Think Twice: Crucial Considerations before You Make a Career Change Decision

You’re stuck in a career that does nothing for you, and you keep hearing that you’re supposed to do something that you love if you are to be successful. What do you do, though? A career coach may be able to show you the way, but it can help to put in some work yourself. The more you know about yourself, the more information you’ll be able to give the career coach to help you with.

Tread carefully when it comes to picking a new career 

You’re in luck if you do have a reasonable idea what you want to do. It can never do, however, to assume that your ideas are on the money. Plenty of people make poorly thought-out career switches simply because they’ve fallen in love with a trendy choice, or because they want to imitate someone they admire.

It’s important, before you actually make a move, to take a few classes for the career in question, or try a couple of unpaid internships. These attempts will help you see how your mind responds to the career choice.

Try multiple possibilities

It can be hard to know what talents you really possess, or what really makes you happy. It can be an excellent idea to narrow down your list to three different career options, and try your hand at each one of them. In many cases, it even make sense to try a new career in your own industry. It could help you take advantage of your industry experience.

You could even try a quick internship in a career path that you know you aren’t interested in. The experience will help solidify notions that you’ve always held, and it will lend new resolve to your search for a career that will truly make you happy.

Do you have other aims?

As wonderful as it can be to finally know what you want to do, you do need to know if your choice can work well with your other hopes, dreams and lifestyle choices. Do you live in your own home, and will moving require you to sell? It could be a sensible move to do so if you are willing. Career changes can be undermined by things as simple as the requirement in a new job to commute, or the need to work late. Pay, benefits, vacation, work stress and even exposure to economic uncertainties can all make an otherwise well-loved career difficult to put up with. It’s sensible to take a year for research.

There’s the transition problem

For far too many people hoping to switch to careers they love, the stumbling block turns out to be the transition. They need a plan for how to get by in the time that they take to earn their qualifications, enter the new career and advance to a level where they make a reasonable income. Do you have savings? How about relying on a partner? You need a definite plan for what you will do.

Do you have a fallback?

Even the best laid plans are known to fail. Taking risks can come easier when you don’t have a family to support. If you do have responsibilities, though, you won’t have the luxury of taking your time to find a new job or career path. You’ll need to plan a fallback before you make any irreversible moves away from your current career. Not only will this mean less tumult in your life, it will mean less anxiety, as well. It wouldn’t hurt, for example, to make sure that your old job is always open to you before you move out.

Mentally preparing yourself

When it comes to career changes, popular anecdotes show Americans going through as many as seven in a lifetime. While there isn’t much evidence in support of the number, it does show that career changes are common across the Atlantic.

Career changes are healthy, because they demonstrate a desire to take risks. Successful career changes on a resume can even look attractive to potential employers. Yet, Britain has some way to go here. With not many used to the idea of career switches, you could see resistance both among employers and friends and family. Yet, it’s important to not give up on the idea. The freedom to change careers can mentally free you up to go after a better life.


Great Opportunity, Crappy Timing

A little over a year ago, I blogged about receiving a conditional offer of employment for a once in a lifetime opportunity. Getting that conditional offers was one of the best feelings ever. Getting the final offer, however, was one of the worst.  Let me take you on a journey back through this crazy hiring process.

February 2009:

I applied to said dream job thinking there was ZERO chance of actually getting an offer. I don’t say “zero chance” for dramatic effect. I literally didn’t think there was any way I would be deemed qualified for this position. But, I followed my own advice, and applied anyways.

June 2009:

After five months of silence, I for sure thought my application had been thrown in the “What the heck was this guy thinkin’ when he applied here” pile. But instead, received a conditional offer. The letter stated I had to jump through a number of hoops in order to receive a final offer. The letter also stated the vast majority of applicants are disqualified at some point in the hiring process…aka don’t expect to make it through the process.

August 2009 through January 2010:

About every three to four weeks their was “another step” in the hiring process I had to complete. I can’t share them all, but here’s a glimpse of what I went through: multiple drug tests, physical fitness/agility test, polygraph, psychological evaluation, medical evaluation, and a bunch of other crazy things.

May 2010:

Fifteen months after I apply, I’m told that my application went in for final review and I had been approved for hire. I am to expect to go to the academy in early 2011.

July 21st 2010:

I wake up to an email that says I have been selected to attend the academy  from September ’10 to January ’11. I call Girl Ninja and freak out because I don’t know what to do. This means I’d be leaving four months earlier than we planned. We talk on the phone for an hour or so and realize we have to make a really difficult decision. Do I accept the offer? Or turn it down?

