Mid-career switches are often recommended as a way for working professionals to better align their day job with their aspirations, whether it’s in terms of financial compensation, work impact, or job scope. While there’s definitely nothing wrong with following your dreams (or even advisable if you’re moving from a sunset to sunrise industry), making a mid-career switch is also a major decision that should not be taken lightly. If you’re someone who has thought about jumping into a different industry, read on to find out if you’re ready to make the change.
Under most circumstances, starting afresh in a new career path means pressing the reset button, which often entails accepting a reduced salary, too. What’s worse, there’s always a chance that your new job might not live up to expectations. Given the present state of the economy, there is no guarantee that your previous employer or industry will be willing to take you in at the same level of compensation should you decide to make a u-turn.
It’s therefore prudent to give yourself a longer runway for success by having at least the following level of emergency funds depending on how many dependents you have:
Recommended Level of Emergency Funds
Six months of income
One year of income
One child and elderly parents or equivalent
Two to three years of income
Once you’ve ensured that you’ve got an accessible stash of money to fall back on, you’ll want to make sure that your emergency sum can last you as much as possible by cutting out unnecessary expenditure. One prime example is car ownership, which can cost upwards of $6,000 per annum in maintenance costs alone. Private gym memberships, transportation, and restaurants can all be substituted for more public, affordable options. Ditto for vices such as smoking and drinking, which can contribute to medical bills down the road as well.Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of holding onto a lifestyle out of convenience thinking that you’ll be drawing the same salary soon. It will probably be years before you see a similar amount of money being credited to your bank account again, so you’ll want to live as if you’ve just entered the workforce, before all that lifestyle inflation crept up on you. Because that’s exactly how most employers will choose to evaluate and compensate you.
Mid-career switches don’t just hit reset on your career progress, but also the network that you’ve built up over the years. Of course, there are instances where you can tap into relationships you’ve built up over the years by informing them of your new role, but it’s likely that most people won’t be willing to take on the risk of working with you until you’ve become more established.
Furthermore, if you’re someone who values things such as prestige and titles, you must be mentally prepared to work in startups and SMEs. Reputable institutions are likely to have their pick of the pack and heavily emphasise paper qualifications. Of course, if you’ve spent the early days of your career networking in the right places, you just might be able to make up for the lack of a track record by talking to the right people.
But regardless of whether you have connections or not, you must be prepared to adapt to a completely new environment without any of the advantages that have accompanied you up until this point. If the prospect of stepping out that far out of your comfort zone does not deter you, then that’s a good signal that the career move you’re looking at is the right one for you.
It’s undeniable that we’re living in an age of major change. Automation, supply chain disruptions, and global competition are just some of the factors at play that threaten to derail traditional jobs that have kept our workforce running for decades. So before you make the jump, think long and hard about whether or not your new job will be around in five, ten, or even 20 years time.
Even industries that are well-established are not immune to change. After all, nobody believed that newspapers would be nearly completely replaced by digital media less than two decades ago. Similarly, software engineering, a role that has been touted for being both stable and lucrative thus far, is no longer the ‘iron-rice bowl’ it used to be in light of recent layoffs.
The lesson here is this: While no one has a crystal ball into the future, make sure not to pigeon-hole yourself into becoming a one-trick pony by adopting a skillset that is too niche. Even as you build towards your new career trajectory, always have a backup plan by investing time in skillsets or projects that provide you with an exit strategy should things go wrong.
Mid-career switches don’t have to be all or nothing. Some people mistakenly believe that they have to quit their job entirely or dedicate several years studying a specialised degree full-time, but the reality is that not all of us can afford such a luxury. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to make a career switch that do not require such significant levels of time and monetary investment.
For example, multinational corporations often look internally when hiring for new positions. If such an opportunity is available for you, making a lateral shift by switching departments can help ease you into your new role better. This option not only looks better on your resume, but also gives you a softer landing into your new role since you’ll already be familiar with your organisation’s offerings.
What’s more, switching departments allows you to start building up skills and industry contacts way before you leave your current job, giving you a far better understanding of what it takes to succeed in your new industry from an environment that you’re already familiar with.
Navigating a new industry can be extremely daunting when you don’t know where to start. Get insider tips by connecting with like-minded professionals and industry leaders by following TTAB on LinkedIn and Facebook, or meet us in person at the next TTAB Career Conversation.