For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a doctor. And I made it very well known. My academic courses and extracurricular activities reflected this goal. However, through the years and my experiences, I have been able to really shape and identify my interests. Consequently, my eyes have been opened to other professions within the health field that fit more my interests. The decision-making process has been far from easy.
One of the many questions to ask yourself: where do you see yourself career wise in the next 10 years? Deliberating a career (or even job) change can be an experience filled with anxiety. When you are at a crossroads, a thorough analysis of factors can certainly facilitate the decision. These factors can be further classified into four categories:
- Career/job description
- Skills/educational background
- Financial implications
- Work-life balance.
Here’s an exercise to help you navigate through this important deliberation process in your life.
The exercise involves taking two A4 sheets of paper and folding them twice to yield four rectangles, respectively. Title one paper with the coveted field or job position. Write your current job title on the other. Subsequently, write the name of one of the above-mentioned categories in each rectangle until all four sections are labelled.
Before completing the task, number each category in order of importance and priority. Jot down the number of priority in the small square at the upper right of the category box in your canvas. You are now ready to begin the crossroad canvas. Let’s now take a look at each category.
Don’t hassle, just download the Career Crossroads Canvas.
1. Career & job description
To fill in this box, start by reading job descriptions on websites such as Indeed and Glassdoor. This provides insight into the required skills and responsibilities you’ll need to fulfill this type of role. It also gives you an idea of the job options in that particular field. List the job titles you are interested and number of available positions (optional) in this box.
Through LinkedIn you can then find individuals holding the position of interest. Take the time to reach out to them. Maybe organize an online chat, a Skype meeting or invite them to grab coffee.
Finally, check the news to discover the latest trends and hot topics in this industry. Find discussion forums and relevant websites where you can subscribe to newsletters and articles. Read renowned books discussing important topics and follow related organizations on social media.
Dig to uncover answers to your burning questions. Is it a field that encourages innovation? Does the work have the potential to disrupt and/or improve a cause that you are passionate about? Are there city hubs for that particular field? Is there a possibility that you might need to relocate? Is it a field predominantly male? What are the gender dynamics?
Aside from giving you a clearer picture of whether the career actually fits your interests, thorough knowledge of the inner workings of the field is essential for negotiation with potential employers and avoid committing to a bad deal.
2. Skills & educational background
After thoroughly researching the prospective job/career that you want to pursue, list your current skills and the skills required for the position in this box. Do you have the expertise to undertake the responsibilities of said career? You may have transferable skills. You may have a foundation of knowledge that can be built upon.
No need to despair if you think you don’t. There is an abundance of online resources that can assist you in refreshing your knowledge and/or develop new skills. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on websites such as Coursera, edX and FutureLearn are especially beneficial as they offer lessons and exercises that can be followed at your own pace. Similarly, specialized websites offer tools and articles specifically for the purposes of learning new competencies.
Do you have the certificate or diploma to show you can do the job? Some fields are less concerned with education and focused on a portfolio of work. You can easily find out if that is the case. And if it is, start building this work portfolio in order to put these skills in evidence.
Assessing your current skillset and comparing it to the required skills and certification for your dream job/career, will allow you to identify if there are any gaps to fill. It will also provide you with an estimated time length before you become apt to embark on this new professional venture.
3. Financial implications
What are the financial consequences of changing careers? Will this new opportunity give you more financial freedom? A quick research can reveal the median annual salary for a particular profession. For those with entrepreneurial ambitions, have a look at the total revenue generated by the industry.
While reading job descriptions on employment websites, take note of offered salary and the benefits offered by different companies. Consider the benefits with the most financial impact such as medical insurance, personal allowances, vacation, commission, bonuses, etc…
For many people, the financial factor tends to be the decisive one. Hence, take your time to ponder carefully.
4. Work-life balance
We are moving away from the old mindset of working ridiculously long hours. Scandinavian business models have found that shorter work hours increases both productivity and workers’ satisfaction. Hence, professionals are justified in putting more emphasis on finding an adequate work-life balance.
Note all important job highlights that benefit your personal life and enable work-life balance. What are your goals and hobbies outside of work? Do you want to spend more time with your family? Do you have a hobby you want to commit towards?
There are a lot more employment opportunities that offer flexible work hours and work-from-home options. Do the company benefits encourage your personal ambitions? Will your work require for you to travel?
While it may seem geared to prospective jobs, be sure to contemplate these questions for your current position as well and fill the second sheet of paper.
Keep in mind that there is no finality in your decision. Your years of experience in your current position is not wasted. Even after choosing to change careers, you can also resolve to go back to your current position. Moreover, fields are evolving and organizations are adapting by hiring new positions. Stay open-minded. You may actually find your ideal position in your current organization or field. Sometimes, you just need to ask!
Once the task is complete, scrutinize both canvases. Which one is more appealing? Is the change worth it? What do you need to be where you want to?
Let it guide your decision.
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