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Career Development

Job Change or Career Change? 5 Questions to Help You Figure Out What’s Next

General Assembly
March 3, 2022
Job Change or Career Change? 5 Questions to Help You Figure Out What's Next

More workers quit their jobs in 2021 in the U.S. than any year before, to the tune of 47.4 million people. And one in five Americans changed careers altogether since March 2020. 

When everyday life was disrupted and people had time to reflect on why they do what they do, a lot said: no thanks.

You know you’re not happy where you work, but you’re torn: would just changing jobs make you happy? Or is it really time to completely pivot into a new career?

Here are five questions to ask yourself when you’re thinking through your next move:

#1: Is it the people or the work? 

Maybe it’s just the “who” and the “where” that’s the issue, not the “what.” You like what you do, but your skin crawls when you think about who you have to interact with on a daily basis. A change of environment could be just what you need (but maybe not a full-blown career change).

If you have a friend at work, you’re seven times more likely to be engaged in your job. You love the people you’re around, but is it enough? If you’re still unhappy with your day-to-day life, it may be a career problem.

#2: Is leaving the best part of your day? 

Sure, everyone hates their job at times. But if you’re counting down the minutes until you walk out the door, you’re past the point of no return. When work is a source of misery, the real question is: why are you still there?

#3: Is this even the right industry anymore? 

One of the best pieces of career advice: you should always be learning or earning

You went into your current field for a reason. But if you no longer have a path that inspires you to grow and you’re not making as much money as you want to? It’s time to consider if this is the industry that will give you the most back in exchange for your time. 

#4: What’s stopping you? 

You’re afraid of the uncertainty that comes with going after something new. You’re not completely confident a new career will offer much more fulfillment. 

You’re waiting – for the kids to get a little bit older, for your work environment to get a little bit better, for your financial circumstances to change, for a sign. 

But waiting has consequences. 

Staying in a career that’s not right for you can mean bad sleep. Chronic stress. Mental health effects. Energy depletion. Loss of motivation. Lack of interest in other areas of life. Regret.

Making a big career change is certainly a risk, but playing it safe is also a risk. You will never know what could be if you don’t try. 

Resume-builder company zety surveyed 1,000 people about the risks they took in their careers, as well as their biggest career regrets. Forty-one percent of people said they changed fields or industries, and 78% of them said they had no regrets after doing so. 

On the other hand, 28% of people said they wish they had taken the risk of pursuing a passion, and 16% wish they had changed fields or industries. 

#5: What do you want to tell your future self? 

Fast forward five years. You’re in the same crummy job, and you feel the same existential dread when someone asks, “what do you do?” If this is your future, you don’t want it.

But what do you want in the next five years? Here’s how to tell. Get out a notebook and write a letter to the you you want to be. Answer these questions: 

  • What’s most important to me in a career? 
  • What should I exclude from my life, and what should I include?
  • What will I always regret not doing?

Don’t look back and wonder what could have been. 

Changing careers doesn’t mean completely starting over. 

What’s holding you back from making the leap? Many associate a career change with starting over. Talk about overwhelming. 

Good news: you’re not back at square one. Whether you realize it or not, you’ve acquired skills that can most definitely apply to your next career. 

Briar Dougherty, CEO & Founder of Career Organic and Career Coach at General Assembly, says that taking time to recognize what drives you at work is important. Identify the skills you’ve already mastered by taking an assessment. It will help you gain the confidence to transfer those real-life skills into a new role. 

“Those innate drivers, they are a common theme throughout your entire life, but you don’t see them when you’re at work, because you have a title over you. That title becomes a label that defines you, and it really doesn’t,” said Dougherty.

Curious about working in tech?

There’s a lot that goes into planning a career transition. Once you’ve decided it’s time to leave your current career, it’s time to identify what to do next. ain

Sign up for a free intro session and see if software engineering, data science, data analytics or UX design may be a good fit for you.


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