Why You Should Change Careers, Like, Tomorrow! Or Maybe Not

Entrepreneur.com thinks you should change careers “as soon as possible,” retroactively, even, assuming you meet one of nine criteria. The #1 reason the site gives for why you should switch it up is not having been deliberate enough about job stuff at the outset. Did you kinda stumble into your current career instead of choosing it affirmatively and proactively and after making several Pro/Con lists? Well, then, you shouldn’t be stuck with the ramifications forever.

If your reason had to do with desperation, a family connection or a random circumstance, you may need to switch careers soon. Think about your skills and what you truly enjoy. Don’t be afraid to consider off-beat careers either — being a forester isn’t as common as a banker, but it may be the perfect fit for you. You deserve a career you chose on purpose.

The underlying truth is a sobering one: lots of us fell backwards into desk chairs or onto workbenches and then looked around, a few years later, kind of surprised to still be where — or, at least, not far from — we initially landed. Inertia: almost as powerful as gravity.

In my experience, the worst reason for choosing a career is that it seems sexy. The Entertainment Industry? Nice! And it is nice, sometimes, despite the low pay and long hours, to be surrounded by celebrities in a Busy and Important office in midtown Manhattan. At least until some C-list pseudo-celebrity grabs your hair because she’s so frustrated that you weren’t able to get her an audition for a particular commercial.

A start-up? That’s hot. And it is hot, sometimes, despite the low pay and long hours, to be surrounded by young, enthusiastic coworkers in a fun, loft-like office in downtown Manhattan. At least until you realize how mismanaged your company is and that you’re going to be out on your ass in the middle of winter.

Corporate law, baking, race car driving … lots of fields that are fun to talk about at cocktail parties are actually terrible for your well-being day to day. So yeah, DTMFA! Get unstuck, life is short, carpe diem — which, btw, you should always pronounce like Cher in Clueless.

Two caveats, though.

1) Switching careers may be more expensive and time-consuming than you realize. I’m married to someone who recently switched careers. It took him about half a year of considering, planning, and networking, plus another full year of proving his worth to his chosen company by working without benefits at entry-level rates. All of that was, not going to lie, a little hard on the family. It was also worth it at the end. Is worth it, both of us agree.

And it would have been far worse if it required an expensive Master’s degree and the taking out of lots of new student loans, as many careers do, without offering a guarantee on the other end.

Still. It was a trial.

Job satisfaction is close to, but not quite, priceless. Make sure you fully understand and can, at the outset, accept that.

2) The new career will be rough too. At my most morose, I realized that an 20/80 split was the most I could handle — that is to say, a job that was 80% unpleasant and 20% interesting or fulfilling. Many, many jobs are 20/80 splits, even ones you’re looking at now with starry eyes. The absolute best you can expect is an 80/20 split the other way.

Yet even the 20% that’s frustrating can be a real boner-killer when we’re talking about dream jobs. I know people who have walked away from careers they invested time and money to switch to because the disillusionment of it not being perfect was too intense. Some of those people have become serial switchers which, if you need to rely on your own income, is a tough position to put yourself in, especially in the long term.

Perversely, it can be easier to handle the reality that a mediocre job is a 20/80 split than the reality that even your dream job is only 80/20.

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