Thinking about changing careers? It’s time to find your passion and make that your job.
The autumn leaves are beginning to fall, that “back to school” feeling is in the air, and squeaky new shoes on the pavement as the chill wind blows. There’s an excitement about this time of year—new beginnings, fresh starts, career changes.
The summer may be over but there’s something new starting just around the corner, you can feel it.
Oh yeah, you’re still in your old job. Trudging back and forth to the same office every day, the office that’s made you miserable for the last year and shows no signs of changing or improving. The boss who has overlooked you for promotion twice now.
Your colleagues who could very well be robots in human clothing. The long hours, the measly a pay packet, the meetings that make you want to escape your own body. The job itself is mind-numbingly boring, your time wasted, your talents forgotten, that potential you had in abundance as a graduate has been poisoned and polluted by miserable bosses who’ve sucked the life out of you.
Is it time for a change? A change of job, or a change of career? That my friend, is the question.
If you’d like to skip ahead to a section, just use the clickable menu:
- Work out if you need a new job or a whole new career
- Ten signs you might need a career change
- How to make that career change in eight steps
- Final thoughts
Are you ready? Then let’s get started!
1. Work out if you need a new job or a whole new career
You need to establish if it’s the place, the job itself or where you are in your life that you hate.
Could you be happy doing your job but somewhere else? Or will this job always leave you feeling depressed, undervalued and overworked? If that’s the case, you need to think about making a career change now.
But first, what are the signs you should be looking out for?
2. Ten signs you might need a career change
Read our list and you’ll soon spot which ones apply to you. We won’t leave you hanging, either. Skip to the bottom of the article for our advice on how to get you out of there pronto and doing the things you love again.
Wondering if it’s time to change career paths? Have a look at our ten signs that mean it’s time for a re-think. If any of these seem familiar, find out where your passions lie, retrain and make the change.
1. Your body is telling you enough is enough!
Do you get “the Sunday-night fear”? If you do then it’s probably time to think about getting out of your job.
It’s no coincidence that these Sunday-night-specific anxious moods come when they do—your body is telling you it knows what’s going to happen on Monday and it isn’t happy about it.
Headaches, tension in your muscles, and migraines are all signs from your body that you’re in the wrong career.
- Always exhausted?
- Struggling to concentrate?
- Aching limbs?
2. Your job is impacting on your self-esteem
If you’re beginning to doubt yourself and the work that you do, then something dramatic needs to change in your working environment. Staying in a job or career that makes you feel bad about yourself as a person is never going to be worth it, no matter what the pay or perks are.
No perk is worth feeling down on yourself for. This can seriously impact on your long-term emotional wellbeing and makes completing the smallest task seem impossible. A fulfilling career should be a boost to your confidence and self-esteem, not the opposite of that.
- Not confident in your decision-making?
- Feel like your suggestions aren’t being taken on board?
- No opportunity for growth or progression?
3. You’re only there for the money
“Money can’t buy me love,” the Beatles famously once sang. And it’s the same when you’re heart’s not in your job.
Having enough money to live on and to be content is very important, but earning lots of money in a job that sacrifices your own happiness is not worth the pay-off. Having a career where you feel like you are following your calling and that brings personal and professional satisfaction beats all that money hands down.
Material things will never make up for hating your job, because even with those beautiful, designer shoes, you’ll still be walking to the same office every day.
- You tell yourself you’ll only stay until the January bonus
- You buy yourself nice things to make up for the pain of having a job you hate
- You’re envious of friends with less well paid jobs but who have job satisfaction
4. You dream of a different career
If you’re spending your time sitting at your desk, twirling your hair around your finger, googling jobs, bookmarking interesting companies in your browser and wondering wistfully what it might be like to work from your bed or a friend’s co-working space, then you need to get out of your job and into a career that interests you.
An old saying states that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” and I couldn’t agree more.
Listen to your heart and make changes to your career to make it happy.
- You always have a browser tab open on a jobs listings website
- You’re often reading about the lives and careers of people you admire to distract yourself from your own job
- You hate telling people what your job is at parties, wishing you could say something different
5. You’re lacking energy and you’re eternally bored
No one expects to be fascinated at work all day everyday. We all have days when we lack the energy and enthusiasm to be at the top of our game.
But this should not be everyday. We may find one particular task an annoyance, but when we find our whole job/organisation/career boring then it’s time for a change.
Depleting energy levels can also be a sign that something’s not right and your work variables need a shake-up.
