According to some of the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American worker will change jobs roughly every 4.4 years. Millennials are more likely to change career in half that amount of time.
While “job hopping” may quickly be becoming the new norm, that doesn’t always mean it is a wise idea.
In some cases, it can absolutely be a smart move to change careers, while in other cases it’s a better idea to just simply change jobs or even stay right where you are.
If you are thinking about changing careers, here are 6 dos and don’ts to help you land on your feet instead of crashing and burning.
1. Analyze Your Motives
There are many reasons you might actually legitimately need to change careers, but in some cases doing so won’t actually fix the problem you are experiencing. Just like moving, getting a new car, getting a divorce or making any other major life changes, changing careers can be quite costly.
Consequently, you want to make sure you are really doing it for the right reasons.
The truth is that sometimes you might need to change your situation and sometimes you might need to simply change you.
There’s nothing worse than investing considerable time and expense in solving a problem only to discover the problem you solved was not actually the real problem in the first place.
Before you make a move, make sure you really understand what the problem is with your current job or career, so you know the steps you are taking are really those most likely to solve it.
2. Start Improving the Necessary Skills
If you decide you need to make the leap to a new career or even a new job, you will significantly broaden your pool of options by having the most diverse skill set.
Whether it’s mastering a new software program specific to your industry or receiving certification or training in a new skill or with a new type of tool, improving or expanding your skillsets will make you more hirable.
And who knows, maybe in doing so you might even end up improving your circumstances in your current job enough to want to stay.
3. Avoid Setbacks with Financial Planning
Even if you get a job while you still have a job, starting a new job or career puts you in a financially precarious position. If you leave your current job without another one in place, you are placing yourself in an even more precarious position.
There are a number of different ways you can prepare for this, however.
The first thing you will want to do is slash all unnecessary expenses and build up a healthy savings account. Another is to start building up some contract or temporary work that can either tide you over until you find another job or keep you solvent if your new job goes south.
Remember, the first 90 days on any job is generally considered a trial period, so even if you leave one job for another, you need to still prepare for the possibility that it will not work out so well after all.
4. Don’t Idealize or Seek Perfection
Another way the working world is much like dating or marriage is the tendency to believe the grass is always greener on the other side. Before you make the leap into a new job or field, make sure you have a crystal clear picture of what you are really getting into and a firm grasp on reality.
Talk to people already working in the career, field or business you want to make the move to and ask them to fill you in on the bad and the ugly, not just the good.
Before you make the move, make sure your expectations are realistic or you will be quickly disappointed and want to move again.
5. Don’t Neglect Building Connections
Your network will not just provide you vital connections to make a move in the first place, it can also act as a safety net when things don’t work out.
Before you make a move, you want to make sure you have a strong network, but you also don’t want to build your network for the purposes of making a move.
The best networkers are those that build connections for the purposes of trying to help others, not because they need something.
People have a tendency to know when they are being used, so if you’re trying to build a network just to help yourself get ahead or have a safe place to land when you fall, you may find your network isn’t as strong as you think it is right when you need it the most.
6. Don’t Rush Into it Without Doing the Research
Making a move at the right time is just as important as making the right move. Taking the time to really do thorough research can help you not jump right out of the frying pan into the fire. No matter how miserable you may be at in your current position, things can always get worse.
You want to make sure that when you make a move or take a leap, you land on your feet rather than crashing and burning. Taking the time to plan carefully and research fully can help make your transition a smooth and successful one.
A Final Career Tip
Making a career change can be a scary prospect, but it can also be a necessary fact of life.
In some cases, you may have a physically, mentally or emotionally taxing job you just can’t do anymore. In other cases, you may simply be stagnating where you are at and need new opportunities for growth.
Sometimes, however, you have everything you need right where you are, and the answer is not to make a move, but to make better use of what you have.
Ultimately, this is a choice that no one can make for you but with careful planning and preparation, you can still land on your feet even if initially you make the wrong choice.