember: during your lifetime, you’ll spend an average of 90,000 hours on the job. Isn’t it worth it to find a career that works for you?
What’s the best piece of career change advice you’ve ever gotten?
Annie Favreau works for Inside Jobs, a career exploration site that helps people figure out what they want to become and find the right education to make it happen. Explore your career options at Inside Jobs.