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Want To Switch Career Paths? These Are The 3 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Making The Move


switching career paths

Looking back, I’m grateful that I took the leap, so to speak, and that I changed careers even though I wasn’t sure it was going to work out.

Whether you’re 25 or 55, switching career paths can be daunting — especially if you’re already safely ingrained in one particular profession. Yet, when you want something more from your work, or when you feel compelled to a different calling, it benefits you to at least think seriously about making the switch. Scary though it may be, if you can do it the right way, a new career path can change your life for the better.

This is something I know from experience. I spent the first half of my career in a traditional support role in a faith-based organization. I was happy and comfortable, but eventually I realized something troubling that changed my perspective: especially in my industry, women were being systematically excluded from leadership roles. These were people I knew to be talented and capable, inspired and articulate. Yet they weren’t even being given a chance to realize their true potential. This status quo struck me as entirely unacceptable, and I was inspired to do something about it.

So, I shifted gears to focus on gender strategy with an emphasis of biblical equality as a co-pastor at World Changers.

Nothing has been the same since. My work morphed from something I enjoyed doing to something I was fundamentally driven by. I was able to tap into my long-held interest in gender studies and women’s history. And I discovered within myself a newfound hunger to learn and grasp as much as I could about the issues relevant to female empowerment and equality. That hunger and the work I was doing each day to satiate it changed the way I thought about my life, the world, and even my interpretation of scripture.

Looking back, I’m grateful that I took the leap, so to speak, and that I changed careers even though I wasn’t sure it was going to work out.

That said, I did learn a variety of critical lessons along the way that helped me navigate the adjustments. In reflecting on my experience, I understand now that there’s a right way to switch careers, and there’s a wrong way.

To ensure you do it correctly, here are three questions you should ask yourself before committing to the change.

1) Is this something I really want to do?

It can be tempting, in ideating potential changes to your professional life, to try and force yourself into a role or situation that isn’t quite a fit simply because you want to make a change.

But the truth is, the change you seek will only benefit your life and your happiness if the role in question is right for you.

Thus, you should ask yourself: how efficient might I be in this role? Does it align with my ambitions and skill set? Would I actually feel fulfilled doing this?

Fulfillment is what ultimately leads to strong performance. It’s what inspires us to contribute more, and it’s what compels us to identify with the work we’re doing — which is likely what you’re hoping to find.

2) Is there adequate time on my career path to fulfill this career goal?

Similarly, you should also identify whether the career switch you seek makes sense from a logistical perspective.

Are you close to retirement age? Are you relying on benefits you’ll only receive if you stay at your job for a few more years? If so, it may be best to pursue your new passion in more of a volunteer or advisory capacity, which you can engage with while remaining at your current job.

While it’s never too late to pursue your dreams or begin working to accomplish something you want to accomplish, at a certain point, you need to consider whether it’s wise to forego benefits that are part of your long-term plan. If it isn’t, that’s when it makes more sense to think about different ways to go about pursuing your new interests.

3) What’s my goal in making this career shift?

Finally, perhaps the most important thing you can do is identify as precisely as you can what it is you want out of a career shift. You need to define what your “why” is. Why is this something you want to do?

For me, personally, I knew my “why” was that I wanted to help empower other women who were talented but didn’t have the kind of leadership opportunity they deserved. I thought I might be able to provide that opportunity.

If my “why” had been financial, on the other hand — as in, I wanted to do something different professionally because I wanted to make more money — I’m not sure I would have made the decision I did.

Understanding what exactly you want to do needs to inform the manner in which you go about doing it.

The bottom line is this: take the time to really determine whether this is the best decision for you — and if it is, go all in.

At the end of the day, what matters here is that you think long and hard about the decision you want to make. This will help you determine whether the career change in question is something you genuinely want and need to do. And that, in turn, will ensure you go about making that change with the sort of urgency, grit, and focus you need to do it successfully.

It will also, I should note, embolden you with the kind of confidence you need to advocate for yourself once you reach the other side, so to speak, and it’s time to negotiate with your new employer. Whether it’s negotiating for the right sort of hours or a fair salary, the more confident you are in yourself and in your reasoning for making this decision, the more self-assuredness you’ll bring to the table.

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