- You struggle to get out of bed in the morning to go to the office
- You’re tired all day, find it hard to stay awake in meetings, have nothing to contribute and can’t feign enthusiasm
- The hands of the clock seem to go round slower with each day that passes > Ask yourself the question, if you could leave your job right now, would you?
6. You’ve become disconnected from your passions
You feel disconnected from the original reason you started out in your career. Perhaps the creativity that originally enticed you is no longer a part of your job and you spend more time managing accounts or sitting in meetings than creating anything of substance.
Getting back to the fundamental reasons why you started out in that career can help you when thinking about changing—are those values still what you would look for in your career or have they altered as you’ve grown older and more experienced?
- You miss doing the thing that brought you into the industry in the first place
- You feel like your job is taking away precious time when you could be doing the thing you’re really passionate about
- You don’t recognise the person you’ve become in this job as it is so far removed from the person you were when you started out
7. You’re jealous of friends’ jobs
Feelings of jealousy towards the jobs, careers or work cultures of friends or family can be a key directional signal that you want to be doing something else, somewhere else.
Rather than dismissing jealousy as a bad thing, try to analyze why you might feel that way. Is it the job role you are jealous of or the motivational company culture? Is it the flexibility of their role or the creativity?
When thinking about it, try to be as honest with yourself as you can: it can be a very practical way of pinpointing exactly where you want to be going with your own career.
- You’re constantly exclaiming how wonderful your friends’ jobs sound
- You dream of having the creativity and flexibility your friends have in their careers
8. You’ve become apathetic to change
You may be functioning perfectly well at your job but you lack the desire to bring forward new ideas to your manager or instigate innovation at your company.
Perhaps your suggestions have been ignored before or straight-out rejected. Perhaps you work for a company that would rather you just did what you are paid to do rather than suggested improvements in the product or culture.
With this kind of management style it’s difficult to stay motivated. If you are bursting with great ideas it’s time to go somewhere that appreciates and embraces them. If that means working for yourself, then do it.
- You have no interest in the company you work for
- You’re coasting along, no longer looking for opportunities for promotion or advancement
- You’re saving all your good ideas for when you’ve got a job you really enjoy with another company / or for your own company.
9. You would leave if you could
Ask yourself the question, if you could leave your job right now (and remain financially secure), would you? If the answer is yes then you need to start working out how you’re going to do that. Find your niche. Get excited about a new career. Start thinking about how to build a career or business that is aligned with your passions.
- Money is the only thing keeping you in your job
- You’re already saving up for the day you can leave
10. Your friends don’t recognise you anymore
When close friends or family are noticing a marked difference in your attitude or behaviour, that you’re constantly stressed, unhappy and complaining, this can be a sign that your career is not working out for you.
They remember you when you were passionate, creative and inspired to go out and achieve and they don’t recognise this person who turns up late for a beer after work with bags under their eyes and stories of a nightmare boss.
If the people closest to you can see that your job is taking its toll on you and not making you happy, it’s time to take stock and start thinking about the person they used to know and how you can get back to being that person. If that means ditching the job, ditch it.
- You have less time for family and friends and when you do you’re stressed and unhappy
- You don’t have the time or energy for the things that used to make you happy
3. How to make that career change
Now that we’ve identified the key signs of an unhappy career choice, it’s time to look at what the next steps are to getting you out of there and into a career that embraces your passions.
Follow these steps and you’ll soon be waving goodbye to that horror of an old job and saying hello to a brand new career that reminds you of the person we all used to know and love. To help you out with this, we’ve created an even more thorough guide to successfully change careers.
1. Choose where you want to go next
You’ve probably had many ideas about what you’d like to do next, but now’s the time to narrow it down and make a decision. What is it you actually want to do?
Think about your current strengths and weaknesses. What do you like in your job and what do you hate? What is your passion in life? What makes you happy? Do you want to work for someone else again, or do you want to work for yourself? Is freelancing an option, or even starting your own business?
Once you’ve answered these questions you should have a good idea about what direction you need to take. Have you considered going freelance? If not, why not?
2. Upgrade your skillset
Now that you’ve got a clear idea of what you want to do, do you have the right skillset to move forward and mould a career from it? For example, you’ve decided decided to become a freelance web developer.
Can you code? Do you need to improve your skills before forging a career? Maybe first you need to take a course in web development and build yourself a portfolio before making it your full-time profession. There are loads of courses available both on and offline. And tech is hot right now, so you won’t be running out of work opportunities any time soon.
