Considering a career change or some study ?

August 4, 2014
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This week I have spoken with a few people regarding their decision to engage in University study and it has inspired me to write this article. It is an area which interests me a lot, although I have to admit that the interest is based on my personal experience and the wonderful outcome it has provided to my husband and my family.

In short, my husband was working in the city in finance and often came home from work feeling flat and uninspired. This continued for about 6 months before he began discussing the possibility of changing careers. I was pregnant expecting our first baby and running a business where an income wasn’t reliable. I have to admit that the idea of a career change was a little concerning especially as I was about to be taking leave and I would not be generating much of an income for some time. Despite the anxiety around the endeavour, my husband made a well informed decision to enrol in a postgraduate secondary teaching course that would provide him with the qualification of being a secondary school teacher in his area of expertise after 12 months. He then went on to juggle part-time work and full-time study for a year and was soon employed as a teacher. It is without doubt one of the best decisions that he has made in the time that I have known him and I absolutely encourage others to have the courage to make decisions that are in their longer-term best interests both emotionally and environmentally.

So let me get on to my recommendations as both a clinical psychologist and as a wife of someone who has had the pleasure of personally experiencing the benefits of a change in career and study. To those of you looking at a career change or more study I recommend that you consider the following:

  1. Be clear in identifying why you may not be feeling satisfied with where you are at with your career or study. What is missing for you in the here and now?
  2. Compile a list of possibilities both with career thoughts and study possibilities
  3. Brainstorm the positives of each of these careers and/or study options
  4. Brainstorm the negatives of each of these career or study options
  5. In weighing up the positives and negatives of each course or career, consider how each of these benefits and consequences relate to what you value. For example, if a positive of a career is that you will be home earlier to be with the family but the negative is a pay reduction, compare within yourself the values of family and financial stability and prioritise options that focus on positives in line with your values and negatives that will not be too consequential on what you value.
  6. Believe in yourself! Everyone experiences doubt when they are making major life decisions. If you have considered the strengths and weaknesses of each option and your top options are consistent with your values, there is enough in this to consider change.
  7. Check the logistics of this option. While it is good to take some risks and to believe in yourself, following through with an option needs to be realistic and achievable. For example, can you afford financially to follow this goal (e.g. can you pay your bills- it might be helpful to run a budget on this to check its viability)? Are you able to continue to attend to your other important commitments and responsibilities including your relationships with family and friends? Do you have the academic grades or background to gain entry into the course? If not, have you identified a way to get into this course or career that is reasonable?
  8. Communicate your thoughts and goals to people who know you well and be open to their feedback and recommendations.
  9. Speak to people who specialise in the career or course to discuss the relevance and appropriateness for you
  10. It is ok to dip your toe in the water! Consider engaging in a short related course or elect to study 1-2 subjects in the first semester to assess whether it is right for you.
  11. Be willing to face your fears. We all experience concerns when changing a career or enrolling in a new course. If you have considered all the above, challenge yourself to give it a go.
  12. There is time! Both the people that I have spoken to this week are in their 30’s. Careers usually run into one’s 60’s and some people work until the end of their lifespan. Changing careers in your 30’s and 40s (and even 50s and 60s) is ok! If you are in your mid 30s for example, you still have at least half your career ahead of you.

Make an informed decision by considering all the options, the strengths and weaknesses of each and assess these in accordance with what you value. If everything matches up- it might be worth giving it a go!