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Eight Mistakes to Avoid While Switching Career

career change concept

According to a recent report published in the Wall Street Journal, an average American changes 5-7 careers in his or her lifetime. But is it always an easy choice to switch the career, job, and occupational responsibilities? Are all career transitions successful? Most importantly, what forces and agents drive you to switch your career?

In my personal opinion, there is nothing wrong with pursuing new career choices. Here is why:

  • Unlike old times, new careers and industries are emerging at an ever increasing pace.
  • Most new career choices offer tremendous opportunities and scope to the early explorers. Needless to say that venturing in a new market is risky but also less competitive and more profitable in the long run.
  • A lot of people experience frustration and fading interest in their current profession or designation due to wrong career moves.
  • Job market and existing economic forces are highly unstable. Most Americans are not happy or satisfied with their career choices despite reasonable remuneration and potential growth at their jobs. This can be supported by the fact that an average American changes his job within 4.1 years according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (2).

Today young individuals are more educated, ambitious, and impatient. In short, based on the latest trends, approximately 1/3rd of the entire US working force is expected to switch career or change job in the coming 12 months (1).

What are some Tips to make your Career Transition Successful?

There are a number of reasons why people decide to change their career; such as:

  • People get tired, frustrated or bored of working in the same environment with same people to do the same work
  • Financial instability is another trigger that forces people to explore new options.  For example, individuals who are underpaid and those who do contract jobs are more vulnerable to explore new job markets.
  • Job Insecurity is another reason. Most people feel that the current career or job is not giving them enough opportunities to utilize their skill-set
  • Miscellaneous reasons (a new career seem more fascinating or interesting)

Regardless of your reasoning, switching a career is a delicate and crucial decision that may lead to constructive effects or devastating changes in your life and (and of course the lives of the people who are related to you).

In words of Steve Jobs:

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” 

Here are 8 common mistakes that should be avoided while switching your career:

Mistake # 1: Initiating the Process without a Plan:

The process of switching career is not supposed to be done overnight. It is imperative to understand that career transition is a slow process that needs a lot of planning and research. You must answer these questions first

  • How important is this career change?
  • Do you have ample financial resources to make this transition possible?
  • What new skills, formal education, or training would you need during the transition process? Are you still determined to undergo this career change?

This can be explained from the new survey according to which more than 80% people consider switching their careers but only 6% actually pursue a new industry (3). The most frequent barriers to career transition are;

  • Insufficient academic qualification or experience (37%)
  • Economic instability (57%)
  • Insufficient knowledge or motivation about the potential career (40%)

As Beverly Sills said:

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going”

Mistake # 2: Poor Assessment of Conflicts of Interest

There is a huge difference between ‘disliking your job’ and ‘disliking your career’.

It is very crucial to learn if you are unhappy with your boss, salary, incentives, growth potential in the company and current package your job is offering OR you feel somewhat misfit in your current career and strongly believe that your skillset can be well-utilized in a different career path.

At times, when an employee feels bored of his job, it becomes very crucial to delineate the cause of frustration and dissatisfaction in order to make the right choices. Of course, if you are unsatisfied with your workplace environment or occupational responsibilities, switching the job is a healthy solution (but a career switch is definitely unnecessary).

In words of Arthur Golden:

“A mind troubled by doubt cannot focus on the course to victory”

Mistake # 3: Switching your Career for Monetary Reasons Only

It is a fact that certain professions offer tremendous amount of wealth and benefits but it is very unwise to opt for a career only for monetary reasons. In fact more than 75% people who opt to switch career for economical reasons only tend to fail and look for another career path in less than 5 years, according to a new survey.

You may be able to earn a handsome amount but in the process you’d be something you may not like. In simple words, you may have to pay a higher price for decisions that are taken without consideration. Experts advise considering other factors (like personal interest, your ultimate goal, transition hurdles) over monetary interests.

Cecil Selig said:

“When the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, it may be that they take better care of it there”.

Mistake # 4: Choosing a New Career just to please someone:

Your career or job is a very important phase of your life (as important as choosing a life partner or investing all your money in your dream house). However, it has been seen that a lot of individuals are compelled to choose a certain career path to please an influential family member. This practice is not right and should be discouraged. Your career decisions and choices should be solely yours (although it is always a good idea to include your close family members in the process).  Choosing a career under pressure can lead to stress, anxiety, conflicts of interest, poor performance at work, and another career change (sooner or later).

As Ana Freund once said:

“I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within. It is there all the time”

Mistake # 5: Switching without Networking:

It is essential to know the depth of a pool before jumping and swimming in it. Similarly, it is very fundamental to know the giants of the respective industry before venturing into it. If you are planning to venture in a new business or industry, it is very important to make connections with the industry influencers.  For example, if you are planning to switch from an accounting job to a career in healthcare, you should make acquaintance with some healthcare managers to learn how the industry works and how much of a transition it would be.

Mistake # 6: Rapid Switching Without Preparing for Outcomes

Changing jobs too frequently and irrelevantly looks bad on your resume. It swindles your credibility and makes you appear to be a very noncommittal employee. Employers want someone to stay in their firms for a considerable period of time.

Also when you are switching your career, talk to counselors and mentors to help you select. Visit websites and other places with plenty of information and career guidance. It is almost impossible for you to make blunders if you have done your homework.

According to an old Indian proverb:

“Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture the heart”

Mistake # 7: Idealizing Others

As Marilyn Monroe once said:“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are”

Much of it can be blamed on the mechanics of human nature to compare their existence with other beings. It is healthy to have an ideal or a mentor (to an extent) but forcefully making the same career choices as your mentor can invite so many issues. Always make sure to join online forums in the respective fields to get a gist of the industry and how things work. You can also seek internships to gauge your interest before going all in.

Mistake # 8:  Making a Career Transition in the midst of other important life events:

It is a bad idea to make career transition choices when you are stressed out or dealing with an important life event. This include happy events (planning an expensive holiday, getting engaged or married, or planning to welcome your new-born child) as well as sad events (such as dealing with the grieve of losing a family member, financial constraints, unemployment of your partner, or divorce etc.)

In all such situations, you are probably too overwhelmed to make a sane career choice. Obviously, a lot of emotions and hormonal spikes may clutter your judgment and may lead to horrible consequences in the long term. It is suggested to utilize that time in doing research and collection of information instead of making moves. Best career transition choices are made when you are calm, relaxed and collected.

Finally, new opportunities and chances always emerge. Wise individuals assess their skill-set before making career choices and wait for the right time to make their move. If you are in a dilemma, it is always recommended to take a short break off the work and analyze all the available (and potential) options. You can also seek help from professional career services to ease the decision making process.

Good luck with your future endeavors!!


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About Ayesha Khan, MD

Ayesha Khan is a registered physician, former research fellow at New York University and an enthusiastic blogger. She authored several articles on healthcare topics in renowned newspapers and scientific journals. Her blogs span a wide range of topics; from nutrition and wellness to supplements, medical research and alternative medicine. She is currently pursuing an MBA from Drexel University Philadelphia and loves reading and shopping in her spare time.