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7 Things You Should Know Before Making a Career Change

November 9, 2016

By: Carl Winston

Americans average 10-14 jobs between the ages of 18-34 and 3-5 career changes by age 38, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A career change isn’t a sign of weakness or inadequacy. It actually symbolizes positive attributes such as purpose, vision, and aspiration. Former NBC San Diego executive producer and SDSU HTM Master’s alum Tiffany Spitzer offered great advice in her article, “9 Signs You Need a Career Change.” Expanding on her thoughts, I’m going to provide several realities to acknowledge before taking the leap.

1. It’s a Calculated Risk

Any time you change jobs, much less careers, there is always the possibility that you might not be happy with your decision later on. Similar job titles can be dramatically different from one industry to the next, and every position in every field has perks and drawbacks. Remember that you’re seeking change for self-fulfillment not just for an outcome. Even if it takes a couple of tries to find the right fit, it beats sitting in a job you hate.

2. Relationships Take Time

Connections are one thing. Relationships are another. A successful, sustainable career relies heavily on relationships—and those don’t happen overnight. Instead of just focusing on “landing a job,” see your career change for the big picture. Be prepared to build a meaningful network in your new industry from the ground up.

3. The Internet Will Only Take You So Far

The Internet is our best friend in a million ways, but it is not the supreme, all-knowing resource we wish it to be. Glassdoor, for example, is a fantastic website that gives job seekers a glimpse into a company’s culture through the eyes of employees. The problem is that a few reviews of an entire organization won’t even represent the tip of the iceberg, especially considering that many posts are written either by extremely happy or extremely disgruntled employees.

Even an informational interview is always somewhat guarded. For those considering a move into the hospitality business, I often recommend physically going to the hotels or restaurants you envision yourself working in, simply to observe their culture. Do the employees seem happy? Is the manager present?

Obviously this doesn’t work for any industry, and you can’t show up unsolicited to scout an organization’s headquarters, but there is always a way to supplement your online research with real-life information gathering. Think internships, part-time jobs, and when all else fails, simply putting yourself out there and meeting people.

4. Mentorship is a Must

Speaking of meeting people, a mentor is one of the most valuable connections you can make. Seek a mentor in your desired line of work, and then seek different mentors for different aspects of the business. There is a natural bonding process that happens between a mentor and a protégé, one that the HTM Master’s Program facilitates by matching each of our students to a mentor. Learn more about our mentorship program here.

5. A Pay Cut Shouldn’t be a Deal Breaker

There is nothing wrong with taking a reasonable step back financially to position yourself for a more rewarding career. Employers appreciate a willingness to prove your transferrable skills and work your way up the ladder to your desired salary. That’s not to say you should low-ball your own value, but don’t let your pride or a fixation on your current salary get in the way of a promising opportunity.

6. Change is Constant

In a world where technology is constantly changing the way we do business, you should always be prepared for change. Whether it’s a complete career change like the one you might be seeking now or a promotion in your current organization, your career is in your hands. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it is an employer’s responsibility to create aspirations for you and then lead you to them.

7. Education is an Investment, Not a Punch Card

There is a massive difference between a master’s degree that acts as a “feather in your cap” and one that truly aligns you for career success. I personally believe so strongly in our faculty and curriculum here at the SDSU HTM Master’s program that I feel comfortable making a guarantee that it will change your life. That said, I encourage you not to take it from me, but from our many successful alumni.

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