Changing careers is never easy—but it is absolutely possible. Just because you’re on a dedicated career path doesn’t mean you have to stay on it forever.
Sure, your family and friends may think you’ve lost your marbles when you announce plans for a midlife career change, but take heart: 59% of working adults say they’re interested in taking the leap, a recent survey from the University of Phoenix School of Business found.
Whether you’re bored at work, burned out on a job, or simply want a fresh challenge, there are a number of considerations that go into a successful career change. Ignore them, and you’re apt to succumb to one of the following common mistakes.
Worst career change mistakes
1. Making a rash decision
Before changing occupations, you should do a deep dive to assess why you want to leave your current one. “You need invest time to figure out why you’re dissatisfied and what’s going to make you more satisfied going forward,” says career-transition coach Deborah Oronzio.
Ask yourself why you’re unhappy—and answer honestly. You may simply be having a bad week or a bad month—or you may just hate your boss, not your industry.
“We all go through phases of unhappiness with our jobs,” says Randy Block, an executive coach and staffing consultant. “You should be running toward something, not running away from something.”
2. Choosing a new career based on salary
You obviously need to be financially strategic when choosing your next career, but don’t base your decision solely on earning potential.
"If you take a high-paying job that doesn’t match your interests, values, or strengths, you’re not going to be happy,” says career-transition coach Holly Genser. Would you be happy being paid more money to do a job you aren’t into? Maybe at first, but the novelty will likely wear off sooner than later.
It’s not that you should disregard salary when evaluating your options, but you must consider other important factors—like work-life balance and room for growth—in addition to compensation.
3. Not researching the job market in your next field
Not sure what field you want to go into? Research industries and positions to find a good match for your skills and career goals, says Genser. Otherwise, you’re throwing darts in the dark.
You can view job growth projections using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ occupational outlook handbook. Who knows, you might discover a field with above-average job growth that’s perfect for your skillset but something you never considered doing.
4. Quitting without having another job lined up
Research shows it’s easier to get a job offer when you’re still employed, which makes sense, since gaps on a resume might make a hiring manager think twice about calling you in for an interview.
Consequently, it’s in your best interest to stay at your current job until you have your next one set up.
5. Neglecting your networking
Even if everything you research about the field you’re interested in sounds promising, until you actually talk with people who work within that field, you really don’t know what you’re in for.
As such, you should be growing and refreshing your professional contacts constantly.
One of the best ways to expand your circle is to go on informational interviews with people who currently work in the field you’re pursuing. During these meetings, be sure to ask meaningful questions (e.g., “Where do you see the industry going?” or “Which professional associations or trade publications do you recommend?”). Pro tip: Target people who work at companies that you’d like to work for.
Not only will you learn the nuts and bolts, you’ll also be more likely to hear about job openings and get internal referrals.
6. Going back to school prematurely
Depending on your new career choice, you may need to get another degree. Some fields have clear education requirements (e.g., obtaining a master’s degree and licensing to be a nurse practitioner), but others don’t require you to go back to school.
“A lot of people think, ‘I should get my MBA,’ or, ‘I should go to grad school,’ but they don’t always need to,” says Block.
You have to research whether getting another degree will in fact improve your job prospects or increase how much money you can make. (Networking is especially helpful in determining these answers.) If it won’t, you’d just be wasting money—or taking on student loan debt—to get a degree that you don’t need.
7. Not adjusting your resume for a career change
While it’s great that you have 15 years of experience in public relations, if you want to switch careers to human resources, your old CV won’t cut it.
Your resume needs to be tailored to the new industry you’re pursing. Check out some of the job descriptions in your desired field and note what skills and credentials are valued. Which of your skills are transferable?
For career changers, a functional resume is more likely to promote your qualifications than a chronological resume. Put in the time and effort to update and polish your credentials, regardless of how many years you have in the workforce.