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6 Ways to Know If You Need a Career Change — Or Just a Job Change?

Questions to ask yourself before you throw in the towel.

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What do I dislike most about my current job?

The intent of this question is to suss out if your desire for a career change is really just a desire for a job change. Here are the silent signs that indicate you really hate your job. One study found the most common reasons employees leave their jobs are a micromanaging boss, or the feeling that you lack freedom to make decisions about how to do your job, as well as simply tiredness and burnout. The latter are solvable problems that shouldn’t require overhauling your career. Here’s the things HR won’t tell you about keeping your job.

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What do I dislike most about my current career path?

If it’s your current job that’s making you feel anxious about your current path, think about your career trajectory as a whole. Are you unhappy with a certain trend in the industry? Not sure there are any companies in your field that will offer you the work-life balance you need? Identify what it is exactly that’s pulling you away, so you can better choose a new target. Here’s the best way to jump back into the workforce after a career break.

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What would I miss most about my current work?

Start by looking back on why you chose your career in the first place. Did you miss the mark when you set out to find your dream job? Or did you love it at first and feel it gave you a sense of purpose? Made you feel like you were positively contributing to the world? Gave you a cushy savings account? Lots of time to travel? Ask yourself what you’d miss (and how badly) and whether or not you’d be able to replicate those perks in a new field.

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How much do I know about my target field?

If you’ve never worked in a target field, it’s hard to know if you’re seeing it through grass-is-always-greener tinted glasses. Take a minute to think about what you know. Did you study this field in school and never got over its appeal? Do you have friends who’ve built careers in this field? Ultimately, you want to make sure your expectations are reasonable.

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How could I learn more about my target field?

Now that you’ve established how much you already know, brainstorm ways you can learn more. That might include setting up informational interviews (such as a casual coffee date with a friend in the industry), reading trade magazines and news, and potentially even shadowing someone for a day. All of this can help you avoide the worst mistakes first-time job hunters make.

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How well will my skills transfer to my target field?

If you’ve gotten this far and know you’re sure about making the switch, it’s time to start thinking practically. Which of your skills will transfer to your target career? How can you sell your skills in a job interview? Which skills will you need to acquire, and how likely is it that you’ll be able to acquire them? It’s unlikely you’ll be a perfect match right out of the gate, but if you’re passionate enough it’s never late to develop a new skill set.