Barbara Safani 12 Comments

This month’s Career Collective post offers advice for career changers. You can find additional suggestions from my esteemed colleagues at the end of this post.

I frequently talk to people who want to change careers. They often tell me one of these four things:

  • I hate my job.
  • I don’t think my job is a good fit.
  • I want to do something more meaningful.
  • My friends tell me I would make a great (fill in the blank)

But when I hear these statements, I’m not always convinced that the person expressing these doubts really wants to change careers. Instead, I often believe that there is something else going on at work or in the person’s personal life that is causing the unrest or thoughts of quitting and it’s important to explore these factors before jumping into a career change.

Career change can be challenging on many fronts. Landing a job in a new career generally takes more time than landing one in a linear career path. You will need a robust network of contacts and many, many advocates to get your foot in the door. A career change  may require significant education costs and there is no guarantee that acquiring that education will lead to a new job. The most logical career changes are those that have a recognizable intersection between the old and new careers such as a sales person going into marketing or an operations professional switching to human resources.

In over 75% of the cases where I coach clients considering a career change, after in-depth discussion, introspection, and assessment it is frequently determined that the client doesn’t hate what they do; they hate the person they work for. Study after study shows that people don’t leave companies; they leave bad bosses. So before you embark on a full-blown career change, ask yourself the following questions.

  1. What tasks that are part of my job do I enjoy doing?
  2. What tasks that are part of my job do I hate doing?
  3. Am I good at what I do? Have others commented on my strengths?
  4. What types of tasks do I want to do that are not part of my current job? Is  there an opportunity to do these tasks in the future as part of my job?
  5. What types of situations in my current job stress me out?
  6. How much does my relationship with my boss affect my feelings towards my job?
  7. Do my feelings about the company culture affect my feelings about my job?
  8. Can I remember a time when I did similar work and enjoyed what I was doing?
  9. Are there growth opportunities for me or is my industry/job function contracting?
  10. Am I willing to put in the time and effort necessary to change careers?
  11. Have I considered the financial ramifications of changing careers?
  12. Am I willing to take a step (or two) backwards to achieve my new career goals?
  13. What would my perfect job look like and is this a realistic expectation?
  14. What are my priorities? How important are money, time off, meaningful work, or the goals of the organization to me?

Answering these questions may help you gain clarity around your reasons for embarking on a career change. Your answers may help you sort out what you can and cannot live with. Armed with this information you may decide that a retooling of your current career is more prudent than a total career change. Or your responses may validate that a career change is in fact the right path to take.

People change careers every day but it’s always advisable to make sure you are changing careers for the right strategic long-term reasons and not making a decision based solely on your emotions. Look before you leap and find others to support you in your journey.

Are You Ready for a Career Change? @Debra Wheatman

Changing Careers? Ask yourself these questions. @erinkennedycprw

Changing Careers: Not for the Fainthearted, @GayleHoward

Career Change Isn’t An Exact Science, @careersherpa

The 10-Step Plan to Career Change, @KatCareerGal

When it’s Time to Recycle Your Career, @WalterAkana

Best Career Change Advice: Target & Plan, @JobHuntOrg

How social media can help you change careers, @keppie_careers

Expat Careers: You Are Not Your Job Title, @expatcoachmegan

Changing The Direction Of Your Career, @EliteResumes @MartinBuckland

Career Changer: Can You Quell Bottom-line Ache? @ValueIntoWords

Top 3 + 1 Tips for Making a Successful Career Change, @KCCareerCoach





  1. Barbara, I love the theme here. I’m in the middle of a transition myself right now and it took me a long time to figure out whether this was about a former boss or better understanding of what I want and my skills. It might even be fair to say that some candidates ought to *stare* before they leap, I think.


  2. “Look Before You Leap” is thought provoking; relaying all that is required for serious consideration in a career change.Great list of questions to ensure clarity.

  3. Barbara, this post is a breath of fresh air. It’s very easy to start tossing advice at someone when you hear an interest in changing careers, but you are wise to recommend taking a step back to assess the situation and motives. Retooling your current career may very well be the (simplier!) answer to achieving career satisfaction.

  4. These are great questions – not only for one to ask him or herself when preparing to make a change, but also for internal or contracted outplacement services to go through with a candidate prior to a transition. Thanks for posting!

  5. Barbara,

    Yes! So critical to get to the heart of the issue before taking a leap into the often long and difficult journey of a career change. Its been my experience too that it is often the person that the client reports to which provides such a destructive force in their professional life on a daily basis. It’s often the people that can make or break being able to enjoy your job.

    Great list of questions to help people get to the core of the issue quickly!


  6. Very thought provoking, Barbara. I agree that it’s very important to change careers for the right reason. Sometimes, though, confirming that reason can only be done with the help of a professional career coach. When trying to go it alone, a person can get confused, ambivalent, and very frustrated. And even if the real problem turns out to be boss-related, that issue can be resolved through the career coaching process. Thanks for your good advice.

  7. Thanks everyone. Sometimes when I’m having a crazy day I ask myself those 15 questions. They always remind me that I love what I do and revisiting them frequently keeps me grounded. I feel very fortunate to enjoy my work and I wish the same for everyone.

  8. Excellent points! I’m not surprised how often bad bosses inspire people to want to change careers. It is so important to make a concerted effort to select the right choices and take the appropriate steps regarding a career choice or change. Thanks so much!

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