CAREER CHANGE – Do I Stay or Do I Go?

In difficult economic times and with the national unemployment average holding steady in the 9 percent range, making a career change may be a scary prospect. It is certainly not impossible, but the possibility must be approached strategically and realistically.

Statistically, people change jobs 9 times during their lifetime and change careers 4 times. There are many reasons why; downsizing/layoff, relocation, lack of satisfaction, burnout, change in finances, or pursuit of a passion. Regardless of the reason, changing careers can be both challenging and rewarding, when the process is attacked with a clear vision and a plan.

Step 1:

When I begin the career coaching process, I ask my clients some telling questions:

  • Why are you looking to make a change?
  • In five years, what does your life look and feel like if you stay where you are?
  • In five years, what does your life look and feel like if you follow your passion?
  • Who does your change affect and how?
  • How will a change affect you financially today, in 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years?
  • What are you good at?
  • What do you like to do? (Not the same questions as above!)
  • What are you NOT so good at?
  • What do you NOT like to do? (Not the same questions as above!)

I then recommend that we dig deeper before we discuss by completing a validated career insight assessment, to make sure the client is true to his/herself and to uncover additional, crucial information that the client may not even be aware of, and generate a snapshot of the client’s personality, showing which careers might suit them best.

Step 2:

We evaluate the financial situation. If  a career change means an initial investment or pay reduction, is it feasible?  For how long? What else might you need to do in order to pursue a change and “fill in the financial gap?”  Are you supported by the people in your life that this will affect?

Step 3:

After we have identified a new career path we want to do our homework on that career.  What is the forecast? What are the responsibilities and do they match your abilitites/interests? Do you have the tools and education needed? What are the pay scales / earning potential? The internet has several great sources for gathering these insights.

Step 4:

We ask the question “Am I being realistic?”  Certain careers require education, certifications, training, and licenses and so you must ask yourself “Is it realistic to go back to medical school to become a doctor?” “Can I attend continuing education courses to update my computer skills or obtain a certification?” “Most of the jobs that interest me are in another part of the country, can I relocate?” Questions along this line will help you to see if the change is viable.

Once you have walked through the 4 initial steps, it is helpful to organize everything that you have answered and gathered, and create a plan.  If your decision is to make a change, then be strategic, create your own action plan, and step into phase 2… making it happen.

The process can be overwhelming but it is manageable. A good career coach can partner with you to lay set you on the right path, and hold you accountable for… making it happen.


Marlboro resident Michelle A. Riklan is an author, public speaker, certified professional résumé writer, career coach, and employment interview consultant. She is co-author of “101 Great Ways to Enhance Your Career” and can be reached . Her website address is