It’s easy to get stuck in a rut in life. It’s even easier to get stuck in that rut when it’s the thing that pays the bills. Let’s face it: sometimes we fall into a job or career because we need to make money, but it’s not really what we want to be doing, and we end up feeling trapped. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way! While it can feel super scary, and it’s not for everyone, a change of careers can be life-changing for some people. If you’re thinking that a career change could be the right move for you, to get you out of your rut and bring energy back to your life, how can you go about taking the plunge?
You’re Not Alone
Are you passionate about your job? Probably not (especially if you’re reading this), seeing as only around 20% of workers in the U.S. feel that way. And it’s not just that we’re not gaga over our careers, most studies put us at barely 50% in terms of how many people are even satisfied with their jobs.
And, since so many of us are not married to our jobs, we’re also pretty prone to changing careers. In fact, statistics now show that around half of U.S. workers change jobs every 1-5 years, with 30% of the workforce changing jobs every 12 months! Not only that, but the average person will now have around 5-7 careers in their lifetime, so it seems that the days of getting a job after high school, college, or trade school and sticking with it until it was time to collect your pension (remember those? Probably not!) are well and truly over.
What Makes a Satisfying Career?
So if you’re itching to make a change, and find a more satisfying job, you are by no means alone. But what does a “satisfying’” job actually look like? That’s definitely a subjective assessment, and every person and every workplace are different, but there are actually a few factors that surveys seem to agree are important for job satisfaction.
The most – and least – satisfying jobs, according to surveys, can tell us a lot about what makes people happy in their jobs. When workers are surveyed, the careers that come out on top in terms of job satisfaction include jobs like teacher, nurse, firefighter, physical therapist, software developer, physician, psychologist, and human resources manager. The ones that come out on the bottom? Jobs like waiter, bartender, cashier, roofer, fast food cook, laundry/dry cleaning worker, dishwasher, and parking attendant.
So what does this tell us about the factors important to job satisfaction? According to research, the top jobs are satisfying because:
- They offer variety and tend to change from day-to-day, meaning those holding these positions are less likely to get bored.
- There is generally an opportunity for advancement
- The company culture is positive. While this is more dependent on the individual workplace, these jobs tend to have a more positive work environment.
- There is less employee turnover. This is related to positive company culture: the least satisfying jobs tend to have much higher turnover rates, making it difficult to foster meaningful relationships between employees.
- Many of them allow employees the opportunity to help people in a meaningful way, and not just a superficial way.
- Unlike the least satisfying jobs, they tend to offer more flexibility.
- They pay enough to eliminate the stress of not being able to pay the bills.
If you’re thinking that you’re going to have to go back to school for years and years to become a doctor to be satisfied with your career, don’t worry! The takeaway here is that there are some common factors that can make for a more satisfying job. Not only that, but the important thing is finding something that lines up with your core values and is right for you. So how can you start the process of switching careers?
Making the Switch
You’ve got the career change bug, now what? Start with the following steps:
Evaluate how you feel about your current job
A lot of people gloss over this crucial first step, simply telling themselves that they are dissatisfied and want to move on. But before you can find something that you like more, you have to know what it is that’s working and not working for you in your current position. Try keeping a log of your daily reactions to situations in your current job, so you can have a better idea of what day-to-day responsibilities you’d like, what kind of management style works or doesn’t work for you, and the type of environment you do want to work in.
Take a closer look at your skills, core values, and interests
Yes, it’s important to find a job that you can actually do, but don’t stop at your generic job skills. Look at other things you’ve done, like volunteer work or class projects, that you excelled at, or that really excited you. If you simply focus on what you’ve been doing in your current job, you could end up limiting yourself, and getting stuck back in that old rut again.
Looking for a new job means you’re going to have to present a new you. That doesn’t mean you should present yourself as having experience you don’t have, which is always a bad idea. You might just need to be a little creative if your existing experience doesn’t align with your goals, so think about how your experience makes you a better candidate for the job you’re looking for. Make a personal statement about what makes you a good fit, and make sure this personal statement is reflected on your resume, and on your accounts on business networking sites, like LinkedIn.
Start your search, and get personal
As you begin your search, make an action plan, and make goals for yourself with specific timelines. Then head to job search sites, social media, and the websites of companies you might be interested in. Don’t forget to try more personal routes, as well: speak to friends, professionals in your network, former classmates, and recruiters. You can also reach out to professionals in the industry you’re looking at, and see who might be willing to speak to you.
Look outside of your industry
As we noted above, not looking outside of your comfort zone could lead to getting stuck yet again. So consider looking at what’s available in industries that you might have an interest in, and what it would take to get into them. Also, consider talking to people you’re close with, and asking them if they could see you in any of the new roles you’re considering. If you’re having difficulty coming up with ideas, consider meeting with a career counselor for professional advice.
Look inside your industry
You don’t have to discount your industry if it’s still something that interests you. The problem might be your workplace, or the position you’re in (which is why it’s important to track your feelings about your current job). You might just need to move to a company or another branch location that better correlates with your skills and long-term goals. For example, you might want to move from working at a retail store to a corporate office, or if you’re a programmer but not interested in programming any longer, consider technical sales or project management.
Try freelancing or volunteering
It can be hard to get experience when you don’t have experience, right? If you’re looking to advance your career or break into something new, you could try getting some valuable experience by freelancing in fields with high demand, or by offering your time as a volunteer at a local nonprofit (which can be very satisfying in itself!). For example, if you want to get into editing or publishing, offer to help with the newsletter of a local organization, or your child’s school. Want to work with animals? Volunteer at a local shelter.
Expand your knowledge or skill set
Whether you want a new position in your industry, or to make the jump to a totally new field, going back to school, getting a new certification, attending seminars, workshops or webinars, or engaging in any kind of continuing education related to the position you want could give you a leg up. For example, you could take an evening class at a local college, or attend a workshop on grant-writing.
The benefits of being happy in your job are clear: in fact, over three-quarters of people who change careers say they are happy, and almost 70% say they are less stressed and more fulfilled. So if you want to make a positive change in your life, now is the time! Don’t look back and wonder where the last year, 5 years, or decade went. It’s your life and you deserve to get everything out of it you can!