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12 Common Reasons People Change Careers — and You Can Too


Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.

You’re struggling with burnout. The career you once loved is wearing you thin, and work-life balance feels unattainable. Or, perhaps your career isn’t all that bad, but you feel a bit bored and can’t stop thinking about switching to a career that’s more aligned with your passions.

Contemplating a career change can bring on many different feelings. From hope to overwhelm, you may need help deciding whether you have genuine reasons to change careers or if you should stick it out in your current field.

You’re the only one who can answer those questions, but understanding common reasons other professionals change careers can help. Analyze your motivations for a career change to decide if it’s the best move for you.

Changing careers can be a response to many factors. These common reasons for a career change might resonate with your circumstances.

1. Salary

A man counting money in front of a computer
voronaman / Shutterstock.com

One of the most common reasons for a career change is the chance to earn more money. According to a recent Gartner study, only 32% of workers feel their pay is fair.

Sure, money isn’t everything, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. No matter how much you enjoy your job, being underpaid will impact your morale and quality of life.

Learning how to research the fair market value of a job and your skills will tell you if it’s your company or the career field in general that needs to pay better.

If it’s the field, it’s time to explore career options offering better financial rewards.

2. Career Satisfaction

Woman accountant or tax expert or businesswoman using a laptop and a calculator to do finances or tax paperwork
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

Life changes affect your interests and passions.

You may have taken a job thinking you’d be all in for the rest of your working years, but now you want to utilize your skills differently, or you’ve stumbled upon a role you’re excited about.

The Journal of Applied Psychology reports that greater job satisfaction means more energy and a positive mood that carries over to your life outside of work.

If your work leaves you feeling unfulfilled or like you’re not making a meaningful contribution, a career change could lead you to a happier place both in and out of the office.

3. Career Advancement

Professional woman looking at stacks of folders.
Rene Jansa / Shutterstock.com

What’s the next promotion on your radar? Are the options limited? Do you need to learn how to create a career development plan to get to the next level, or are you at the top of your career options?

When you’ve plateaued in your current career, consider seeking a new career with growth potential. Whether due to a shift in the job market or technological advances, take a realistic look at where and how you’ll get to the new level.

New opportunities and professional growth can bring excitement back to your workdays.

4. Toxic Leadership

Boss pointing and scolding or reprimanding employee
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

Dealing with a bad boss or toxic culture can be draining. In fact, in a recent study conducted by The Harris Poll, nearly a third of the professional respondents reported going to therapy to cope with toxic leadership.

Your mental and physical well-being is at stake when you’re subjected to chronic stress.

If you’re stuck in a field where poor leadership and unhealthy work environments are the norm, explore new careers where you can work with leaders and peers who support and inspire you.

5. Unhappy at Work

Stressed woman looking at bills and tired with a headache
Inside Creative House / Shutterstock.com

Without any apparent cause, a general sense of unhappiness at work can be a strong sign that a career shift is needed. It’s time to do some self-analysis to determine where and why you’re feeling the drain.

Sometimes, it’s your subconscious telling you that your current field isn’t where you belong any longer.

Perhaps your passions and interests have changed, or you’re at a new stage in your life, and your old job doesn’t fit anymore. You can work through some bad days, but it’s time to analyze more extensive changes when you have more bad days than good.

6. Seeking New Challenges

Older female executive worker
AlessandroBiascioli / Shutterstock.com

When was the last time you felt invigorated and truly challenged? If you can’t recall when that was, that’s something to consider.

Feeling stagnant can cause the shine to wear off of any job. A career change can be the perfect solution when you want to learn and grow and need meaningful work to enjoy coming to work.

7. Lack of Opportunity

Woman using printer scanner fax at the office frustrated with work and mad at printer
Arsenii Palivoda / Shutterstock.com

Does your current industry or job offer many opportunities for skill development, growth, or innovation? It’s natural to want opportunities to learn and develop your skills.

Not to mention, staying in the same role without progression for many years can be a red flag when future employers consider your work history.

You may be hesitant to be perceived as a job hopper, but if you’re still performing the same tasks you did several years ago without any change on the horizon, a shift to a field with greater potential might be the key.

Plus, the perception of changing jobs is changing, and job-hopping with intention likely won’t have the negative impact you imagine.

