The days of remaining in one career, let alone one job, are over. However, just because career change is now commonplace does not mean it is any easier to do. In this article, we will provide some tips and advice for remote workers, people who want to work remotely, and those who may benefit from remote work, to help you successfully navigate the ins and outs of switching careers.
Switching Careers? 6 Ways Remote Work Options can Help
Over the past several decades, job tenures have become shorter and shorter. Today, you can expect to hold one position for an average of 4 years. Along with this trend has come an increase in the number of career changes. Today’s younger workers can expect to end up switching careers an average of 5 – 7 times over the course of their professional life.
While most may think of switching careers in the context of a midlife crisis in your 40s or 50s, two new times of life are emerging where switching careers is becoming more common. The first is earlier, as millennials in their late 20s and early 30s are feeling the urge to change course. A study by Monster.com indicated that 26% of those they surveyed are expecting to move into a new career path within 5 years.
The second is later. More than 40% of respondents to a recent Gallup Poll said they expect to retire at age 66 or older, up from age 60 in 1995. With the average age of retirement rising, older adults are considering switching careers to discover new employment options that take advantage of their expansive skill sets while honoring their advancing age.
But what does this mean in a practical sense? How will you know when it’s time for a career switch and how will working remotely help you transition?
What is a career switch?
First things first, how do you know that it is time to change career paths and not just jobs? If you find yourself exploring similar positions, or those that follow a normal career path, you are probably looking for another job. However, if you find yourself yearning to move to a new position that is not part of the typical career progression associated with your current job, you are probably looking to switch careers.
Are you ready to change careers?
One of the signs that indicates an impending career change is realizing aspects of your current career that are at odds with your values or talents. For example, if you realize you don’t enjoy working with customers, you may want to get out of your sales career. Other reasons for switching careers might be deciding to move to a nonprofit environment or a growing interest in scaling up a much-loved hobby.
Switching careers can also depend on where you are in life. As younger workers learn more about their career path after school, they will invariably identify parts they don’t like. While a change in job or company may help, many millennials will find themselves looking for work in completely new fields as they mature. For example, one often-talked-about characteristic of today’s younger workers is a desire to contribute to the common good as opposed to solely working for their own benefit. This outlook is the type of shift that could lead to a career change.
Older workers, who may find themselves feeling bored or stuck in their current path, are looking for new challenges. Individuals approaching retirement age may be interested in finding work where they can use their experience, but have more control over their time. Career changes by older adults also reflect a larger shift in values as current jobs get stale and old dreams resurface. Using a solid financial foundation to start a new business or pursue a passion are common career shifts for this age group.
No matter whether you are just starting out, semi-retired and looking to resurrect your dreams, or looking to switch careers midlife, here’s how remote work options can help!
How remote work options can help with switching careers
If you know you are interested in switching careers, you may want to find a remote position, or use your current remote position, to help you prepare for and undertake this life-changing transition. Naturally, remote work provides you with increased flexibility with how, where, and with who you spend your time. This is the perfect work environment for switching careers!
1. Learn about yourself
The solitude that goes with working remotely allows time for introspection and retrospection. Schedule some time each day to look back on your career and identify your strengths and challenges. Try and pinpoint what about your current career is unfulfilling and why. This may be the most important exercise you undertake during your career transition. If you don’t take the time to do this now, chances are you will find yourself back in the same position again, sooner rather than later.
Being intentional is of utmost important during the initial stages of your career change. Scientific models of career change indicate that the processes that go into developing the determination to make a career change are the biggest indicator of whether or not a career change actually takes place. You may also find during this process that you are able to address your reasons for being dissatisfied with your current career and make enough changes to your situation that you decide not to proceed.
2. Research career options
The flexible schedules associated with remote work provide time and opportunity to conduct online research and informational interviews in your potential new career path. This important step will help you avoid any unrealistic expectations you may have about switching careers, and about the career you are researching. Be thorough! Enthusiasm about your new career may tempt you to gloss over, or not fully investigate, potential transition issues.
Find out the typical hours, starting salary, career progression, level of autonomy, and so on. Be realistic when you assess what your initial position will look like. Yes, you’re very smart, but if 99% of people in your new career path receive a certain starting salary — chances are, so will you. If 99% of people in your new career path take 5 years to work into your desired position, chances are, so will you.
Also, make sure to dig into all the nitty-gritty tasks that may go along with your new career as well. What will your day-to-day responsibilities and activities be? Overlooking this step can quickly lead to dissatisfaction in your new career. If you don’t like answering phones now, chances are you won’t like answering them at your new job either.
3. Develop a foundation for change
Switching careers may include the need for preparations such as developing business plans, purchasing equipment, moving locations, or saving an emergency fund. Working remotely will allow you the time and flexibility to work on these essential projects before plunging into your new career. When you’re not plagued by these worries, you will feel more stable and comfortable during your transition.
Developing a solid foundation upon which you can make change will depend greatly on the quality of the research you undertake initially. The more accurately you identify what you will need to make a successful transition, the more easily you will be able to be successful in your new career.
4. Skills training
One of the things your research should reveal is whether you currently have the skills you need to change to your desired career. You may identify many skills that you currently don’t have. Do not let this discourage you! There is no reason you can’t add these new skills to your repertoire, even if you discover you need a whole new degree. Now, more than ever, you can find all the training and education you could ever need online.
The recent explosion in online educational opportunities has been driven by the development of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. Many of these courses are free to take, although most will charge for a certificate of completion. In addition to MOOCs, you can enroll in a variety of online degree programs offered by both traditional and modern educational institutions. From free courses provided by Harvard University to complete degree programs offered by the Sorbonne in Paris, a world of knowledge is yours to explore.
5. Resumé building
While W2 employment options abound in full-time remote work, there are also plenty of part-time, contract, and freelance options available. You can easily accommodate more than one of these positions while you add to your experience and develop your skill set. This will enable you to make ends meet while also gaining experience relevant to your new career. And you never know, your short-term project may also lead to your dream job.
In addition, as you are switching careers you may find it easier to obtain a short-term or part-time option in your new field. Employers are frequently more willing to take a risk if you are a temporary or contract employee than if you seek full-time employment. This is because full-time workers cost more for employers due to the additional benefits and training costs involved.
6. Fill gaps in income
A drop in income can be expected during a career transition. The ability to pick up extra contracts or part-time jobs while working remotely can be a big help. This is especially important if you have major financial responsibilities such as kids or a house. Most people want to have it all, and remote work can help get it for you. It is important to be realistic, know upfront via your research how much of a drop in income you can expect, and have a plan in place to make up the difference. Also, don’t overextend yourself. Changing careers is challenging enough, don’t try to work 18-hour days just to keep your income up.
One thing you can do to prepare yourself for a period of financial uncertainty is to cut down on your living expenses. Defer any major purchases if possible and cut back on your luxuries such as dining out. It is also advised to increase the liquidity of your investments if you have them. If your budget is really tight, pursue financial assistance such as unemployment assistance or financial aid for training and education. Happily, some costs will automatically go down by moving to a remote work model including gas, car maintenance, work clothing, and lunches out, among others.
What will your career change look like?
In the end, every career change is going to be different. Undertaken at different periods in your life for different reasons. It could be initial disillusionment in your chosen profession, reentering the workplace after life events such as childbirth or the death of a family member, or as part of your final professional journey by indulging your passion or passing on your knowledge.
While times and reasons may change, remote work opportunities will assist with each and every transition by providing the time and flexibility you need to make thoughtful changes in keeping with your individual circumstances.
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