Ask an expert: Time for a career change?

Every year I plan to make a job change, but 15 years later, I'm still in the same job. I keep looking at classified ads wondering if there's something better. How do I motivate myself to actually make a change?

Change comes in many sizes. To figure out what kind of change is right for you, two things need to happen: you have to decide what you love about your current job, and exactly what is missing. Sit down and list the three best and worst things about your work. Once you know what is truly absent – such as creativity or security – you are ready to start making decisions.

A small change: new project

Small steps offer the possibility of something new without committing to a radical career change. Would taking on a special project or switching jobs but staying in the same organization be satisfying? Or perhaps work is not the only way to fill the gap. I know many people who find their passion through volunteer work, community involvement or just time spent with family and friends. Too often, we try to make a job fulfil all of our needs rather than seeing it as just one part of our lives.

A medium change: new workplace

We often imagine that all companies and organizations have the same culture. Not true. The environment and setting are as important as the job itself. I once worked in an administrative position at a college where I felt my prospects were pretty hopeless. I decided to switch to another college that had recently opened. Why? I realized I did not want a change of job so much as a change of job setting. The new college offered me the opportunity to work in a fun and chaotic setting where the rules were being created as we went along.

A big change: new industry

A major job change requires enormous courage and faith, whether you want to move sectors, become an entrepreneur or start a completely different career. For this kind of change, invest in a career counsellor who will help you develop a plan of action. (Expect to pay anywhere from $75 to $125 or more per hour.) You also need to spend time with people in the industry to find out what it’s really like. Once you make a contact, ask her for at least two more names of people you can talk to. This will give you a network that may allow you to volunteer or job shadow.

Finding the will

When I have trouble getting motivated, I post a note that says “I can and I will” to remind myself that I am the one who can make it happen. Make a commitment to do one action every week: meet or call someone in your new network, research jobs on the Internet, find a career coach. If you invest time in discovery, you’ll decide to either stay or move. You owe it to yourself to at least see what else is out there. Good luck!

Career expert Barbara Quinn wrote Snap, Crackle or Stop: Change Careers and Create Your Own Destiny (Perseus Books) and is a consultant with 22c Partners Inc. in Vancouver

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