Most of the world’s population spends a third of their life working. And according to a 2019 survey, including 6,600 workers in the United States, more than half are unhappy in their current job.
Job dissatisfaction doesn’t just stay in the office. It can create an ongoing psychological toll off the clock, too, resulting in chronic stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout.
If you’re miserable at work, when do you know it’s time for change? And perhaps more importantly, how do you make a switch without tanking your professional life?
Making the leap into a new field or restarting after years out of the workforce is daunting. But it doesn’t have to be.
Carol Fishman Cohen, co-founder of career reentry firm iRelaunch, details how to effectively reset your career, step by step.
iRelaunch works with employers to create their in-house return to work programs and with a national community of professionals seeking to return to work after career breaks. She’s coached hundreds of employees through this complicated process.
Relaunching your career requires reflecting on personal passions, financial status, skills, and drivers of dissatisfaction within the current job, Fishman Cohen explains. Then, exploring, networking, and researching in a new, desired field. If you take those actions, and choose to restart, the benefits can be huge.
“Those who successfully make career transitions can be extremely fulfilled and happy, and this can be reflected in turn in the quality of their relationships and their general mental health and well-being,” Fishman Cohen tells Inverse. “Sometimes people wonder why they waited so long or why they were so afraid to make the career change they had fantasized about.”
I’m Ali Pattillo and this is Strategy, a series packed with actionable tips to help you make the most out of your life, career, and finances.
When it’s time to jump ship— Often, professionals find themselves down a career path without fully understanding how they ended up there. “When we look at how we began our careers, we may identify that we were fulfilling someone else’s expectations, like our parents’, or that we simply fell into a first job without a lot of thought,” Fishman Cohen says. Once we took a second role in that same area, we suddenly had a “career” and then life went on, she adds. “There was little thinking involved in whether the jobs or career were a good match with skills and interests.” Life events like having a child, losing a job, or taking care of an elderly loved one can force people to step back and reevaluate whether they were on the right career path to begin with. But a career reset isn’t always prompted by a singular, life-changing event. Long stretches of dissatisfaction can lead employees to burnout or question whether their job is right for them.
When either scenario plays out in your life, it’s crucial to break down your motivations, values, and desired professional outcomes.
Six tips to relaunch your career— There are four major tips Fishman Cohen suggests for how to reboot your work life:
- Hit the books, then network, network, network: A great way to investigate a new career is to talk to people who are in that career, read books by experts in the new industry, volunteer in the field, and take individual courses and certificate programs to increase relevant skills, she suggests. “You can measure your aptitude for and interest in the new path by taking some or all of these actions and then decide for yourself whether it is the right match.” A great way to gauge whether the new field is a good fit is by paying attention to whether this process is positive and energizing. If it is not, that may be a sign to think more about the new career choice.
- Get specific: A big mistake people make when transitioning to a new field is not getting specific enough, she cautions. “When people ask you, you don’t say, ‘Yes, I’m working on a transition to a career in financial services.’ Instead, you say, ‘I’m working on a transition to a career in the compliance area of finance, specifically anti-money laundering.’” Being targeted will demonstrate you’ve done your research and are equipped to be successful in a specific role.
- Go public with your job search: Another mistake people make when relaunching careers is they spend all their time researching and applying for jobs online, but they never “get out of the house” and tell other people about it, Fishman Cohen says. Tell everyone you know you are making a career switch or returning to work, she advises. Job offers can stem from informal connections, and you never know which casual conversation will lead to a great opportunity.
- Go the extra mile: Fishman Cohen suggests getting a field-specific certification or joining an industry’s professional association. Go to events and read the associations’ publications. Meanwhile, if you can, learn to code or get an accounting or engineering certification — if that makes you a more competitive candidate for the new job you’re after.
- Get an outsider’s perspective: If you’re weighing a career transition, it can be helpful to consult friends, mentors, or career coaches. These people can help you more objectively analyze your current dilemma and might offer novel solutions. Even if you aren’t ready to restart, having these conversations on a regular basis can help you zero in on your goals and the path to achieving them.
- Don’t forget to factor in money: The ability to relaunch your career depends heavily on your level of financial security. When you are changing fields or relaunching your career after a long break, you may need to come in at a lower level and for lower compensation than before, Fishman Cohen says. Or, if you’re taking a career pause to reflect and research next steps, you’ll need savings to tide you over in the weeks or months without income.
At the end of the day, we work to live and, arguably, live to work. It isn’t always going to be sunshine and rainbows, but if it’s true misery more days than not, it could be a sign to make a change by incorporating these helpful tips.