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Things to consider before changing career

Thinking hard about why you want to move jobs and consulting with a career guidance counsellor can point you towards more fulfilling employment

“Clients often talk of being at ‘crossroads’ or having ‘no direction’,” Photograph: iStock

“Clients often talk of being at ‘crossroads’ or having ‘no direction’,” Photograph: iStock


If one of your new year resolutions is to change career, then you are not alone. This time of year sees an increase in people seeking advice on how to make changes in their work life.

“Clients contact me throughout the year but sometimes I see an increase in enquiries over the new year,” says Denise Tormey, career guidance consultant at Koru Career Guidance. “The words most commonly used in initial email contacts to me are the individual’s work are ‘stressful’ or ‘soul destroying’ and clients often talk of being at ‘crossroads’ or having ‘no direction’.”

A change in career can be an appealing prospect at any age, but it may be more particularly prominent as other life changes come into play. “I see adult clients of all ages,” says Tormey. “However, I would say the majority of my adult clients are in their late 20s and 30s. This may be because they are starting to think about families, mortgages and so on. Or they have done just enough of a particular job to know that they have followed a path that is not right for them.”

There are a lot of factors to consider in making a change with work, but many of these can stem from a lack of meaning in work. Often the process of consultation with a career guidance counsellor can help to clarify exactly what that might mean in each individual case. “What one person finds meaningful can be completely different to another’s sense of meaning,” says Tormey.

“For example, one woman told me that her sense of meaning came from creating something beautiful for other people to enjoy. For someone else, meaningful work was work that involved promoting environmental awareness. For others, meaning can be related to making a difference in others people’s lives through teaching, healthcare or caring professions.”

Employers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance and benefits of congruence between the organisation’s and individual’s values, and will often take this into consideration during recruitment and training. “Culture plays a really pivotal role for us,” says Hannah Condron, personnel development manager at Aldi Ireland. “It informs our ethos, our simplicity, the way we do business and how we reward our people. This culture, which has roots dating all the way back to 1930, is at the heart of our business. We want Aldi to be a place where talent can be nurtured and cultivated.”

In an era when the culture of a company is as much a public focus as its profitability, many people are looking to find work that closely matches their own values, and clarifying those values is a valuable process, according to Jayne Lee, corporate psychologist at Davitt Corporate Psychology.

“An obvious but important factor to consider when changing careers is identifying why you want to make the change,” says Lee. “Figure out what is missing from your current role or organisation as well as identifying the positives. Research has clearly shown that when a person’s values are aligned with those of their organisation, they tend to be happier in their roles.”

Overall picture

With each person’s values and needs different, it is important to look at the overall picture of what might be prompting a change in career, suggests Kirsi Aalto, corporate psychologist at Davitt Corporate Psychology. “In recent years there has been more and more value placed on the concept of well-being at work and also on the importance of finding a career that is fulfilling,” she says. “It is not just about having a job as a means to an end, but exploring the bigger picture – your skills and abilities, and also your values.”

However, that might mean looking at habits and patterns in your own life, rather than starting out in a new job. “A lot of our clients are seeking the need for emotional well-being and sense of fulfilment, rather than the more practical reasons such as finance or location,” says Aalto.

“However, what may sometimes be overlooked is that simply being unhappy or feeling demotivated in your career does not necessarily mean that you need a drastic change of career. Sometimes bringing clarity to what your behavioural and cognitive tendencies and habits are can help you understand where the discrepancy lies and explore the ways you can work on it.”

While it can be tempting to try to find the perfect job that will offer complete fulfilment, the reality is that compromise is always involved. “Often clients would contact us when they have come to the realisation that the career they are in is not the career they want to be in for the rest of their lives,” says Aalto. “However, it is important to find the balance between doing something you enjoy and understanding there are most likely going to be aspects of the career you choose that are less enjoyable and less meaningful – it is about finding a realistic balance.”

As a final word of advice, the effort put into changing jobs may have many benefits, suggests Jayne Lee. “Most of us spend upward of 40 hours a week at work – a significant proportion of our waking hours. This is too much time to spend doing something which doesn’t generate at least a degree of happiness.”

“Consider the benefits of making the change and what that could bring to your life and overall happiness” she adds. “Sacrifices may need to be made for some time – the risk of uncertainty, possible financial implications as well as embracing the fear of the unknown. However, the possible advantages should far outweigh the risks.”