The terms “changing jobs” and “changing careers” are often used interchangeably. Some people consider taking a comparable job at a new company as a career change, while others believe you must change fields in order to change careers. The federal government does not track career change data per se, because there is no consensus for defining this term.
For our purposes, let’s define a career change as:
• Advancing to a higher position in the same field, especially from non-managerial to a managerial role in the organization, or
• Changing occupational fields.
I speak as one who has helped professionals transition from existing jobs into careers in life coaching. Among those who choose to change careers, the prerequisites to a successful transition include answering the following questions:
• Are you motivated enough to take the risks?
• Do you have a clear vision for your desired future?
• Can you plan the transition wisely?
• Are you willing to work diligently until you get what you want?
Who Wants To Change Careers?
A 2017 survey found that among 1,044 respondents, 59% of working adults and specifically 73% of thirtysomething professionals are interested in changing careers. Twelve percent sewer professionals in their 20s are wanting a job change today than in 2013, but 65% still seek a change. Professionals in their 40s stayed consistent between 2013 and 2017, with 60% of this group wanting to change careers.
The older population is also seeking new career opportunities. The American Institute for Economic Research found that workers aged 60 and up are retiring later and often changing careers to remain in the workforce. Eighty-two percent of workers over the age of 50 state that they will work for pay after retirement. The AIER study found that between 16 million and 29 million people over the age of 45 attempted career changes, and 82% were successful during the survey period.
Why Do People Change Careers?
Beyond the changing employment market, people change careers for several reasons.
1. Burnout: According to the University of Phoenix survey, 29% of workers polled cited burnout as a reason to change careers. Burnout can be caused by overfamiliarity with a job or simple loss of interest. It is common to experience burnout in high-stress occupations or when there have been layoffs and fewer people are required to perform the same amount of work.
2. Lack of upward mobility: Lack of career advancement is responsible for 27% of employees seeking career changes. While this is true of all workers, millennials face additional obstacles. A report by the Young Invincibles states that millennials earn 20% less than baby boomers did in 1989 at age 25. It also found that they are better educated, but have fewer opportunities at work.
3. Loss of interest: This career-change motivation is most likely to apply to those in their 30s, 40s and 50s, as well as those earning between $75,000 and $100,000 per year, according to the Phoenix poll. These individuals often find that the career paths they chose during college are not good fits, or that they no longer find them fulfilling.
This tells us that many workers are not doing what they love. When your heart is in your work, these issues tend to be less relevant. Imagine your work representing your passion in life: You know how much you’re making a difference in the world. Your work represents what you believe in. How likely would burnout and loss of interest be to play a part in your daily life then? Even upward mobility may take a back seat when you’re doing something you consider meaningful.
How Can Workers Overcome The Barriers To Career Change?
Despite the desire to change careers, the majority of working adults hesitate to take this step. The University of Phoenix study identified the primary barriers to career change as:
1. Lack of financial security.
2. Uncertainty about the next steps.
3. Not enough education.
4. Fear of the unknown.
5. The belief that it’s too late in life or career to make a change.
These appear to be formidable barriers. How can people overcome them?
Overcome Multiple Barriers To Successful Career Change With One Realization
You could dive into details and figure out how to overcome each of these obstacles, and that may be a great idea. Yet, as long as one critical piece is missing, the process will feel more difficult than it has to be.
What’s the missing piece?
Purpose. When you discover a deeper purpose in your work, the obstacles feel more like worthy challenges than formidable barriers. When you know in your heart that you’re doing the right thing — the one that brings meaning and fulfillment into your life while adding value to others’ — you can’t help but want to move toward it. If your only reason to change careers has to do with what you dislike about your current career (and you secretly know every career has a downside), the obstacles will loom. Procrastination has a way of setting in.
A burning desire to do something you find meaningful seems to provide the motivation to proceed, even though the process represents understandable risks, a substantial investment of time and thorough planning.
Five Questions To Ask Yourself
To discover your purposeful career, start within. Ask yourself questions (better yet, live with these questions until the answers come) such as:
1. What is most important to me in life?
2. What have I always been passionate about?
3. What would I do every day even if I weren’t paid?
4. What problem do I most want to solve for people?
5. If I were free to do anything, what would it be?
Now, you’re moving in the direction of purpose. Don’t expect to know your purpose immediately, especially if you’ve never given it much thought. Live with these questions. Ask yourself others. Talk to people who have found their purpose, and ask how they discovered it. Make it a project, and you’ll be on your way.