It’s one of the most common questions I am asked at this time of the year:
“Is it time for me to move on and change directions?”
Well….. it may be.
Or.…. it may not be.
The silly season takes over
For a whole month before Christmas, you’ve been building excitement – presents, annual leave, brandy, food – and everyone around you has been encouraging this avalanche of good will. This build-up has fostered feelings of joy, anticipation of good things to come, and a sense of momentum that things are moving towards an exciting climax. It is no wonder that you, like the rest of us (with the exception of only a few grinches), have been caught up in the surreal bauble of the silly season.
The celebration climax
Humans are pack animals that love a good distraction, and we thrive on group excitement. We regularly engage in activities that create a sense of group positivity and regrowth (think community rallies, charity events, birthday parties). The biggest of these distractions could well be argued as New Year’s Eve, a celebration when most of us compare ourselves to others and resolve to be nicer, healthier, happier and set ourselves yearly goals.
Return to normality
So now, you’ve returned from time away from work. Maybe you were lucky enough to have taken annual leave for a few weeks, or you may have just taken the public holidays*. You’re thinking back to the heady days of the past fortnight, your resolve to make positive changes in your life, and of the limitless possibilities that you could harness if you weren’t at your current job.
This is when you ponder: IS IT TIME FOR ME TO FIND A NEW PATH?
Here are my essential questions for the potential post-holiday career changer:
1. How long have you been contemplating a career change?
Has your need for change been on the rise for some time or have you had an epiphany during the holiday break that you need to ‘get out’?
Snap decisions are called that for a very good reason: they are decisions made with the snap of the fingers, on the spot, and often without serious consideration. Don’t get me wrong, snap decisions and impulsive actions certainly have their place (clothes shopping, change to hair colour, where to eat lunch) but I would typically recommend against a major career change based SOLELY on a snap decision. Sit on your snap decision for a week or two – take that time do some research and ask yourself the other big questions. If at the end of that time you still want to make the change, then it will be an educated choice rather than a snap decision.
“You’re thinking back to the heady days of the past fortnight, your resolve to make positive changes in your life, and of the limitless possibilities that you could harness if you weren’t at your current job. This is when you ponder: IS IT TIME FOR ME TO FIND A NEW PATH?”
2. Why do you want to change careers?
There are an infinite number of reasons that we seek a career change. Some may be practical and easy to identify, like the desire for higher pay, more flexible work hours, moving to a career that is more / less physically demanding etc. Other factors may be more difficult to encapsulate and are often associated with ‘feelings’ or described in terms such as a desire to reach your potential, needing to be challenged, or ‘finding your calling’.
There is no right or wrong reason to change your career direction; however, it pays to be mindful of what your reasons are. One of the dangers for those who regularly change career paths is that they are perhaps doing so without recognising what their motivators are, and are destined to continue this pattern of behaviour without following the pathway that truly suits them.
3. Is it a career change that you’re craving, or will a slighter change do the trick?
Similar to the recommendation to avoid making a snap decision, I would always suggest considering whether you are actually seeking a changed pathway at all.
It may sound simple, but oftentimes people are seeking a change to their regular work pattern without necessarily needing a career change as such. Examples of ‘change without a career change’ include sideways transfer or promotion within your current employer, change of employer, or secondment. Another option (more readily available in larger employers) may be taking a period of leave in which you are able to trial a new job, often called ‘career break’ leave.
Now … Follow your gut (in a sensible manner)
Deciding to make a career change (or undertake a ‘change without a career change’) can be exciting, rewarding, daunting and overwhelming all at once. Your responses to the key questions above will help to guide your new pathway, and identify whether you are really ready for a big change or simply feeling a bit lacklustre post-festive season.
If you have decided that a change is for you, obviously there are a number of practical areas to research to determine training needed, labour market needs, rates of pay etc. Not to mention the BIG one….what career do I actually want to enter?
Looking for some guidance? Consulting a professional career development practitioner is a sure-fire way of setting yourself up for success, and they will be able to provide advice across all areas. To find someone in your area, head to Career Development Association of Australia.
*unless of course you are an emergency or health worker, or similar and were not lucky enough to have any time off, in which case I thank you for your service.
Have you had a career change? We would love to hear about your experience in the comments below or contact us to share your story.
Featured photo credit: Pixabay
Lauren Maxwell is a Rehabilitation Counsellor and Career Development Consultant, with close to 15 years of experience across the two fields. She is the founder of Headstrong Women, a specialist women’s career development service, and thrives on innovation and creativity to empower women to reach their potential.