Top 5 Tips for Switching Your Career

You've mentored a handful of colleagues, challenged yourself with new projects around the office, even taken up an after-hours hobby like knitting or jujitsu. But no matter how many ways you try to rekindle the passion you once had for that soul-quashing job of yours, one undeniable truth remains: You still would rather memorize the entire federal tax code than head in to work on Monday mornings.

To make matters worse, you can't see your way past this daily drudgery long enough to choose a career you'd like to pursue instead. And even if you could, you're not sure how the heck you'd find the time to get from here to there.


For suggestions on how to break out of your employment rut, I turned to workplace expert Alexandra Levit, whose latest book on career change is "New Job, New You: A Guide to Reinventing Yourself in a Bright New Career." For those who aren't sure where to begin, she offers these five tips, some of which you can do during your lunch hour.

1. Take Stock of Your Talents

For those unsure which of their interests and talents they could get paid to do, or where their interests even lie, Levit suggested rooting around an occupation database like O*NET or spending a few minutes taking an online career assessment test like Careerlink Inventory or CoachCompass, both of which are free.

One caveat about career assessment tests: "Make sure you keep your expectations in check," Levit said. "It's unlikely that one test will result in career fulfillment, so take several and see if you can detect patterns in the findings."

If databases and assessment tests aren't your bag, Levit recommended some good old-fashioned daydreaming. Pretend you're retired and writing your memoirs about the most meaningful work you did in your life, Levit said, citing as an example her 90-year-old grandfather, who's most proud of the work he did with the American Red Cross and U.S. Army.

"Imagine you're in his place," she said. "What would you want to be writing about?" Of course, sometimes we're too baffled by our current employment situation to take stock of our own interests and passions. Or we're too modest or too hard on ourselves to accurately assess our own strengths. Asking an objective friend or colleague to weigh in on the roles or jobs they think we'd enjoy and excel at can help yield some fresh ideas, Levit suggested.

2. Get a Financial Grip

Cash flow concerns are one of the biggest reasons people let themselves languish in a career they can no longer stand. Yet, far too many people write off making a career change without even doing the math.

Sites like Glassdoor and Salary can give you ballpark starting salaries for the fields you're interested in. But don't stop there.

"Talk to people in your prospective industry to determine how long it will take you to get up and running in your new career and how much you will need to spend on additional schooling, training and other professional development activities," Levit advised.

And don't be afraid to ask industry insiders how much a newbie like you might earn their first few years in the field.

Likewise, don't let credit card debt or your latte habit be the thing that stands between you and a shiny new career. Track your personal expenses, trim the fat, pay down debts and do your best to dump a few extra bucks a week into your career change fund, Levit said.

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