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Jobs 2021: 6 questions to help decide your next career

Angela Priestley, Women's Agenda
·Contributor
·7-min read
Origami fortune teller on laptop in office concept for work life balance choices
Are you ready for a career change? Here are six questions you should ask yourself, writes Women's Agenda founding editor Angela Priestley. (Source: Getty)

When it comes to career changes, we’ve long been told we can expect to make many such transitions during the course of our working lives.

Some experts say we can expect five to seven changes, spurred on by everything from boredom to marriage breakdowns, stress, redundancy and new ambitions that see us seeking out roles and opportunities that align with our goals.

But those experts were saying such things before the pandemic year of 2020 that changed everything. A year that in many different ways has rapidly accelerated changes in work.

So in 2021 and beyond, expect to now be making even more career changes.

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And if you don’t know where to start on deciding what’s next, consider the below six questions.

1. What skills do I have that are transferrable?

You already have skills, regardless of how long and where you’ve been working.

Sit down and take some time to determine what those skills are.

You may have soft skills, such as one of those identified as particularly important right now, including communication, self-motivation, decisiveness, conflict resolution, teamwork and problem solving. These are all transferrable across all jobs and industries.

And you may have transferrable technical skills, such as something you may have previously studied, and/or even the platforms you’ve used in your work or personal life like social media, project management tools and accounting software.

Once you list what these skills are, you may find they match with at least part of the job descriptions on roles that you previously thought were out of reach.

You may otherwise see patterns in these skills, highlighting new types of work and opportunities that will suit you.

2. What skills can I develop and how willing am I to do so?

When you think about a career change, you may immediately think that formal study is required. Of course that’s the case if you’re making a massive professional change, like from lawyer to doctor (which has been done, many times).

But you need to really consider your willingness – including the time and money you have available -- to acquire bigger skills through formal study, at this point in your life. Knowing your appetite, both financially and time wise, for formal study will go a long way in determining what kind of career is next for you.

Tertiary education will open opportunities, but it also won’t necessarily give you the job or career you want – there’s still a job and business market to navigate.

So think about all your options for acquiring news skills, especially where you can acquire such skills immediately and without taking on too much personal and financial risk.

"Changes ahead" traffic sign in city
(Source: Getty)

Consider doing some volunteer work to gain new experience, as well as trying to incorporate some new responsibilities or projects into the work you’re currently doing.

Find avenues to experiment in your own time, like through free online programs such as Harvard University’s (free) Introduction to Computer Science, or Dash from General Assembly, showing simple step by step instructions for creating a website, as well as the numerous free design courses on Udemy. All of these options here are free, and can be done in less than ten weeks.

Ultimately the art of doing is the fastest way to gain clarity – clarity that you may never find sitting in a classroom.

It’s the practical work that will tell you whether you really want that next career or not, and it will help set you up to get the experience you need to make it happen.

3. What roles and opportunities would I enjoy?

Take the time to really reflect on this question by first considering how you like to work, and then some of the job and career options that suit those ideals. Do you like being around people, or working solo? Do you enjoy running meetings, responding to clients, managing others? Do you want to work outdoors?

Also think about what areas of your current or previous work that you really enjoy, and how you could spin those into something else.

Meanwhile, some people will tell you to “follow your passion” when seeking out a new job or career path but approach such advice cautiously as it can inevitably result in disappointment. Do such jobs exist? Maybe for some people.

Work doesn’t have to be your passion, so don’t get bogged down on this idea when considering your future career options.

It helps to enjoy and find satisfaction in your work, but ultimately work can be a means for you to earn a living that enables you to pursue your passions outside of work.

4. Who in my network can I reach out to for a chat?

Include past employers, university and class peers, industry influencers, contacts on social media etc in this.

Find people you can talk to – those that you know, and those that you don’t, by connecting with them on social media or emailing them direct.

Some people will say no to your request for a meeting, that’s fine. But others will be keen to help and may even be flattered that you’ve reached out to them to ask for their advice.

The key in making such a request is to be as clear as possible in what you’re aiming to find out.

Don’t reach out vaguely to “have a coffee”, go with a specific and direct question. Put a time limit on the meeting and make it as simple as possible for them by running it virtually or over the phone.

You may even want to share a three-point agenda prior to the meeting, demonstrating how you value their time and also ensuring you get what you want out of the conversation.

5. Who can you tell that you’re ready for a change?

If a career change is on the agenda, get talking. Even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, use some of the above questions to start voicing the fact that you’re on the market for a change.

Think about telling family members and other supporters who can support you in this transition. Talk to friends. Even share it with those you come into contact with sporadically –where just the act of saying it out loud may help clarify your thoughts.

You may even consider subtlety saying it to a current manager or employer – framing it by suggesting that you’re open to other opportunities or development options within the organisation.

This conversation could encourage them to give you new projects and responsibilities. It also signals your intentions to develop further.

6. How ready and willing are you to take action?

A career change starts with you. It’s challenging, it requires learning new things and stepping out of your comfort zone.

Waiting on opportunities won’t make them happen – nor will taking the first step lead to making it all happen. This could take time and carry plenty of rejection and setbacks along the way.

So you need to be in a place where you’re prepared to make it happen, where you’re willing to move beyond talking or thinking about it to actually taking the first steps needed for a result.

Knowing exactly what career you want next and why, is great motivation for getting stuck into the transition process.

But if you’re still figuring that out, then you need to get clear on what your motivations are for making a shift, so you can feel good putting in the work needed to decide and eventually access your next opportunity.

The motivation may be about financial security. It could be about earning more, about finding more work life balance. It could be about getting out from behind your computer screen or being able to tap into your creativity.

Whatever it is, understand that practical why, so it sits front of mind as you determine your options.

This is part one of our Jobs 2021 series, where Yahoo Finance is exploring how to succeed in the next decade: earn more, lead better and win in the next decade of work.

Want 2021 to be your best (financial) year yet? Follow Yahoo Finance on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter, and subscribe to the free Fully Briefed daily newsletter here.