5 Mistakes to Avoid When Changing Careers

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

People rarely stay at the same job and company for their entire working lives anymore. As of 2012, the average worker was staying at each job for 4.4 years, and younger employees usually stay an even shorter time. Ninety-one percent of people born between 1977 and 1997 plan to stay at a job for less than three years, which means that they would have fifteen to twenty jobs during their work career.

While some people switch companies or job titles, career changing itself is becoming more popular. Many people get bored of their job field and decide to try something new, while others just need to make more money. If you are considering changing careers, whether to a completely different field or just a different company, be careful, there are several big mistakes that people make that should be avoided when switching careers. Read on to learn about five of the biggest mistakes to avoid.

1. Changing jobs or careers too often

Statistics show that the average person will change careers five to seven times during their working life, and a third of the workforce changes jobs every twelve months. While workers often hear that they should stay at a job for at least a year if they want to put it on their resume, changing jobs too often will look bad to a potential employer, even if you stay for at least a year. The same is true for changing your career.

Although you can easily explain a change from a retail sales associate to an account executive based on ambition, constantly changing fields entirely may baffle future employers. If you become a retail sales associate, a preschool teacher, and a librarian’s assistant, all in three or four years, future employers may wonder if they can count on you to stay at their company if they hire you. Changing jobs or careers too often makes you look noncommittal.

2. Not paying appropriate attention to compensation

You can damage your future by putting too much or too little emphasis on how much money you will make at a new job or in a new career. If you are burned out because you have spent too much time doing a job you hate, and you just want to do something you love, that’s great. However, quitting a high-paying position in order to become a painter might sound romantic, but it usually isn’t reasonable. A better plan is to make more time for something you love while keeping your job until you can truly afford to quit.

Placing too much emphasis on money can also be detrimental. If you have a job you love, you might be better off staying there than taking a job that you will probably hate, for more money. While more money is great, being miserable isn’t. In addition, sometimes a job offer in a different state, or even at a different company, sounds like more money, but when you factor in cost of living, benefits, bonuses, etc. the offer really isn’t much better. Also, even if you receive an impressive offer, if the company isn’t secure, your job might not be either.

3. Getting too much education

While getting a bachelor’s degree will usually increase your pay, there is more of a guarantee if you are already employed at a specific company that requires a certain degree to advance. A 2008 study showed that many college graduates were without jobs because colleges and universities were still turning out graduates faster than the labor market was creating jobs that require college degrees, and 34 percent of employed college graduates were filling below college-level jobs. This is still a problem today, and getting a higher degree, like a master’s or doctoral degree, can bring even more problems. If you want to make a career change but you think you need to go back to school, think twice. Although some careers will require an advanced degree, earning an advanced degree and having no work experience in the field may put you in greater debt with no one willing to hire you.

4. Choosing the wrong career for your personality

Certain careers or jobs offer a big earning potential, ideal hours, or extra perks that you find enticing, but that doesn’t mean that a certain career or job change is right for you. Specific jobs require unique talents, and if you don’t have them, you probably won’t succeed even if you do get a job offer. If you are convinced that you need to make a change, speak to a career coach, or do research yourself to find out which fields you might excel in. You can also take a career test for fun, but use the results as a starting point, not a definite answer to your ideal career. Spend the necessary time to find something that you can succeed in because your talents and skills make you a good fit, and remember to factor in your personality. Introverts and extroverts often do best at very different jobs.

5. Making a career change before a big change in your home life

If you are facing a huge change in your home life, like a wedding, birth of a child, job loss of a spouse, potential death of a sick relative, an expensive vacation, or a pending home sale, this is not the right time to change careers. You probably should not change careers if you just spent a great deal of money on something either, like a car or a house. If you are feeling like you can’t stand another day at your job, then you might be able to start planning for a change, but you should stick with your current job until you are on solid financial ground. Regardless of the best intentions, changing a career during an expensive financial time is usually a big mistake. On the other hand, if you are thinking about a new job title, for example, applying for a promotion at your company, this might be a great time to do. Just be aware that your new position will come with new job responsibilities that might affect your home life too, so if you are expecting a new baby, you might want to hold off on applying for a higher-stress job for a while.

If you’re sure that you want a new career, do your research before you leave your current job, especially if you have people depending on you at home. Carefully consider what educational requirements your new career will entail, and whether or not you have the time and the money to handle those requirements right now. Plan for your financial needs in general: If you will have to go without a job for a while, be sure you can afford that. Also be positive that you are not changing careers solely for the money, especially if you don’t have a job offer in hand already. Lastly, choose a job that will allow you to use your skills, and change careers or jobs at the proper time.

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