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9 questions to ask yourself before choosing or switching careers

At a glance

  • Before choosing a career, it’s important to consider your goals, strengths and values, the earning potential of each viable option and what kind of education a potential career requires.
  • To change careers, consider your motivations, transferable skills, potential risks and whether it’s worth the investment. 
  • When making a career change, it can also be helpful to think through what you liked and didn’t like in your current job and find an opportunity that is an improvement. 
  • Get free, downloadable career guides and templates from University of Phoenix!

Finding a career that is right for you

Your career choice can impact your entire life — your happiness, income, health and career prospects. So, if you don’t have a calling, or your calling doesn’t align with a career that can support you, how do you choose the right one? How important is passion? Skills? Earning potential? Location?

Here, we explore how to decide when a new career is right for you, whether you’re just starting out or contemplating a career change.

Every degree is backed by career support for life. 

Check out our resources. 

4 questions for choosing a career

Hiring managers and career changers who’ve been through the grind have some insights to share when it comes to career planning. Alice Rush, career advisor at University of Phoenix, weighs in on five questions to ask yourself to make a well-informed decision about your career path.

1.   What are your long-term goals? 

While you may initiate a passion project on a whim, a career choice needs to be more carefully considered. For this, knowing your long-term goals is crucial. It helps ensure that you make a strategic decision that aligns with your desired future.

Think about what you want now and what you want to be doing 20 years from now. Ask yourself if career advancement is your long-term goal and whether you look forward to leadership roles such as a career in management.

If financial stability and security are top priorities, roles in information technology or finance could offer high earning potential and job security.

Likewise, if you want a fulfilling personal life while also pursuing a career, evaluate careers that offer flexibility in work hours or location, such as freelance writing or entrepreneurship. 

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2.   What kind of education or training do you need?

Many careers require specific knowledge, skills and qualifications. But even when a job doesn’t demand prescribed training, accruing relevant qualifications could help you in your career journey. For example, earning an MBA may better position you for opportunities in a business-related field.

By thinking about what education or training you need when choosing a career, plus researching what may not be required but could help anyway, you can better plan your career path.

3.   What are your interests, strengths and skills? 

Think about your natural abilities, where you excel and the skills you’ve acquired through your education and work experience.

If you’re good at problem-solving and have strong analytical skills, you may be interested in data analysis, finance or engineering. If you enjoy working in a supportive role and are passionate about helping people, a career in healthcare, social work or education might be worth considering.

As you narrow down your options, think about how aligned your passion, skills and personal attributes are. It’s important to reflect on this because, while our interests might change every couple of years, our values and personality stay very much the same throughout our lives.

Rush recommends asking yourself questions like, “What energizes me about work? What skills elate me and make me feel energized?” 

What you do well matters, but what excites you matters just as much. 

4.   What are your values? 

Knowing your values allows you to find fulfilling work that aligns with your beliefs.

What satisfies you most? Is it money, recognition, status, knowledge, independence, creativity, impact, making a difference or helping others?

Rush advocates for the Myers-Briggs personality assessment. “It’s a way to know what you need in a career throughout your life to be satisfying,” she says. “Then, check out Do What You Are, a book by Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger, and read the chapter on your type.” 

Aligning your career with your biggest source of motivation helps ensure you’ll still like what you’re doing 20 years down the road.

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5 questions to ask yourself before switching careers

A career change can be a significant adjustment, both professionally and personally. Think about the following before you make a decision to change careers.

1.   What are your motivations for switching careers? 

Are you unfulfilled in your current job? Do you want to pursue a long-held passion? Understanding your motivations to change careers can help you stay committed as you navigate the challenges of transitioning to a new career. 

Are you chasing money, recognition, status, knowledge, independence, creativity, impact, or making a difference? Whatever your motivations are, when you know what you hope to gain, you can prepare so that your new career aligns with your personal and professional goals.

2.   Is the financial investment justified?

Changing careers might require you to pursue further education. For instance, if you want to switch from a career in marketing to nursing, you will need to obtain a nursing degree.

It can be challenging to justify the financial commitment of a career change, but if the expenditure provides a sufficient return on investment, it can help make a convincing case.

Check out the National Career Development Association to learn more about upskilling in a new industry.

3.   Is there an opportunity in this new industry?

Consider the industry’s potential growth before you commit to a switch. Not sure what that means? Well, BLS’ Employment Projections page is worth checking out before a career change as it offers accessible insights into which roles are projected to grow — and which are not — over the coming decade.

From there, connect with other professionals in your desired industry, either on LinkedIn or through private networking groups. Read posts, ask questions and learn as much as you can about what kind of opportunity exists.

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4.   What transferable skills and experience do you have?

While changing careers can seem daunting, remember that your work experience counts for more than you think.

For instance, leadership and project management skills are essential for a supervisory position. If you have sales and marketing skills, they can help you build relationships. The ability to speak multiple languages can be a valuable asset across industries, especially in global organizations. 

5.   Can you handle the potential risks? 

Switching careers is both exciting and intimidating. It may mean accepting a lower salary or experiencing a period of unemployment during the transition. A new work environment, different work schedules and less time with family and friends (because of the steep learning curve) could all be things you’ll need to deal with.

Knowing that you’re in it for the long haul and have a plan to mitigate the risks can help make your career transition smoother.  

Exploring careers with University of Phoenix

Choosing or changing careers can be a daunting but ultimately rewarding decision — so long as you lay the right foundation.

University of Phoenix (UOPX) prepares students and graduates for the career paths they choose with the following:

  • Individual classes: Explore more than 600 courses that can help you meet your educational goals, whether that’s finishing a degree or enhancing your skills in business, IT, healthcare or other fields.
  • Professional development: Upskill with non-credit, self-paced, self-directed courses designed to bolster your skills in digital marketing, education, healthcare, human resources and IT.
  • Career Services for Life®: Career advisors are available to offer guidance with resumé development, interviewing techniques and more.
  • Job resources: Discover free downloadable templates for resumés and cover letters, plus guides on job prep and personal branding, on the UOPX website.
  • Career With Confidence™ newsletter: Get the latest insights and information on career trends from UOPX’s dedicated team of writers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kaleigh Moore is a full-time freelance writer and consultant specializing in business and software. Her work has appeared in Forbes, Vogue Business, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur and elsewhere. She is also a frequent speaker at conferences and universities and co-hosts a podcast on running a freelance writing business.

 

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