5 Mistakes Women Should Avoid When Changing Careers

By Samantha Chang

Have you ever daydreamed about doing something else professionally? If you have, you’re not alone. According to the Department of Labor, most people change careers three to seven times over the course of their working lives. The reasons making for the switch vary, but include wanting more growth potential, a lifestyle change (such as having a child) or a desire for more work-life balance.

pic1No matter what your motivation, preparation will make the transition easier. Here are several things you should avoid if you want your move to go smoothly.

1. Not Having a Plan

As with anything else, preparation is the key to success. Write out a detailed strategy for how you plan to make the change. A great guidebook is the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The booklet provides salary information, educational and work qualifications and other information for those considering a career transition. Some questions to consider are: Does your new career involve education or training that you don’t currently have? How will job change affect your finances?

For example, if you earn a solid income as an accountant and want to be a graphic designer, how would that impact your money situation, and what steps can you take to manage any shortfall? Without a plan, you’re destined to fail in your current career as well as any future job, so write down your goals, the time horizon for when you want to achieve them and any other practical considerations that will affect your success.

2. Making Emotionally-Based Decisions

Any good executive will tell you that you can’t run a successful business if you’re emotionally reactive, take things too personally or make rash, half-baked decisions. Success requires passion, dedication, persistence and incredible optimism—and all on a long-term scale. A huge mistake is to change careers because you hate your current job. Maybe it’s not your career path you hate but the company you work at, or your hours. Make an honest determination of whether a change in any of these factors (such as your schedule, your co-workers, your pay, your boss, etc.) would affect how you feel. This assessment will take some time, and shouldn’t be a snap decision.

pic23. Falling for Hype

We are all creatures of comparison, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of getting jealous of a friend who’s making more money or seems to have a more exciting job and wonder if that path is right for you. Maybe it is or maybe it isn’t. “Too many job-seekers switch careers on the assumption that the grass is always greener—and often find out that is not the case,” according to Dr. Randall Hansen, a professor at Stetson University and founder of Quintessential Careers.

Every profession—every job—has its good and bad points. Maybe your friend earns more than you but works longer hours or has to travel frequently. Also, don’t forget that some careers—such as medicine and law—require many more years of education and training before you land the first job. So keep in mind that there are tradeoffs to every situation.

4. Letting Money or Perks Guide Your Decisions

As discussed above, some fields offer higher salaries because of the training required or the nature of the work involved. In addition, some jobs—such as celebrity journalism—offer perks, such as invitations to night clubs, film screenings or music concerts, while other fields (such as being an administrative assistant) don’t have those perks but offer more stability and better employee benefits.

Also, some careers start off with higher salaries (such as engineering) but the pay plateaus after a certain point, while other fields offer lower starting pay but unlimited growth potential. As with all things, look at the big picture and not just the bottom line before acting.

5. Choosing a Field You Stink at

pic3Fans of the hit reality TV show American Idol may wonder why some completely untalented contestants insist on humiliating themselves in front of millions of people when they can’t carry a tune. Are they deranged? This occurs so frequently because many people glamorize certain professions without realizing or accepting that they just may not possess proficiency in that field. And they underestimate the tedium and hard work involved in these so-called glam jobs.

You’ll enjoy your work a lot more and be better at it if you choose a career that plays to your strengths and not whatever profession seems glamorous or is the most lucrative.

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