8. Burnout

Tired businesswoman sitting at work using laptop
CrizzyStudio / Shutterstock.com

Are you tired all the time? Do you feel cynical about work, detached from your team, and ineffective in your role? You may be struggling with burnout. Although it seems like there’s a lot of talk about burnout, it’s more than a buzzword.

In fact, the American Heart Association shares studies linking job burnout to significant health concerns ranging from heart disease to insomnia. No matter what role you’re in, you need to build strategies to avoid burnout.

But sometimes you’re in a role where burnout seems unavoidable. When you struggle with long hours and a high-stress environment, a career switch might be needed to prevent long-term damage.

9. Less Stress

Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com

Along those same lines, maybe you’re not working long hours, but your role comes with an unhealthy dose of stress. First responders, ER doctors, and teachers might come to mind when we think of high-stress roles.

But stress isn’t only about dramatic moments. Seemingly low-key jobs can hide strenuous amounts of toxic stress.

The World Health Organization (WHO) highlights several factors that can make work stress more pronounced.

Having unclear demands from leadership and coworkers, for example, can raise your stress levels. So can a lack of recognition, poor communication, and a poor job fit.

Suppose you’re an introvert in a role better suited for an extrovert. You’re likely dealing with continual stress despite having a seemingly low-key job.

Long-term stress can eat away at your physical and mental health. If you can’t overcome your stress, it’s time to consider a career transition to a lower-stress role.

10. New Skills and Experiences

Woman working on her finances
Lopolo / Shutterstock.com

You might be craving the chance to develop new skills and work in a different environment. It’s only natural, right? Everyone wants to feel pride in their work and excited about mastering a new skill.

When your days are a bit redundant, and there are not many options for change in your current job, it’s time to explore a new field where you can feel invigorated again.

11. Work Flexibility

Happy woman sitting on a beach
Evgeny Atamanenko / Shutterstock.com

Making a career change for a more flexible future is an increasingly common motivation in the feedback we hear from FlexJobs members who have found career change success.

It wasn’t too long ago that remote work and flexible schedules were limited to tech industries, but remote and flexible jobs are increasingly common, and companies that offer better work-life balance can be found in nearly every industry.

12. Values or Life Goal Changes

A grandpa holds a baby in front of a laptop
subin pumsom / Shutterstock.com

Sometimes, your career change is influenced by substantial shifts in your personal values or life goals. You may have experienced a significant event, like becoming a parent, which has changed how you view your work life.

When your current job doesn’t feel impactful and you long to contribute positively to society or your community in new ways, you might need to explore a new industry.

10 Signs It’s Time for a Career Change

Stressed or bored woman working on laptop and avoiding taxes or work
Mariia Korneeva / Shutterstock.com

Why do you want to change careers? Managing a career shift is often more doable when you understand your motivation for doing so. If any of these indicators resonate with you, it might be the right time to pursue a new career.

1. You’re Bored at Work

Work bored
Branislav Nenin / Shutterstock.com

Boredom, the close cousin of dissatisfaction, is a telltale sign that what you’re doing doesn’t stimulate you intellectually or creatively.

If your workdays are filled with the same monotonous tasks and you find yourself constantly looking for distractions, it could be time for a change.

2. You Dread Going to Work

Man driver in car upset or worried about gas prices or insurance
StunningArt / Shutterstock.com

When thoughts of your job dominate your Sunday evenings or the sound of your alarm in the morning makes you anxious, it’s time to refresh your career.

If you dread going to work every day, it indicates that your current job is not supporting your well-being.

3. You’re in a Dead-End Position

Stressed upset workers
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

The path of advancement or growth opportunities in your current role is nonexistent. Don’t stay in a job with no future due to a fear of the unknown.

With a little exploration, you might discover a fulfilling career is closer than you think.

4. You Feel Unappreciated

Unhappy older worker
ThanakritR / Shutterstock.com

Feeling like your efforts aren’t recognized or valued can be demoralizing, and a new career might offer the appreciation and acknowledgment you crave.

Ask yourself if a job change would help you find a better fit or if the job function requires perfectionism and working behind the scenes more than anticipated.

5. You Feel Invisible

Young woman working at desk in low light
mavo / Shutterstock.com

Are you an invaluable part of the team? Do you have the chance to share your ideas and receive invitations to take part in meaningful projects?

