Career transitions: deciding to make a career change or not?

In the 1970’s there was a game show on television called “Let’s Make A Deal” hosted by Monty Hall. Audience members dressed up in costumes hoping to be picked as contestants, filling their purses and pockets for when Monty asked them for some random item: safety pins, poker chips, a silver dollar. You could never know what Monty would ask for! For the Main Event, Monty showed a prize behind Door A and asked the contestant if they wanted to stay with it or trade up for what was behind Door B. And possibly a booby prize. Which would you choose? The prize revealed or the one concealed?

Oftentimes we go through a similar process when making the decision to change careers or jobs. Do you stick with the career you know or do you go for a new career? Do you stick with what you know or go for what is unknown?

That is one kind of decision that draws people to contact me — when they want to make a job or career change and feel confused or stuck about whether to stay or seek out a career that is not yet revealed.

Something is provoking their decision. Some common contributing factors are the boss, the unappreciative work environment, boredom, the lack of challenge or growth opportunity or their lifestyle.

And why stay? For many reasons: the (regular) paycheck, health benefits, the mortgage, the kids, the routine, the security, the stability, the status, the prestige, the familiarity, the Known.

Therein dwells the inner conflict: the reasons for leaving conflict with other reasons for staying. This is where “Stuckness” lives. 

So what propels us forward towards making a career change? It often depends on how much each of us will or can tolerate. Is the pain of staying in the career (job) greater or less than the “unopened curtain”?

Dr. Henry Cloud said, “We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.” This threshold point is different for each of us which makes discovering our places of friction and suffering important for change to happen.

Questions for your consideration (some of these questions may sound similar - answer those that make the most sense to you):

  • Which consequences will serve to mobilize you towards a career change?
  • What if you don’t do anything? What will happen if you stay (here)?
  • How will you be worse off or better off, temporarily or permanently, if you stay? If you leave?
  • What will you have to invest to make the change? What investment are you making in staying?
  • What will it cost you to stay? To leave?

8 Decision-Making Tips and Strategies Some of these strategies are analytical, linear and logical, some are creative, intuitive and emotional. Play around with them. You might want to try on some new ones and give yourself a personal growth stretch.

  1. List your fears. For example starting over, not being skilled, not being knowledgable, feeling incompetent, losing status, prestige or professional network, etc.
  2. Develop your intuition and “gut instinct”. Strengthen your sense of intuition, connect with your what your gut is telling you and develop your awareness of what feels resonant and dissonant for you.
  3. Notice what your body, your emotions, your mental and physical health are saying about your work, what aspects light you up and which ones lower your energies.
  4. Reconnect to your dreams. Dreaming of making a change is very different from taking steps towards making it a reality. Dreaming is an important part of the change process that will remain a dream until you take action. Keep growing your dreams and keep dreaming.
  5. Do research. Figure out what information you are missing that will help you make a decision.
  6. Network and talk with others who have gone through it or are going through it and learn what helped them and what did not.
  7. Clarify your core personal values and how they connect to your decision and/or choices. Oftentimes, we experience an inner conflict of our core values that makes the decision-making process feel challenging or “hard”.
  8. Get creative and brainstorm ideas, solutions, possibilities. Maybe you don’t have to leave your job or maybe leaving your job or switching careers is far more beneficial to you and your life.

Sometimes this is decision about your career and sometimes this decision is about your life. The more understanding and information you have, the further ajar the unknown door will open for you and what was concealed will become (more) revealed.

I'd love to hear what has worked for you, what strategy you have found to be most helpful or anything else you care to share about making a decision to change careers.