“How do I know when it’s time to switch careers?”

By Sandi Duffy

smw - how do i know when it's time to switch careersJust before I turned thirty, I had a pre-midlife crisis.  I had what most would consider to be a glamorous career in advertising; I traveled all over the country and met interesting and accomplished people.  But I grew to hate it.  The travel began to take a toll on me; I wanted to spend more time with my terminally ill father.  My boyfriend and I were getting more serious and I hardly ever saw him.  And, quite frankly, it wasn’t as if I was changing the world working in this field.  I was ready for a change.

Any type of change can be scary, but changing careers can be especially terrifying.  You need to ask yourself some important questions:

What are the financial implications of switching careers?
You are most likely facing starting at the bottom all over again. Will you still be able to pay your bills?  Save for retirement?  What about health benefits?    If the answer is no to one or more of these questions, work in your current career a bit longer and put away money to meet your needs once you do switch.  Set a goal for yourself.  Tell yourself in one year I will have enough money put away in order to start at a lower salary in a more fulfilling career and still pay my bills.

How will this affect your ego?
There are esteem issues to think about.  If you were in a high-level position in your previous career, how will you feel starting all over again to build a new career.  You were the person giving orders?  Are you prepared to take them?

Do you have the right educational background for your new career choice?
If not, how long will it take you to achieve a new degree or added expertise?  Is it financially feasible?  There are many scholarship and grant programs you can take advantage of to gain the education you need for your new career.  Also, think about cutting back on work hours and taking evening classes in order to gain the expertise you need to change careers.

A colleague from that advertising agency left the year before I did to pursue a career as a pastry chef.  She took courses, learned the trade and a decade later is enormously successful in a career she loves.

I was also lucky.  I took education courses and cut back on my hours at the advertising agency by becoming a freelancer in order to achieve my teaching certificate.  It worked well for me. To this day teaching is exactly what I am doing, and I have never looked back.  My former career in advertising is in the past and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

More SMW Career Advice
Overloaded at Work: Should You Talk to Your Boss?
Dealing with Sexual Harassment at Work
Hot Careers in a Cooling Economy


Sandi Duffy works as a freelance writer and educator.  She hosts a blog entitled A Widow for One Year where she shares her journey as a recently widowed single mother of two young children and is working on a memoir entitled Young Widow…One Woman’s Journey Through the First Year and Beyond.  Ms. Duffy is also involved in raising funds for pancreatic cancer research through the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.