So that is the background on the application process. Now I’ll share a little bit about why this decision is so hard. The first, and only reason, being the timing of the offer. There are a number of reasons why it would be terribly inconvenient to leave for academy just a few weeks after getting married. I couldn’t imagine spending the first four months of my marriage away from GN. Is it doable? Yes. Is it ideal. Hell no. Now I know you might be thinking “Can’t Girl Ninja just go with you?” No. She can’t.

So this left us with a major dilemma. Do we accept the offer and face a less than ideal first year of marriage? Or do we turn it down so we could be together? I hate having to make decisions without adequately getting to think about how each decision will effect me/us. I had three days to respond.

Fortunately, after speaking with some HR folks. I was able to be removed from the September class and will be considered for a class sometime in 2011. This “hiccup” has been a great learning experience for both Girl Ninja and I, as we’ve truly had to learn how to communicate our desires with one another. We had different opinions on how to handle the situation and through some long conversations, and a few tears, we were able to make a decision that we were both content with.

It’s nerve racking not knowing what the future holds, but I’m glad I get to figure out these difficult things with Girl Ninja 🙂 Sorry if I came across as a drama queen. You probably thought someone died or something, and you’re probably thinking “This was what he was freakin’ out about?” but hey, for us it was a big deal, and the first “married couple” decision we have had to make. 

p.s. you can read this article for a few more details about the job.

I’d do it differently

I entered college, fall 2003, a young and ambitious accounting major. I picked accounting because I  knew they made a lot of money and I was pretty bada$$ with a TI-83. While I did well in my first macroeconomics course, I quickly realized that “business” related subjects were of no interest to me. My introduction to psychology course, however, was a different story. I was fascinated by the content. I loved learning about the brain and how people work. I changed my major after my first semester, and eventually walked across the stage with a B.A. in Psych.

I don’t regret being a psych major for one minute. I loved my classes, LOVED my professors (I actually played tennis with them every Tuesday and Thursday morning), and just generally loved the whole psych department. That said, if I traveled back in time to 2003, I am 99% sure I would not graduate with a degree in psychology.

While I may have loved the content and the people in my major, I didn’t really love the career fields psych generally leads to (i.e. counseling). I almost feel like my degree limits my potential, especially when it comes to job hunting. My degree does very little to highlight my strengths. When a recruiter reviews my resume and sees a B.A. in Psychology, he is not going to know that I also took Organic Chemistry, Physics, Calculus, Statistics, and Biochemistry (none of which were required by my major). While I could have taken “bowling”, “Intro to photography”, or some other class to satisfy the credits required to graduate, I decided to take challenging courses for my general electives.

Do I believe your major is the determining factor in one’s career potential? Absoultely not. But there are positions I would love to apply for, but can’t, simply because I don’t have a degree in business administration or the like. Take for example the Finance industry. It would be darn near impossible for me to land an interview for any kind of legitimate position in the financial sector… even though I may be more knowledgeable and capable than other applicants with business related degrees. Ten years down the road, I’m sure my education will become less of a factor with prospective employers, but when you are 24 years old, and have only a few years of work under your belt, you better believe your education is going to be HEAVILY considered.

That said, I refuse to let my degree be a limiting factor in my career growth. There are a million different means by which I can prove to my prospective employer that I really am the best candidate for the job, even if my degree is not specifically related to the field. And you better believe I will be highlighting each of those strengths during my next interview.

If I had the opportunity to do college again I would probably get my degree in Statistics or Math. And I would probably have gone to a state school instead of a private college (although I totally loved my school). Gosh, this makes me want to go punch a business major in the face (only kidding). Okay, I’m done dwelling on the past. Time to move forward.

What was your major in college?

If you could do college again, would you choose a different major?

If you didn’t go to college, do you wish you did?

Anyone out there that went to college, wish they hadn’t?

p.s. if you are wondering if you blew it when you picked your major, take a look at this chart of the ten “worst” college degrees…

College Degrees                Starting Salary

  1. Social Work                        $33,400
  2. Elementary Education         $33,000
  3. Theology                            $34,800
  4. Music                                 $34,000
  5. Spanish                              $35,600
  6. Horticulture                        $37,200
  7. Education                           $36,200
  8. Hospitality/Tourism           $37,000
  9. Fine Arts                            $35,800
  10. Drama                                $35,600

Federal Employees make me want to puke

Before I get in to the content of today’s post, Let me be clear: I don’t represent or speak on behalf of the US Govt in any capacity.

