If you’re still reflecting on the idea of a career change, looking at it through the lens of risks might be a good approach. When confronted to a big decision, fear can hold us back indefinitely. So instead of fighting it, let’s embrace fear and use it to your advantage by exploring exactly what could go wrong, and find solutions to prevent or avoid being in a difficult situation.
Risk #1 | You won’t have a lot of experience
If you plan a 180° turn and completely change the type of job you do, you are likely going to face the risk of lacking experience. It’s very normal since you’ll just be starting. At times it’ll get hard and you’ll doubt yourself a lot, especially if you know by heart the job you are currently doing. Going from expert to beginner can be destabilising, but there are ways you can handle it.
- Contact people who have done a big career change before you to ask for advice
- Build relationships with experienced people in your field
- Find a mentor who can show you the ropes
- Make sure you compensate your lack of experience with an extensive knowledge/education – you might not have a lot of experience in the new role, but you know the industry and/or the topic very well
Risk #2 | You might not like your new company’s culture (or your new manager)
Another risk when changing jobs is to find yourself in a new environment that you actually don’t like, or with a manager that you find unpleasant. The job might be interesting, but if you don’t feel good in the company or with the person who will decide your performance, that’s enough to ruin the experience.
- Do a lot of research on the company’s values, mission and purpose, but also on employees’ feedback
- Ask as many questions as possible about company culture during the interview process. You are evaluating if the company is a good fit for you as much as they are evaluating if you’re a good fit for them – it works both ways.
- Talk to current employees if you can, and ask off-the-record questions that will give you a good sense of what’s really happening in the company
- Identify who will be your manager, and ask them questions about their management style.
Risk #3 | You might underestimate how much money you want/need to earn
If the career change implies a change of income (you are ready to take a pay cut or you’re starting a business from scratch), it is crucial that you run your numbers before jumping ship. This should be done to avoid stressing over money as a result of your decision.
- Calculate the minimum needed to cover all your recurring expenses (rent/mortgage, bills, transport, food, insurance, subscriptions, restaurants, etc.)
- If you take a pay cut, look at how much this means per month, and what will be impacted the most: can you still pay your expenses but save less? Are you okay with that?
- If you start your business, can you do it on the side while staying employed? Can you have a plan B in case this takes a while to take off?
Risk #4 | You might underestimate the logistics
If your new job is located in an area without public transports and you don’t have a car, this can be quite an issue. If you add 30 minutes to your commute every morning and the same in the evening, are you ready to spend one more hour between your home and work? This might not be something you think about before switching jobs, but these details are worth reviewing.
- Think about a typical day at work in your current job, versus what it would look like in your new job: are there any major changes? Do you have to wake up earlier or later? Is the commute shorter or longer? At what time will you be able to leave work?
- Flexibility advantages: some companies say they offer work from home, but put a lot of conditions and requirements to employees who ask for it. See how much flexibility you need (for instance if the kids are sick or for appointments), because an inflexible workplace can really complicate life.
Risk #5 | You might not be as passionate as you thought
Another thing which might hold you back is doubting if you’re really passionate about the career change you want to operate, and if this is a permanent interest or something you will get bored of in a few months. This is an important risk to address because you don’t want to go down a path and realise that you’re not that committed anymore, especially if the career change you think about implies starting a business.
The solution: my advice here is quite simple. After you’ve decided that you really like a job or industry, give yourself six months. During these six months, do some research, read and meet people doing what you’d love to do, but don’t feel pressured to take a decision. Review it six months later and gauge your interest: is it the same? Are you still excited by the prospect of working in a different field/industry despite all the risks? Or are you unsure? This will help you gain clarity.
Think about what’s holding you back from making that career change. If you don’t recognise what is holding you back in this post, here are a few pointers on how you can work on it:
- What are your ‘yes but’ when you think about this career transition?
- What are you afraid of? Be as specific as possible – don’t just say “fear of failure”: in what specific areas are you afraid to fail?
- When you’ve identified the risks that you are most concerned with, set aside the way you feel about them to be able to look at them with your most rational self. What would make this risk disappear?
Ask people you trust for their opinion as well. They’ll give you a different perspective and ideas you haven’t thought about.