Are you doing what you feel you should be doing or what you actually want to be doing? It’s a question one should ask often. In fact, Art Markman, professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and author of the book Bring Your Brain to Work, says, “I’m a big believer in evaluating where you think you are in your life about once a year.” The average employee spends 80,000 hours of their life at work. If you’re in the wrong career, it could mean thousands of hours spent devoted to something you don’t even really care about. Or worse, something you can’t stand. If you have contemplated a professional pivot, but you find yourself stuck, you’re not alone. Read on to learn about the biggest career change myths that may be getting in your way.
You’re too old to make a career change
It’s never too late to make a career change. In fact, many highly successful people changed careers after thirty. Look at Jeff Bezos. He had a lucrative job on Wall Street and tackled top roles at multiple financial firms before transitioning to e-commerce and launching Amazon at the age of 31. Let’s not forget Julia Child, who worked in advertising, media, and secret intelligence before writing her first cookbook when she was 50. Then, there’s John Grisham, who practiced law for over a decade before becoming a best-selling author.
You want work that is challenging and fulfilling. What’s wrong with that? Being grateful for what we have doesn’t mean that we should ignore things that aren’t working. If you’re going to be spending a third of your life at your job, it’s not greedy to want to dedicate that time to something enjoyable where you’re doing your best work. Are your skills and talents being used to their greatest potential in your current role? If not, a career change may allow you to make a bigger, more powerful difference in the world. That doesn’t mean you’ll have a perfect life. But you’ll be a lot closer to realizing your potential, and that can only have a positive impact on you and the people around you.
You must start from scratch
A career change seems daunting because many people assume they have to start from square one. That is not always the case. Most of the time, you will have transferable skills that you can repackage in your resume and cover letter to better fit the position you’re seeking. It’s just a matter of determining what they are and conveying them accurately to hiring managers. Another approach if you don’t want to start over is to consider changing industries but not roles, or vice versa. Most employers expect that you will learn on the job. Your attitude and passion are what will go a long way once you land the interview.
You must have it all planned out
Many of my clients assume they must have it all figured out from day one. Life is a journey, and the same goes for career change. One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. is, “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” Wanting to see the whole staircase paralyzes us, and the journey quickly becomes overwhelming. Instead, break your big goal down into small bite-sized pieces. Enroll in an online course or shadow someone in your field of interest. Connect with people at your target companies. Test your ideas in a way that you don’t need to leave your day job immediately. By taking small steps, you’ll find the clarity you’re looking for.
Your income will suffer if you make a career change
One of the most common assumptions is that a career change will involve a decrease in salary. While that may be true, depending on the profession, it’s not a foregone conclusion. If you’re worried that your new job will pay less, Russell Clayton, the author of In Search of Work-Life Balance, suggests testing out your estimated salary. “Figure out what you expect to earn, and live on that for two to four months, suggests Clayton. “Better yet, live on less than you expect to earn. This will give you a realistic picture of what life would look like, from an income perspective, in your new career.” Also, look at your major spending categories to identify cost-saving opportunities. You’ll also want to consider other areas where you may be saving money in the long run. For example, will your new career mean you’ll be able to eliminate that nasty daily commute? Or perhaps the ability to work from home will save you money on childcare. In some cases, you may need to invest in training or education to make a pivot. That’s okay, just as long as you can recoup your investment down the road.
Career paths rarely follow a neat, straight line. Sometimes you need to go backward or sideways to reach your ultimate destination. You deserve to wake up every day excited to do what you love. Making a career change isn’t easy—otherwise, everyone would be doing it. But it definitely is possible.