I get it. You hate the government and you hate me because I work for the government.

My inspiriation for todays rant came from this article over at Fabulously Broke. The article includes a chart showing the relationship between Federal employee’s salaries compared to private sector salaries in a similar position. FB did a good job writing a relatively neutral article, with only slight undertones that Feds have the good life.  Anywho, here is a copy of that chart…

You’ll notice in all but two fields, the federal employee’s average salary is higher than that of their private sector counterpart. This appears to piss off quite a few people. Here are just three (out of 175) comments left on an article at BigGovernment (which also blogged about this chart).

  • Time to start firing federal employees. We in the private sector cannot afford them. We must have a right not to financially support others, don’t we? Are these federal employees our children? I am pissed.
  • This doesn’t elicit tears, but it does make me want to puke.
  • But with those higher salaries we get the cream of the crop. I’m sorry…I meant scum off the top. Most government workers I know would have a damn difficult time getting a job in the private sector.

While I definitely understand where these people are coming from, I do feel as though I need to at least defend myself a little bit.

I wrote a while back about how the government pay structure works. It’s important to remember that with the government, you know exactly how much money you are going to make in your current position. It doesn’t matter how good of an employee you are, your income can’t exceed your job series. This is not true in the private sector. You have the potential to earn whatever income you are worth (either by requesting a raise, working for a different company, or becoming self employed).

Sure the average federal civil engineer salary might be higher than the private sector equivalent, but there aren’t any federal engineers making more than the government has predetermined they can be paid. Not one. The highest paid federal engineers in the country might be making $150K/yr, but the highest paid private sector engineers are making millions. When you work for “The Man” you give up your right to continually grow your income. Personally, I think that is a pretty significant sacrifice.

I also think it’s interesting that this list leaves out some of the more common “white collar” professions. Namely, medical doctor and lawyer. I think I know why they did this however. There is no way in H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks a federal physician’s/lawyer’s salary is going to be higher than their private sector counterparts. Possibly a little bias in the charts? I wonder how many other positions were left out in which this would also be the case?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all trying to say those employed by Uncle Sam have it bad. ‘Cause I don’t think that is true. As is true with all companies, there are pros and cons to working for the fed. It’s not all butterflies, ponies, and happiness…at least I don’t think it is… and if it is I didn’t get the memo. For now, I have thoroughly enjoyed the benefits of working for Uncle Sam, but I personally think the salary structure of the Fed will eventually drive me to the private sector. I want the ability to earn what I’m worth, not what my job series says I’m going to be paid.

So, what do you think? Where did the bitterness towards federal employees salary come from? Is the bitterness really about the salary, or more about frustration with the government as a whole? Would you ever work for “The Man”? Why or why not? Do you hate me (please don’t answer that question if you do… I’m kind of sensitive :))

My weirdest job’s weirder than your weirdest job

I love Fridays. I also love Friday blog posts because I generally try to make them less financial and more fun. Today, I’m gonna be writing about the weirdest job I have ever had. Afterwards, I hope you’ll share your weirdest job so we can see what PDITF reader has had THE WEIRDEST JOB OF ALL TIME!

Here’s mine…

I graduated college Spring 2007 with a shiny new degree in psychology. I was fascinated by medicine, hospitals, and the world of mental health so I started applying to a ton of hospitals. I interviewed for a summer position at an involuntary psychiatric hospital near my parents home in Washington state. For those that don’t know, “involuntary” means the patient does not want to be in treatment but either the police, the court, or their family felt otherwise. They are literally locked inside a building (24/hrs a day, 7 days a week) as they are considered a danger to themselves and others. I was 21 years old and had no idea what I was getting myself in to.

I was paid $13/hr to monitor the ward and ensure the safety of all the patients. It may sound condescending, and I don’t mean for it to be, but I was essentially a babysitter for mentally sick adults. I made their meals, watched movies with them, counseled them, made art projects with them, changed their clothes when they “messed” themselves, etc. I loved my job. I got to watch people, who were desperately in need of help, get better. I personally can’t think of anything more rewarding than watching a “sick” person become healthy.