How about recognition? Do you receive fair recognition for your efforts, or do they go to the team leader or someone else?

If not, it’s time to explore a more rewarding career. Feelings of invisibility are a sign that a career transition would be beneficial.

6. Your Health Is Impacted

unable to fall asleep
Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley / Shutterstock.com

Unfortunately, work stress doesn’t stop when you clock out in the evenings. Stress-related health complaints, such as frequent headaches, trouble sleeping, upset stomach, or a constantly racing mind, can follow you home.

Now, you might be dealing with anxiety, a short temper, constant worry, and distractions. All of these symptoms can be your body’s way of signaling the need for a change.

7. Toxic Work Culture

Businesswoman arguing with a businessman in an office or company setting
zEdward_Indy / Shutterstock.com

If your work environment is characterized by high turnover, backstabbing, resistance to change, or lack of support, those are clear warning signs of a toxic company culture.

You spend too much time at work to subject yourself to an environment that is demeaning and degrading. At a minimum, it’s time to find a new job, but if that sort of culture is pervasive in your industry, you need a career change as quickly as possible.

8. You’re Unproductive at Work

Burned out worker buries her head in her hands
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

Have you settled into life as a below-average performer? If you used to be a high achiever, it’s time to consider why you can no longer hit your marks.

Constant distractions or an inability to focus on your tasks may indicate that the environment or work isn’t aligned with your strengths or interests.

9. You Feel Overqualified for Your Job

Unhappy middle-aged male worker
Leszek Glasner / Shutterstock.com

There comes a time when you’ll outgrow your role. Perhaps you’re already there. As your career grows, you gain advanced skills and have new education to consider.

It might be time for career progression to move to the next level. But if there’s no place to go, that next level might require a career pivot to something more aligned with your skills.

If you’re a seasoned professional and feel nervous about making a career change at 40, you’re not alone in your fears. A career change can seem more daunting when you’re giving up a lengthy career, but it’s doable.

10. Your Relationships Are Being Impacted

Couple who are fighting and considering divorce
Dragana Gordic / Shutterstock.com

When your work dissatisfaction and stress start to spill over into your personal life and affect your relationships, it’s time to consider how your work fits into your overall balance and satisfaction.

Are you working to live or living to work?

While that can seem oversimplified, you should contemplate changing careers if your job negatively impacts others.

If one or more of these factors resonated with you, it’s time to break out FlexJobs’ guide to changing careers and start planning your exit strategy.

How to Make a Career Change: 5 Steps

Smiling man in a wheelchair working and in a meeting or interview
Cast Of Thousands / Shutterstock.com

Knowing a career transition is needed isn’t the same as understanding how to change careers.

1. Do a Self-Assessment

Woman on a laptop for a video call
voronaman / Shutterstock.com

Rather than throwing yourself into a job search and applying to every role you think you’ll like, take time to evaluate your current situation, identify your skills and interests, and set clear career goals to find a new career direction.

This step forms the foundation of your career change strategy.

  • Brainstorm: Start by writing down all the skills you’ve acquired over the years, both hard and soft. Don’t limit yourself to job-specific skills here; consider all areas of your life.
  • Gather feedback: Ask colleagues, friends, and family what they see as your strengths. Sometimes, others can offer insights into skills you may not recognize.
  • Use assessments: Use tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to better understand your skills and to learn how to job search using your personality type. These assessments can provide insights into your personality and potential career paths that align with your strengths.
  • Reflect on your passions: Take some quiet time to consider your achievements and any projects you have excelled in. What skills did you use most? What did you enjoy about those tasks? You should also identify your hobbies and interests and evaluate the skills you use in those areas.

2. Explore Areas of Interest

businessman wearing glasses and headset having virtual team meeting on his laptop
Ground Picture / Shutterstock.com

With your skills and interests more specific now, it’s time to assess where you can apply them professionally. Gather a list of fields that appeal to you and consider how your current skills may translate to a new career field.

Explore emerging fields, as well as traditional sectors, where you can apply your skills innovatively.

  • Dream big: Research the fields that pique your interest, analyzing the day-to-day tasks and how your experience aligns. Note average salaries, certifications needed, and career outlook.
  • Get hands-on experience: Consider volunteering or freelancing in your areas of interest before leaving your current job. You’ll get a glimpse into everyday duties, add to your resume, and have the safety net of your current income.
  • Narrow your choices: Refine your list of potential fields based on the insights and experiences gained.

