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Why people are changing careers and what to consider before making a switch

At a glance

  • As industries jettison employees, more workers are reevaluating their goals and changing careers.
  • Job insecurity, the advent of AI, generational trends and an aging employee base have all contributed to the growing number of employees considering a career change.
  • Before you make a switch, consider your prospects for career growth in your current role as well as how transferable your skills are.
  • Stay ahead of the curve when it comes to career trends. Subscribe to University of Phoenix’s Career With Confidence™ newsletter on LinkedIn!

Amid economic upheaval since the start of 2023, roughly 200,000 American workers lost their jobsImpacted industries range from banking and media to technology and manufacturing. About half of those workers changed careers, industries or occupations, a trend that has held steady since 2019.

The emergence of new factors like artificial intelligence (AI) and job insecurity have made transitioning into a new role feel like an increasingly viable option, especially for information workers (people whose jobs center on expertise, creativity and customer service). Here, we look at why people are reconsidering their careers and what they should look at before making a change.

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1.   Job insecurity

Once considered the safest bet in the American economy, information work has become commoditized in much the same way labor jobs were in the 1980s. The global workforce is now teeming with multilingual college graduates equipped with the skills the information economy demands. In response, employers have shifted their staffing strategies to tap into more cost-effective international labor markets.

This trend hit workers in North America and Europe in the early 2000s as India became a go-to source for tech labor, and it has accelerated during the past decade as emerging markets around the world have become more internet connected and tech educated. Today, there is no shortage of affordable markets for information labor, making it easier than ever for companies to offshore important jobs and save costs.

2.   The AI revolution

While it’s not yet clear how many information jobs have been lost to generative AI, the sudden emergence of technologies that can do a passable job at writing web content, producing graphic art and analyzing data is forcing specialized professionals in fields once considered safe from automation to reconsider their positions.

This current wave of generative AI applications is far from equal to the abilities of human professionals. (Just look at how badly AI art programs draw human hands for some good examples!) But the tech is rapidly improving, and the writing is on the wall.

3.   Generational trends

Increased job hopping appears to correlate with an increased likelihood to switch careers too.

Generations X and Y, who make up the dominant share of the current working population, have consistently behaved very differently in the work world than their baby boomer parents. A CareerBuilder survey found that boomers typically stay in one job for more than eight years, about 67% longer than their Gen X children do. (Gen X averages about five years per role.) Gen Y moves even more frequently, with an average of two years, nine months per job. Today, job security appears to be not only less desired, but less expected.

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4.   Stage of life

As people progress through life, their priorities and risk tolerance change. The average career-switcher today is 39 years old, about the age “mid-life crises” typically start kicking in.

But changing careers is about more than feeding a desire to feel younger. Mid-life employees generally enjoy more financial security than their younger counterparts, and they tend to have a better grasp on their own values and long-term aspirations.

It’s not surprising then that, as people hit middle age in the midst of a shifting job market, they’re reconsidering their original path and adapting to both a new reality and an evolved sense of their own needs and desires.

5 things to consider before switching careers

Changing jobs can be stressful, but changing careers can be downright scary if you’ve been doing the same kind of work for a decade or more.

Particularly if you’ve been promoted to a high-level role, you might worry about how moving into a field where you have little to no direct in-job experience will affect your earning potential and seniority.

Here are five things to ask yourself if you’re thinking about making a transition.

1.    What are my prospects in my current field?

Depending on your current role and industry, you may think that your long-term prospects are relatively secure and that your path to positions of greater responsibility and compensation is evident.

Or you may see little opportunity for growth or job security down the road.

If you’re in a field that’s already being impacted by technological change, offshoring or other factors, you may have enough information to inform a decision.

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2.    Can I adapt the way I work and excel in response to changes in my field?

While technological change and shifts in international labor supply-and-demand dynamics can be highly disruptive to the market, sometimes these forces open up new career opportunities as well.

When robotics disrupted factory jobs in the U.S., those who learned to operate the robots found new opportunities for growth. Similarly, if your industry is seeing an influx of AI-based tools that do the work humans have historically done, there will be opportunities for those who prove adept at operating and getting the best results from AI. It may be that with a few relevant professional development courses, you could prepare yourself for the change ahead rather than pivot away from it.

3.    What are my transferable skills?

In most information jobs, the set of skills required day to day can be highly transferable between industries and jobs.

Where it used to be relevant to list all the software solutions you knew how to use, most employers now view specific software skills as learnable. Instead, ability to manage projectscollaborateadapt to new technologieslead teams and secure deals are all skills that transfer readily from one career to another.

As you consider a new career path, spend some time previewing job listings that interest you, paying close attention to the required skills they mention. You may be surprised at how many of the boxes you already check and how few are beyond your grasp.

4.    How long term might the new career be?

Are you planning to work 10 more years? 20 or more? Having a sense of both the longevity of the change and the growth opportunities it presents in that time frame will be important to making an informed decision.

If your ambition is to continue a growth path into executive roles, you’ll want to think seriously about how long you will need to work in the field to qualify for those opportunities. At the same time, if your time horizon is shorter and your goal is to downshift for more work-life balance, a big change could help facilitate that.

5.    Do I need more education?

Whether you’re making a career change or looking for a leg up in your current field, a return to school can give you the boost you need to meet your goals. Going for that master’s degree or a certificate in a relevant skill set not only can add to your bona fides for the next position, but also give you a fresh perspective and breathe new life into a tired work routine. If a relevant degree or certificate is a prerequisite for the job change you want, it’s a good idea to get that process started sooner rather than later.

Preparing for your next move at University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix offers a variety of ways individuals can enhance their skill set for the modern workplace. Depending on your educational goals, you might want to consider any of the following flexible, online options.

Online certificates: Upskilling doesn’t always require a degree. Many online certificates at UOPX can be completed in under nine months while enhancing skills in business, healthcare, IT and education.

Bachelor’s degrees: Gain a broad understanding of the world while honing your chosen skill set for your next career move.

Master’s degrees: In addition to enhancing your management and leadership know-how, master’s degrees at UOPX focus on career-focused skills.

Doctoral degrees: Prepare for leadership while contributing research that can make a positive impact in your community and beyond.

Career resources at UOPX

If switching careers is in your foreseeable future, you’ll need more than an updated resumé. Explore a variety of career resources at UOPX, including:

  • Career Services for Life: Available to UOPX students and graduates, this offering comprises complimentary career coaching, including guidance on how to build a personal brand and write a resumé.
  • Free career resources: Browse a range of downloadable guides and templates to help you optimize your LinkedIn® profile, get ready for a job interview and write a resumé and cover letter.
  • Career With Confidence™ newsletter: Get career insights every week via UOPX’s LinkedIn newsletter.

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Robert Strohmeyer is a serial entrepreneur and executive with more than 30 years of experience starting and running companies. He has served in leadership roles at three successful software startups over the past decade, and his writing on business and technology has appeared in such publications as Wired, PCWorld, Forbes, Executive Travel, Smart Business, Businessweek and many others. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.


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