Together with Athleta, we're compiling actionable wellness advice you need from the experts—and Well+Good is bringing it to life all year long at events in NYC. Here, Well+Good career columnist and author Amy Odell discusses realizing when a career change is the right move and how to go after your goal.
When you graph out the career paths of a dozen people, you'll see a completely linear track is rare. The more likely scenario? Most people make multiple career pivots or take major left turns on their personal work journeys.
So if you're currently daydreaming about pursuing another calling, don't ignore the feeling—even if you've dedicated years of school or training down one path. Take solace in knowing that it's never too late to make a positive change, especially one that will make you healthier and happier in the long-run.
"Listen to your gut," Odell says. "Sometimes it might not be the most lucrative or easiest thing, but you don't want to wonder if you could've done it just because someone—or practicality—talked you out of it. So listen to your gut instincts, even when they go against the advice of the people you trust."
Consider yourself cordially invited to explore your desire for a career change—and use this map to figure out what's right for you.
1. Decide if it’s time to say goodbye to your current post
When you dedicate hours a day picturing yourself in another life (travel blogging on a beach in Bali, for instance), it's a pretty good sign that it's time for change.
"If you find yourself spending most of your time doing things that no longer grow you as a person and professional, it's time to go," says Odell, who has made several leaps in her journalism career. But if you're not sure, try asking yourself a few questions to help you decide whether you're truly over it or just in need of a vacation.
- Am I learning new things?
- Do I enjoy the tasks I have to perform every day?
- Am I learning from my manager?
- Do I want my manager's job? If not, what is the next step for me at this company?
- Does my manager value the same things I do?
- Does this job enable me to have the life I want to have outside of work?
2. Budget—and plan—accordingly
Thinking about quitting your job and finding a new one might make you break into a cold sweat. But there are small ways to make the idea of changing careers less scary—and ultimately more feasible.
First, ensure you can pay the bills while you're in between jobs by starting an emergency fund. "Save money," says Odell. "A super practical tip but if it doesn't work out, you don't want to be left with no job and no financial safety net."
Then make a plan, and commit to yourself. "Don't put it off in perpetuity," she says. "It's easy to say 'I'll quit next month!' And then put it off, and put it off, and put it off. If you want to try something new, make a plan to do it and then actually do it. The longer you procrastinate, the easier it is not to do something." Onward!
3. Ask for help
Before accepting any new opportunity, it's important to do your homework. Odell personally consults her brief checklist: "I look for two main things: an exciting role that will challenge me to do things I haven't done before, and a company that seems like it's heading in the right direction," she says.
An important part of the information gathering task is consulting your network. Talk to friends (or friends of friends) in your desired field. "Ask them how they got the job, why they chose this line of work, and what they have to do that they wish they didn't," she recommends.
Then once you make the leap, ask people you know who have been in your shoes for advice. "I'm still surprised at how, even when I think I have working for myself figured out, I learn things from my friends who also work for themselves if I just take the time to ask," Odell says. "If something feels harder than it should, that's probably a sign you could be doing something more efficiently. Ask your contacts how they manage those situations."
4. Accept fear—it's okay to be scared
If you're not arriving at work with a productive mix of nerves, excitement, and passion, you might be in the wrong place.
For Odell, the best piece of career advice has to do with fear—and why it's a telltale sign you're working somewhere you can grow. "If you're afraid, that means you're doing your job," she says. "A former colleague heard this from someone else and shared it with me ages ago, and I never forgot it. If your work scares you, that probably means you're taking a risk. And if you're taking a risk, you're more likely to have an interesting result."
In other words, don't settle. Seek out jobs and opportunities that bring you closer to who you are and what you truly care about accomplishing. When your passion and your job line up, there's room for happiness—and overall well-being—to follow.