3. Find a mentor
We’ve talked about this before, but finding a mentor in your field can provide an invaluable resource and support when you’re thinking of changing careers. And if you’re thinking of starting your own business, it’s crucial.
Why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from someone else’s? Start by asking them a lot of questions, and listen carefully to what they say, don’t assume you know it all already. They may not have been working in digital when they started out, but a lot of the fundamentals of work and entrepreneurship remain the same as they ever were.
4. Increase your network
Begin building a support network while still holding down your day job. You may want to get out of there as quickly as possible, but believe me, handing in your resignation letter too soon could be your biggest mistake. Your colleagues, employer and clients are your biggest links to your future work if you are thinking about going freelance, and they could be your key to your future jobs with other companies. Either way, you do not want to upset them and do not burn any bridges, however tempting it may be.
Garner advice while you’re in such a great position to do so. Bounce ideas off your coworkers, tell them projects you are working on, get as much feedback as you can about your strengths and weaknesses so you know which areas you can spend the next few months working on. Contacts of any kind are invaluable, so use these people for the people they know. Attend every work function and event as you will only meet more people who may in the future become employers or clients. Collect email addresses and business cards and get your name known.
The key to successful career change is realising you don’t have to do it alone.
5. Build your personal brand
Your personal brand is your unique selling point. As a job seeker or potential freelancer you are selling your brand and your brand is YOU.
This step is very easy but many people don’t think to do it: improve your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter—use them to contact other professionals in your field to ask them for help or advice. If a potential employer sees you active in your field of expertise online, this will only work in your favour.
If you’re a web developer make sure your GitHub (not Git) account is active and filled with projects which show off your skills (make sure it’s not locked so that users can see what you’re working on). StackOverFlow is also an important portal for asking and answering questions as a web developer and shows your interest in the field and your passion for your job.
On LinkedIn make sure your photo is recent and professional and that your work experience is up-to-date. Fill out as much as you can. Potential employers will Google you before they’ve even looked at the CV you’ve sent in, so make sure what’s online is as stellar as what’s in that PDF file.
Get your name out there as a professional in your field. And do this now! Not when you’ve quit your job in three month’s time. It will take that long to organize the transition from your old job to your new job, or set yourself up as a freelancer.
See your personality online as an extension of your business and a totally free advertisement for what you do. We’ve created a full guide to personal branding for your tech career if you’d like to learn more.
6. Think about freelancing
Have you considered going freelance? If not, why not? If you’re struggling with your current company, feel that you’re ideas aren’t being listened to, why not make the change so that you are in the driving seat.
It can be daunting—and it’s no small decision—but more and more people are realising that working for themselves brings about the work/life balance they’ve always dreamed of with a job that incorporates what they enjoy doing most in life.
With the right skills, contacts and experience you can have a job that is different everyday, meet new people, have fresh challenges, earn a decent wage and feel the job satisfaction that has eluded you for so long. And you know what’s the best thing about it? You earned it all yourself: everything you achieve as a freelancer is down to your own hard work. That’s a feeling you just can’t beat.
7. Write a plan of action / set yourself some goals
Goal number one: set yourself some goals. Don’t use “lack of organizational skills” as an excuse to stay unhappy in your job for the rest of your life. Anyone can write a list, including you. Working backwards outline your goals for the year, then the next six months, then the next six weeks.
From today onwards you will write yourself daily goals, small things you want to achieve over the next three months to get you out of your job and into a better career by Christmas.
If you’re working full-time while you do this just make it one small thing a day. For example one daily goal could be, email that UX designer about meeting for a coffee to discuss how he got into his career.
Keep your long-term goals in sight at all times – frame them and put them on your wall. This will remind you why you’re doing what you’re doing and what you’re ultimately aiming for. Your goals should be specific, with a definite deadline and written down. Above all, make your deadlines realistic. Give yourself more time than you think you need.
8. Work with a friend—strength in numbers
We’ve left this last piece of career change advice to Frances Porter, international recruiter, career coach and employability trainer.
“The key to successful career transition is realising you don’t have to do it alone. Ask for help. Buddy up or create a support network with peers or friends in a similar situation. Motivate, encourage, be constructive and hold each other accountable. You will be surprised at how quickly you move forward, when you have others with you on the journey.”
Want to get your career change started in a more practical way? Sign up for one of our free short courses in everything from UX design to digital marketing to product management, to see how you like it!
If you’re worried about how your age might affect your potential career change, check out our guides on:
Otherwise, if you’d like to read a little more about career change in general, check out these articles: