6 Ways to Tell You Need a Career Change — From Women Who Have Done It

Oct 12, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. ET
Ways to Tell You Need a Career Change Sooner Rather Than Later
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As we grow, we change, discover new talents and develop values that impact the trajectories of our careers.

According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker holds an average of 11.7 jobs between the ages of 18 and 48. While the reason for switching jobs — or even careers — varies from person to person, choosing to make the change is a major decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Often, it requires major courage and sacrifice. But sometimes, it needs to be done.

Here are seven ways to know you should change careers sooner rather than later from women who've successfully made life-changing career transitions. 

1. You dread going to work

"I switched from fundraising and education to content strategy and marketing. I realized it was time to change careers when I started dreading going to work. I no longer felt fulfilled or happy with what I was doing. I felt trapped. At first I was terrified. I was so worried I had made a poor decision. But now that I’m thriving in that role, I am so much happier than I could have imagined. I think the biggest challenge was being patient and consistent. Before things started falling into place, I felt like I was free falling. But I leaned into my support network, made sure I was doing something everyday to support chasing my goals, and now, I prioritize self-care." —Alex Sundstrom, content and marketing strategist

More: 4 Times It's OK to Take a Promotion Without a Raise

2. Your health is suffering because of your job

“I made a significant career change two years ago after working in many aspects of sales and marketing for nearly 15 years. I sold luxury kitchen appliances all over the Northeast during the last six and a half years of my career, and while I enjoyed the company I represented, I wasn't passionate about what I was doing. The job came with a lot of stress and constant travel, which led to anxiety, chronic fatigue and adrenal burnout. Then, in June of 2016, my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and I realized life is short, so I resigned with a very loose plan and enrolled in a culinary nutrition program.

"Fast-forward two years, and I currently own a healthy personal chef and catering business. Yes, there are days or weeks when this new journey seems scary, but I am so glad and thankful I took the leap that I did.” — Melissa Eboli, Via Melissa LLC owner

3. You're experiencing discrimination

“After graduating from college, I got a job in the leading political-reporting law firm in the country. I signed onto a two-year contract, but I only made it six months. I experienced sexism, discrimination and being overworked. I quickly realized that even though I thought I wanted the typical nine-to-five job with benefits, once I had it, I felt like I was living in a nightmare.

"I left that job and bounced around to a few other positions — from teaching at summer camps to working at another law firm — before deciding to get involved with various volunteer roles to gain more skills in the nonprofit sector. I met Drusilla Cowan, who shortly after asked me to come on as a cofounder of Survivor Alliance. I agreed, and since then have dedicated my life to being a social justice entrepreneur and educator. Nowadays, I'm doing some of the most challenging work dealing with trauma. Yet I feel full of joy because I know that I am dedicating my life to helping others.” — Asehli Howe, Survivor Alliance cofounder

More: How to Use the 5 Love Languages to Get Ahead at Work

4. You miss an old passion

“I worked as a freelance writer part-time while I was getting started as a dietitian. But over time, my writing started to get placed to the side while I focused on my full-time career. After my husband got laid off from his job in March 2017, I started freelance writing again in the evenings and on weekends as a way to make some extra money. In the midst of the financial chaos, I remembered how much I love writing and made the decision to become a full-time freelance writer once my husband found a new job. I am still able to provide meal-planning services and recipe-writing services through my freelance work, so I am keeping my dietitian skills intact. I don't regret this decision for a single minute.” — Staci Gulbin, Lighttrack Nutrition owner

5. You want to reach your fullest potential 

“I was working in corporate HR, and I really loved parts of the job. But as great as my leaders were about allowing me to stretch my wings and take on projects, I knew there was only so far I could grow and that there was a possibility the company would close my location. I took their struggle as a sign and began proactively positioning myself as a freelance creative.

"I had to learn how to be the face of my business, win or lose. I read every industry publication I could about developing my business processes, talked to insiders about their experiences and applied many of the skills I learned in HR to establish myself as a trustworthy, reliable creative for hire. Those years spent freelancing allowed me to obtain a position at a creative agency I absolutely love. One leap of faith and a lot of planning and grinding became a career in my dream industry.” — Laura Prestwich, client coordinator lead copywriter

More: 10 Women Share Their "Secret Weapon" to Standing Out in an Interview

6. You want to push yourself 

“Earlier this year, I moved from marketing for a law firm to marketing for a startup cryptocurrency exchange. A number of factors influenced my decision, the most significant one being that I wanted to work at a global company and step out of my comfort zone. When I first made the decision, I had concerns that I was leaving a good opportunity behind. But after much consideration, I felt that I was ready to try something new and take my career in a fresh direction.” — Joanne Goldy, marketing specialist


A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards and career advice.

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