When is the right time to change careers?

Can't ever seem to achieve what you set out to at work? Might be time for a change

Can't ever seem to achieve what you set out to at work? Might be time for a change

A client asked me recently if it was "normal"  for people to question their career choices, and if there was ever a right time to change careers.

The answer to the first question was a definite yes. She was reassured to hear how many clients I see, at various life stages, who are doing just that – questioning what they are doing for a living.

But the answer to her question about the right time to change careers was not so straight forward.

The simple answer – if you are desperately unhappy doing what you are doing, or if you feel like your confidence is at rock bottom because you never seem to achieve what you set out to at work – is now.

But it’s not always that easy to tell if you are in the wrong career, or just working for the wrong boss or organisation. It may be that the career is perfectly suitable but the culture within the organisation you work for is not the right fit, or the manager doesn’t have the people leadership or management skills to create a healthy work environment in which people can thrive and do their best work.

It’s important to know the difference because changing careers isn’t a decision to take lightly, and so you don’t want to be changing for the wrong reasons. It’s the kind of decision ideally worked through with a career coach. But it's reasonabley safe to assume that it's time to consider a career change if you realise:

  • you have ended up on a career trajectory based on a choice you made at a young age before you had very much insight into your strengths and preferences
  • you took your original job based on circumstance rather than choice, and it’s a choice you wouldn’t make today.

These scenarios are quite common, because most people will try their best to succeed in whatever job they do. So they get promoted and carry on that path, perfecting skills in an area in which they may actually have little interest. And then work and home life becomes so busy, they never stop to reflect on what they really want to be doing for a living.

Which is a shame, because often people who have been in a career for a long time don’t realise they have more options open to them than any time previously in their life – with fewer dependents and more financial freedom.

If you are in any doubt as to whether the career you are in is the right one for you, it is better to reassess now than spend more time potentially in the wrong one. Get in touch if this is something you would like support with.

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About the author: Lucy Sanderson-Gammon, MBA, is a Wellington-based career coach helping mid-career professionals who have fallen out of love with their jobs to find meaningful work. Find out more about Lucy's coaching services here.