And what’s the best way to handle it? A few guideposts to maximize the chances of success during a professional transition.
It really seems that the era when “having a career” meant staying loyal to a single employer for decades is over. On average, barely 30% of Canadians keep the same job for longer than four years. In fact, a great number – about 38% – have already made a radical career change in their lifetime, and almost as many say they are considering it.
This makes it likely that many of us will negotiate a professional transition over the next few years. Here are three important points to consider in preparation for that moment.
1. Why change jobs?
The reasons why someone might want to change jobs are well-documented by professionals in the field. There are two types of reasons: objective and subjective. The main objective reasons would be:
- limited opportunities for advancement within the organization (for example, if it is too small and you have gone as far as you can);
- the outlook for the business sector itself (for example, if it is in decline);
- the chance to take on new professional challenges in another organization;
- the possibility of improving your quality of life (for example, by working closer to home);
- and, of course, the paycheque.
Subjective reasons would include:
- growing boredom with one’s work;
- a feeling of being under-utilized;
- discomfort with the organizational culture or with certain people; or
- a toxic work environment.
If your reasons are primarily subjective, it could be important to include some objective elements in your thinking. To do this, one avenue to consider might be taking a career break without severing the employment relationship. This could “take the emotion out of the equation.” Some employers may be open to this possibility.
2. Is it better to quit a current job before finding a new one?
Quitting your job before finding the next one might have some interesting benefits: first, you could immediately have more time to look for the next job; you could have more flexibility in managing your schedule, notably to make yourself available for interviews; and above all, you could have more time to think about your goals, realign your career plan or master new skills.
However, you would have to manage the financial and professional risks that might accompany this decision.
From a financial viewpoint, a key consideration could be having enough cash resources on hand to cover your commitments in the event that your job search was taking longer than expected. Remember, too, that during this time you would not be contributing to the public pension plans or to your former employer’s plan, and that your RRSP contribution room for the following year might be lower due to your lower income. All of these factors could have an impact on your other projects and your retirement planning. It might be wise to discuss the idea with your mutual fund representative or financial services professional.
From a professional viewpoint, this jobless period could create a gap in your resume that would need an explanation. You may also deprive yourself of opportunities that could have come up with your former employer.
In the end, it might seem wiser to find a new job before quitting the current one – but it might just as well be a case of properly managing the risks associated with the transition.
3. A matter of skills… and networks, too
Many professionals add to their qualifications by taking training courses, very often ones that will give them a formal professional designation. This kind of training may be essential for many publicly posted positions, where the professional designation can act as a filter to reduce the number of applicants. However, it is also good to know that, according to Career Advice Online, about 80% of high-level jobs are not filled through a public posting, but through professional networks, usually informal ones. In this situation, a good match between the applicant and the employer in terms of vision would carry more weight than a professional designation – which can always be acquired later.
As we can see, making a career change can involve various kinds of challenges. One thing is certain, though: establishing a degree of financial security and a proper plan could make things easier by giving you enough breathing space to consider all the options.
The following sources were used to prepare this article:
Careers Advice Online,, “Career Change Statistics” ; “What Career Training Do You Really Need?”.
CBC, “Most Canadians who switch careers are happier for it, survey finds”.
Financial Post, “Instead of leaving a job, why not take a pause?”.
Indeed, “Should You Quit a Job Before Finding a New One?”.
Workopolis, “How many jobs do Canadians hold in a lifetime?”.