3. Research and Gather Information

thoughtful man looking computer
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

Keep whittling down your list until you’ve found a new industry that will be the ideal fit for this next stage in your career. Once you home in on potential new career paths, deep-dive to find the specific roles that interest you, and identify the qualifications you’ll need.

  • Attend career fairs and networking events: Both in-person and virtual career events offer great opportunities to meet professionals and recruiters. You can learn more about different companies and the roles they’re hiring for.
  • Conduct informational interviews: Start networking with professionals in the fields you’re considering. Ask for informational interviews to learn about their responsibilities, challenges, and what they enjoy about their job. You’ll gain a firsthand perspective on the roles you’re considering.
  • Engage in online groups: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn groups tailored to specific careers or industries are excellent resources for both learning and networking.
  • Find a mentor: Look for a career change mentor successfully working in the field you’re interested in. Their guidance, feedback, and insights can help inform your decisions.
  • Join professional associations: Being part of industry-specific associations or groups can provide access to industry news, resources, and networking opportunities.
  • Participate in webinars and workshops: Get up-to-date information on skills and qualifications needed in your field of interest by participating in webinars and workshops.
  • Utilize job boards: Explore job descriptions on reputable job boards, like the one here at FlexJobs. Fill out your profile and set job alerts to get a feel for the time it takes for a job opening to get filled, the skills needed, and the general industry jargon used.

4. Make an Action Plan

Businessman or office worker wearing a suit sitting near the window working on laptop and smartphone thinking seriously
insta_photos / Shutterstock.com

You’ve set your new career goal. Now, it’s time to strategize how you’ll get there. Craft a step-by-step career change action plan to bridge the gap between your current and future careers. Your plan might involve further education, obtaining certifications, or finding new ways to grow your network.

  • Assess your skills and gaps: Revisit your list of current skills and compare them to what’s required in your new career. Identify the gaps and decide how to fill them through formal education, online courses, or self-study.
  • Build your network: Connect with professionals already working in your target field. Networking tips for your career change include attending industry meetups, joining relevant LinkedIn groups, and asking for informational interviews to gain insights and advice.
  • Develop a timeline: Once you’ve decided to make a change, you’d like to start next week. But you should create a realistic timeline for your career transition. Your plan needs to include details such as when you’ll complete courses, grow your network, and apply for new roles.
  • Gain relevant experience: Look for opportunities such as volunteer work, internships, or part-time roles. You might also want to look into job training programs for your career change. Experiences like these can make your transition smoother and enhance your appeal to potential employers.
  • Identify specific goals: Clearly define what success looks like in your new career. Establish short-term and long-term goals that will guide your path forward.
  • Prepare financially: Changing careers can involve periods of unemployment or a temporary pay cut. Save an emergency fund to give yourself a financial buffer during the transition.
  • Stay flexible and open to learning: Be prepared to adapt your plan as you learn more about your new field and as opportunities arise. Proactively seek learning opportunities to continuously develop your skills and knowledge.
  • Update your resume and LinkedIn profile: It’s time to translate your skills with an updated resume and LinkedIn profile to highlight the skills and experiences relevant to your new job. Use keywords and phrases that are common in your target industry.

5. Get to Work

checking tax return status online
Pressmaster / Shutterstock.com

It’s finally time for the fun part. You get to implement your plan and start moving toward your new career. Whether studying, networking, or job hunting, consistent effort will move you closer to your new career. Be prepared for setbacks, but keep sight of your goals.

  • Prepare for interviews: Research common interview questions and questions specific to your target role. Conduct mock interviews with a friend or mentor to gain confidence and practice your responses.
  • Reflect and adjust: Regularly review your job search strategy and progress. Be open to adjusting your approach based on what’s working and what isn’t. Flexibility and persistence are key to overcoming career change obstacles.
  • Set daily goals: Create a list of achievable daily tasks, such as applying to a certain number of jobs, networking with other professionals, or learning a new skill relevant to your target field. Micro goals help keep your momentum going and ensure continuous progress.
  • Stay informed about your industry: Keep up with news, trends, and developments in your target field. Current information can inform your job search strategy and prepare you to add relevant ideas to conversations during networking events or interviews.

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