5 questions to ask yourself when thinking about a career change

Showered with branded paperweights and engraved watches, our parents and grandparents’ generations had pretty straightforward career paths that usually meant staying with a single employer for their entire working lives.
Now, moving up the corporate ladder, racking up years and staying put is far from the norm. According to CNN Business, many Millennials are changing jobs four times in their first decade of employment –  that's double the rate of the previous generation. In fact, with recent estimates suggesting that up to 27% of workers switch jobs each year, and the global recruitment industry worth an estimated $200B, it would almost be unusual if you hadn’t contemplated a career change.
But before making a change as significant as a career move, it’s important to get some clarity. The last thing you want is for your leap of faith to leave you high and dry, and sometimes, no move is in fact the better move.

Here are five questions to ask yourself when contemplating a career change:

  1. Are you satisfied at your current job?
    We know that work is work for a reason, and not every day is going to be filled sunshine and lollipops. But it is important that you are satisfied – that you feel valued and challenged and appropriately compensated for the work you perform. If those elements are absent more often than they are present, it may be time to contemplate a career change.
    If you are generally satisfied at your current job – some days may be more fulfilling than others but, by and large, you feel valued, challenged and adequately compensated – it may instead be worthwhile to stay put. It’s worth considering that job satisfaction can be priceless, but no amount of money is likely to turn a job you hate into a job you love.
  3. Will you still be able to retire on schedule? 
    While the benefits of a career change may be initially attractive, it’s important to think about how a move might impact your financial health down the road. A higher salary may be appealing, but a closer look at the overall benefits package could mean you end up with less take-home pay. A move now could even compromise a major payoff at a firm where length of time employed is tied to certain financial benefits.
    A financial professional can help determine what that move could mean for important components of your financial profile, like matched 401K funds, a government pension, or several years of tenure teaching. A full assessment of the financial implications of a job change will help clarify if this is a move you truly want to make.
  5. What will you have to invest in additional training or education? 
    Sometimes switching careers means having to spend a significant amount of time in school or specific training programs. In addition to the cost of tuition and the cost of living, it’s important to also think about the missed income during this time. If you’re looking to jump to an industry with a lower earning potential than your current position, financially speaking, it may not be worth it.
    That being said, the same period of training is also an investment that could have a major payoff that would help you recoup the investments of your time and money. All of this should factor into your decision about whether or not a new career or job makes sense for you. 
  7. Is your prospective career as secure as your current?
    If you leave a position at a start-up to become an engineer, the odds are, probably, in your favor. If, however, you leave your position as an accountant at a stable firm to chase your dream of flipping houses, your financial future could be less certain. Job satisfaction is important, as we’ve laid out above, but so is financial security, especially if your income supports others. Carefully consider the stability and long-term sustainability of the industry you’re thinking about entering to ensure it’s a level of risk you are comfortable taking.
  9. How will my work-life balance change? 
    The damage overworking causes to your body and mind real. Salary and job satisfaction are likely to play significantly into your decision to change careers. But it’s important to also pay attention to work-life balance too. If you already make it a habit to “work after work,” then taking a job where that is expected may be less of a consideration or concern. But, if you currently have a job that requires that and want to make a change, or know that you want a job that enables you to work for a select number of hours each week, think carefully before pursuing a career that is more demanding.
    Does your large family depend on a substantial income? Then a higher salary might outweigh work-life balance. But if attending your daughter’s every soccer game matters more than taking an annual vacation, your considerations will be different. 

Honestly evaluating your responses to each of the prompts above will help you assess whether a career move is right for you, right now. To cap of this list we’d ask one more question: what is the most important factor to you when it comes to a job? Once you identify what matters most, answer the rest of the questions with that in mind, and your decision may make itself.

Maybe you’ll make the move for a job that suits you better than your current position. Or realize you already have the job that best meets your needs.