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Changing Careers Requires A Lot to Consider

November 30, 1999

(MS) - Rarely anymore do people stay with the same company for the duration of their careers. Whereas 30 or 40 years with the same company used to be more commonplace, workers now tend to be a little more on the move when it comes to working.

The reasons for changing jobs are many. Oftentimes, employees cite job dissatisfaction as their primary reason for leaving. Feelings of being underappreciated, underpaid and, perhaps most important, unhappy can add up, eventually making going to work a tough sell each morning.

Others, still, credit a lack of challenge as their primary reason for heading on to what they hope are greener pastures. The longer a person's tenure at a specific company, the more routine their job can become, especially if promotions are few and far between. Such routine over time makes the job less challenging, a difficult thing for hardworking, ambitious employees to cope with.

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However compelling a reason for leaving can be, the decision to change careers is often difficult. The prospect of leaving a comfortable situation with the security of a steady paycheck can be an agonizing decision to make. With lots at stake, it's good to remember the following before changing careers.

â,¬ Patience pays off. A career change implies you have an existing career, meaning you're currently not in a position where you need to take whatever you can get. That means there should be no great sense of urgency, such as finding a new job by the end of the month or setting other time limits. Take the time you have to try out any career you're considering. If you're thinking of becoming a writer, for instance, take some freelance writing jobs and see how it feels. The comfort of your current career should be a strong ally, affording you the chance and ability to thoroughly examine and experience what you might want to do next.

â,¬ What's important to you? Many people change careers because they simply don't feel as though they have enough time for what's truly important to them, be it their family, a hobby or other interests. Before changing careers, look into the career you might be changing to and determine if it's going to afford you the opportunities your current career doesn't. There's no use leaving your current job and the salary and seniority you've built up for a career that will be just as demanding but will require you to start anew.

â,¬ Your qualifications. A bachelor's degree today is what a high school diploma was two decades ago. Most applicants have college degrees, which makes candidates with advanced degrees stand out. Know what you'll be going up against and how your qualifications will look when compared to other potential applicants. While past work experience can often make up for lack of education, that's not always true for people making a career change. If your career change is truly a radical one, your past experience might be deemed largely irrelevant by prospective employers. Before making a change, know your qualifications and if they'll make the grade.

â,¬ You're starting over. The longer a person has been with a company, the better the benefits. Extra vacation time, higher pay and more scheduling flexibility are all things most workers earn as they continue to work for one company. A career change, however, can, and likely will, quickly erase all those perks. Workers who have grown accustomed to three or four weeks of vacation per year might find the transition back to the bottom of the totem pole to be more difficult.

In addition, make sure that you can financially handle such a restart. Career changes often result in pay cuts. Know how steep a pay cut you can expect to take and discuss the ramifications with family and your financial advisor before taking the leap. If sacrifices will need to be made, it's best to get your family's input first.

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