Needless to say, I had quite a few “odd experiences” during my three months working at the hospital. During that time I…

… was threatened to be killed (numerous times)

… watched a patient walk in to the bathroom and start taking a shower while fully clothed

… was told I have a green aura that hovers above my head

… watched someone poop in their hand and then proceed to eat it

… received a phone call from a former patient that wanted to know if I would meet him at McDonalds for lunch. (I declined)

… and was hit on by a number of female patients…and one male patient

These are a just few memories that come to mind when I reflect upon my three months as a psychiatric technician. I have more stories, but don’t think they would be appropriate to share here (you might throw up in your mouth if you heard em). It was definitely the weirdest job I’ve ever had, but also the most fulfilling. I’ve learned that weird doesn’t always mean bad, in fact it can often be fun, exciting, and new.

So now that you know my weirdest job, care to share yours? Do you think it trumps mine? If you haven’t had a totally odd ball job, do you know someone that has? Let’s see just how crazy of a work history we can get going in the comment section below!

I’m a friend whore

That’s right, I just made 10,834 new friends today. All with the first name George, last name Washington. Sure these “friends” may be inanimate objects (one dollar bills to be exact), but that doesn’t make them unimportant. In fact, they will be a GREAT asset for my future.

You know that $12,000 raise I have been talking about lately? Well I finally got it. I know what you are thinking, $10,834 is not $12,000. You are right, kind of

On 12/31/09 my salary was $50,547. On January 1st, my salary was”adjusted for inflation” to $51,617. And today my salary is $62,451, making for a grand total gain of $11,904 in the last two months. If you don’t understand the government pay system you can see my breakdown of it here.

It’s hard for me to fathom a $24,255 salary increase in the two years I’ve been working. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t turn me on a little… okay A LOT!!!!

I don’t really plan to do anything different with my larger paycheck. I will likely just contribute more to my savings and continue  paying down my student loan ahead of schedule. Even though my salary has increased, my standard of living hasn’t. And that brings me to today’s message: When one’s salary goes up, his/her cost of living does not have to follow suit.

Sure you could use the $4,000 bonus you got to buy 4,000 double cheeseburgers off the dollar menu at McDonals, but is that really necessary? Heck to the no it aint. Real wealth building occurs as salary goes up, but expenses don’t. Suck on that materialism.

Seeing that there was no real room for dialogue in today’s short message, I’m just gonna ask some questions that I hope you will answer…

1) What’s the largest raise/bonus you ever received and what did you do with it?

2) Would you stay in a position you LOVED even if there was slim to no chance of upward movement?

3) Do you have any suggestions for ways to make PDITF better?

4) What are you doing this weekend?

5) Can you “afford” her?…

Happy weekend all!!!

My job could be my own worst enemy

I graduated college at 21 without the slightest idea what I was going to do for a living. I took my psychology degree and landed myself a job with The Fed. I’m pretty vague about my specific position, but I have mentioned before it involves investigations. Over the last two years I have gotten really good at investigating things that I’m suppose to investigate. It’s a sweet job, but I knew going in to it, I had to make a decision… A decision that would impact the rest of my life.

I set a rule for myself when I accepted my job offer: Get out within five years, or do it for the rest of your life. Ya see, my job is such a narrow/specific field, that the skills I have learned over the last couple years do not really translate well in to most other career fields. I know that if I stay in my position for more than five years, I will have a freakin’ difficult time trying to find a job in a different field, because aside from investigating things, I wont have any other applicable skill sets.

I re-read that last paragraph and realize I’m not doing a very good job at communicating my thoughts (must be too much nacho cheese from the Superbowl party yesterday). The best way to enlighten you is by example. Think about a cop. Their job is pretty specific: Keep the city civil. Do you know many cops that only work for the department for a couple years and then transition to corporate America? I sure as heck don’t. Most cops are career cops. They work for their local P.D. until the day they retire. It’s not a bad gig if you love being a cop, but it’s not the greatest thing if you want to change careers.

Some positions are stepping stones, i.e. HR assistant, financial analyst, marketing intern. They are a means to an end. You take the financial analyst job so you can transition to a corporate relationship manager, then promote to vice president, and eventually become a partner in the company. You get to climb the corporate ladder and you have a billion different options if you decide you want to change companies or positions. But, what the heck are you suppose to do when you don’t have a stepping stone job? How do I keep from allowing my current job to limit my future potential?

I have some thoughts on this that I’ll be posting up tomorrow, but for now I want to hear from you. Has anyone out there found their job prospects severely hindered as a result of your current position? What do you do if you love your job, make good money, but don’t want to do it for the rest of your life? Has anyone had success changing from one field, to a DRASTICALLY different field? Gimme some insight, ’cause I need some help!