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“The future depends on what you do today.”
This saying is very true for many of the decisions we make today and even more true for very impacting decisions like who to marry, where to go to school and making a career choice, among others. Making a career change is as important as making a career choice in the first place because the decision you make today will affect your future, whether positively or negatively. A career change will always come with uncertainties and different “what if” questions and this is probably the reason many people are still stuck in careers that they are dissatisfied with. If you are discontented about your current career, you don’t have to remain there. However, you do need to watch out so you don’t make these common mistakes people make when considering a career change.
1. Lack of Self-Evaluation
The key to making a good career choice is being self-aware, which, unfortunately, many people do not bother about. Being self-aware will help you escape so many pitfalls that you would have otherwise fallen into because it looks good. But it is not enough to be self-aware, it is more important to take advantage of that self-awareness to reflect. The reality is that we all have different strengths and weaknesses and therefore, a career choice that would be good for your friend might frustrate you. So before jumping into a new career, take time to self-reflect. Honestly ask yourself if you should be changing careers in the first place, what is missing from this current career path, what you want out of a career and what you would like to look forward to. We all have different priorities, so you should identify yours. Once you can honestly answer these questions, it will help you choose rightly.
2. Lack of Proper Planning and Research
If after a proper self-evaluation, you have decided on a career path, before committing, you need to make proper research about the industry and job role. Don’t make the mistake of getting into an industry without proper research on the industry because what you think you know as an outsider might be totally different from what is obtainable in reality. No industry is a bed of roses, so avoid having unrealistic expectations in the first place. But beyond that, learn all you can about the industry and the role; the good, the bad and the ugly. You can do this by speaking to the people in the industry. If you know people personally who are in the said industry, then the better but if you don’t, make contacts on LinkedIn and ask them questions. The whole world of the internet is also there at your disposal; search for articles on the industry and the role online and read all you can find so you know what you are going into and prepare. You would need to prepare financially, mentally, emotionally and even professionally.
3. Lack of Proper Training
While some companies take the time to train employees immediately they employ them, there are many more companies who don’t have the resources to train you or they expect you to already have the necessary training. So the onus is on you to acquire the required training for the particular role you are applying for. Even if you are going to get on-the-job training, having the basic skills will not only give you an edge but it might also be a determinant to you getting the job in the first place. If you start applying without the required skills, you just might not get the job you desire or if you do, you might be overwhelmed. So, as mentioned above, do thorough research on the industry and when you have discovered what is required, take courses, training, and even internship if you can afford to.
4. Considering a Career Change Because You Are Unhappy
It might sound very logical to leave a current career path because you are unhappy – and sometimes, it is – but unhappiness is not a sole reason to leave a job. In the first place, unhappiness or hating your job will most likely push you to make emotional decisions and not logical ones. Also, the reason you are unhappy might have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that you are in the wrong career. You could be unhappy because there are personal issues you need to be dealing with, you are working hard but not smart, you are in the wrong team or the wrong company. Instead of thinking the next wise action is to make a career change, have an honest discussion with yourself to find the right problem. Am I really unhappy with this career path or do I just need to make other changes in my life?
5. Considering a Job without Prospects
There are jobs and positions with no prospects. It is either that there are no ladders to climb and you will most likely remain in one position or there is a possibility the job position will fizzle out and become irrelevant in some years to come. The world is becoming amazingly digitalized and technology is, unfortunately, making a lot of positions occupied by humans redundant because machines are increasingly created to perform these functions. You need to make sure the position you are trying to commit to is not one that will no longer be in existence in a few years time or at the very least, it is not the one where you cannot reinvent and improve yourself so as to catch up with the constantly growing world.
6. Going with the Crowd
In every generation or at every time, there are certain career paths that seem to be trendy and lucrative and many people will join the bandwagon because they want to make money. Joining the bandwagon would be a huge mistake when making a career change. It is very possible that some people will join the crowd and succeed at it because despite it being trial and error, it is actually a path that they had the capacity to succeed in. And it is also possible that after self-reflection, you will discover that this is the career path you should consider. If the latter is the case, don’t hesitate because you don’t want to be seen joining the bandwagon. But don’t make a decision solely because it is trendy. The point is not to make a spur of the moment decision and randomly pick a career because it is trendy.
7. Prioritizing Money and Not Prioritizing Money
This might sound like a contrast but it isn’t. In the first place, money should not be the only reason why you should change careers. Money is important but it is not the most important thing in life; it is not the only thing that determines happiness. When making a career choice, put into consideration having a well-balanced life. Will the job give you time to spend with family and friends? Will it allow you to rest and enjoy the money you are making or will it take all of your time and not free you any for other things that matter? Also, you want to consider if it is a job you can do, a job you have a passion for or one you have the skills and qualifications for, irrespective of the salary coming with it. On the other hand, it is unrealistic to say concentrate solely on passion and not consider salary. There are certain passions we have that would not be wise to consider as a career because bills will pile up and need to be paid. So the point is to find a balance between salary and passion. Don’t go for a job solely for the money and don’t go for one that doesn’t make financial sense as well.
8. Trying To Do It Alone
No man is an island; we were not created to be totally independent, we are meant to be interdependent. When considering a career change is a good time to take advantage of your network. Talk to people, seek advice and don’t hide your plans. You never know, you might know someone that knows someone that would be a huge help in your career change. Additionally, don’t burn bridges in the career you are leaving because you feel it is done. The corporate world and business environment are largely interdependent, that is why business experts will always talk about the importance of networking. Even if you were unhappy in your job, try as much as it is in your power to leave amicably.
9. Bowing to Pressure
Pressure can come from every corner but the most prominent as it relates to career is usually from family. It is either you are being pressured to join a family business of sort or you are being pressured to join a career your family considers respectable or lucrative. While you should indeed seek advice, make sure whatever advice you are getting is not made emotionally but from logical business and corporate sense. Don’t be pressured into what you know is wrong for you; at the end of the day, you will be left alone to deal with the consequence of your decision.
10. Doubt and Lack of Confidence
There is no career that does not have its own challenges, so there are going to be times when you will feel like you probably made a wrong decision or when you will feel like giving up and going back, you need to remember the words of Alice Walker, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” You can do it, don’t think otherwise. As far as you make sure to avoid all the mistakes stated above and you still decide to make a decision to continue, then keep pushing till you reach your goal. Don’t allow doubts to take roots in your heart; it will come but believe in yourself, have confidence in your skills and ability and it is only a matter of time before things fall into place.
Making a career change is a risk but sometimes, it is a risk worth taking. According to Herb Brooks, you should “risk something or forever sit with your dreams.” All you have to do is to make sure to avoid the mistakes outlined here and you will be on your way to having the career of your dreams.
Ogugua Belonwu is the founder of MyJobMag, Nigeria’s largest job board. He has been working in HR industry for over 10 years and focuses on connecting great talents with top brands.