Thinking of changing careers? Here are three mistakes to avoid before you do

Not happy in your current job? Dream of making a switch and finding something you love? Here are three common mistakes to avoid before you make the leap. 

Research from the London School of Business and Finance has highlighted that almost 50% of us harbour daydreams of working in a different industry to the one we’ve dedicated much of our work life to.

Which is completely relatable; we’re often siphoned into career paths after school or university and not given much breathing room to think about what we really want to do with our lives. Somewhere down the track, we start to realise that accountancy isn’t our forte and we’d much rather channel our passions for design as an interior decorator.

Luckily, there’s heaps of advice, guidance and flexible options to help support us make decisions about changing careers. It’s understood and accepted that we might want to change careers at some point, especially when our life circumstances change, such as becoming a mother.

Three mistakes to avoid before you change careers

However, before you get snap happy with handing in your resignation and forging forward, there are a few things you might want to think about first. Here are the top three career change mistakes that people make, and how to avoid them.

1) Confusing your current job for your career

One of the main reasons people cite for making a career change is they hate their current job. It’s important to remind yourself that your current job and your career are two distinctly separate things. You can dislike your job, but love your career.

If you think this might be you, then it’s important to spend some time reflecting on and analysing the reasons you don’t like your current job. Is it the people, the management, the company culture, the location, hours, or the resources that you have your disposable? Then ask yourself, are these unique to your current role, and could they be better at a different company in the same position?

If you dislike your job for more value-driven reasons, for example it doesn’t give you a sense of fulfillment, you feel stifled or agitated by the work you do, or some key part of your professional identity isn’t being nourished, then a career change could be the right step for you.

Not happy in your current job or career but not sure what you do want to do? Download our Career Audit and discover what you’d really love to do – and start taking positive steps to make it happen. 

2) Not researching your next steps or career path thoroughly

We often believe that the grass is greener elsewhere. And often when we’re not getting the things we want from our current role or career path, we can create heavily romanticised ideas about what a career change would look like for us.

There’s nothing wrong with daydreaming about a better tomorrow, but when a career change can have long reaching impact on our lives and those around us, it’s important to get it right.

Make sure you do some research into your next chosen career domain. Read up on job descriptions, job profiles, connect with people in the industry and pick their brains over coffee. Next you need to assess your current skills and values against those required in the new direction you want to take your career.

Where do you match up and where are the gaps? How can you fill these in so you’re better prepared for the change?

Consider doing some job shadowing, a short course or even some entry level volunteering: all of these activities will not only build your own knowledge and skills of the new career path, but also aid you if you do decide it’s the right direction for you.

Build as robust an idea of the reality of the industry as you can, this will really help you transfer those dreams over to reality and allow you to make a fully informed decision if this is right for you.

3) Committing to a change based solely on short term rewards

Some careers within certain companies can be very alluring because of their salary and benefits package offerings, but be wary of making a big career change based on things that will only offer you short term value.

People who are happiest at work rarely rate a higher than average salary as the reason for their happiness. There are so many other factors that matter more, such as company culture.

Many of us will be aware of one or more stories from our networks of the individual who dropped out of their financially rewarding career for a pay cut in a more fulfilling role.

Keep in mind that high paying roles will also come with added extras and responsibility, demanding more of your time, energy and work-life balance. If the reasons for wanting a change lie within these factors, switching purely for financial rewards could see you paying the price in other ways. Remember that money doesn’t buy happiness.

What are your motivations for wanting a change?

A career change is an extremely exciting and rewarding experience – as long as you put the time into making sure you fully understand your motivations for wanting it. Put the effort in at the start to make sure you get this step right and you’ll definitely be reaping the benefits in the long term.

Feel like you’ve become lost and ended up in a role that no longer fits your life? Our Career Audit Workbook will help you understand and appreciate what you’re good at doing, what you love doing, and set yourself achievable tasks to help you find a direction or job that is perfectly ‘you’. Get your copy now.

Elaine Mead is a passionate education and careers consultant, and is particularly interested in empowering young women to be their professional best. You can follow her on Twitter and read more of her articles on medium.