Is it time for a Career Change?

This post is written by Dana Schwartz, Career/Leadership Coach and Strategist with Leadership Innovations.

Songs can be quite relatable to our lives. Take, for example, the infamous song by David Bowie “Changes”. I can hear the chorus now- “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Turn and face the strange, Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes…”. In addition to its catchy melodic line, the lyrics remind us that change is inevitable, often whether we seek it or not! And, most importantly, how we deal with change is impactful. Do we choose to lean into it or do we choose to resist? As little control as we may have over the change itself, we have a choice on how we respond.

This simple point holds true not only in personal realms but for our careers and the changes that inevitably occur in our professional lives. Our careers WILL evolve, so the question then becomes… What do we want to do about it?

It’s common to forget who is really in control of our careers with a mindset like, “My manager or employer will discuss my career ambitions/potential for a new role when an internal opening occurs” or “I’ll wait and see what happens.” This more passive approach to handling change is a reflexive option for many but does this really put us in the driver’s seat of our own career? And, how can we ensure that we will meet our long-term career objectives if we leave it in someone else’s hands? This reminds me of another notable song by Otis Redding, “Sittin on the Dock of the Bay… Watching the Tides Roll Away”.

Instead, you have the opportunity to embrace a more proactive stance that offers ownership and accountability around career progression. With this approach, you choose to:

  1. Be the leader of your career. You create your own goals and the plans to achieve them.
  2. Focus on Career Growth rather than career change. Shift your mindset to focus on enhancing professional skills, sharpen areas of emotional intelligence and cultivate the next phase in your career.

This practice will require some initial identification of your situational, financial and professional priorities. In addition, consider the current and future state of key marketplace and industry trends and how these may impact your individual opportunities.

Whether you define the change in your career as a detour, a straight path forward, or even a downward turn, there can be growth involved. Growth might come in the form of continual learning, adding new challenges, experience in a different work environment, people, or culture. All of these allow for space to develop, gain confidence, and learn the value of your strengths and knowledge in a different way. Career Growth, not just career…change!

The good news is that you don’t need all the answers or be able to predict the outcome. Rather, by leading yourself through the career change, it will allow you to stay further ahead of the change itself, ultimately providing more options along the way.

You know you aren’t alone in this career endeavor, right? The average person will change careers 5-7 times during his/her working life. And for those experiencing even a job change (staying in the same career but changing roles or positions), a person may end up moving jobs 12 times during a career ( In fact, workers on average spend 5 years or less in a position, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics report showing the current median employee tenure at 4.3 years for men and 4.0 years for women.

IS it time for a career change? The answer is YES…or at some point in the near future. Therefore, it’s time to plan for it now!

Here are key questions to help guide your thinking:

  • How will you lead yourself through the career change?
  • Where do you see a future need in your organization, industry, or marketplace?
  • What is your value as it relates to this need?
  • What are your achievements to date that align with this value?
  • And, don’t forget this one: What do you need to do to address any gaps in skill, knowledge or experience now to position yourself for this future state?

Once you gain further clarity, you’ll be primed to consider the true value of a career change, and treat it more as an opportunity for Career Growth.

So, will you be ready for your next career change? How about digging even deeper and asking yourself: What do I need to have in place when it’s time? What is my role in owning the next steps to take? Who do I trust and see as a guide to help me talk through this inevitable change? How can I manage the idea of a career change so that my mindset is focused on the benefit of Career Growth?

Now, the real work starts! Career change is an adventure. Prepare for it and put it into action, and ultimately, you’ll be belting out the song with pride… “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Turn and face the strange, Ch-ch-ch-ch changes…!”.