Think a shaky economy means it’s too risky to make a career change? Think again. In fact, now may be the perfect time to make your move.
After all, long-term job market forecasts project severe labor shortages ahead as Baby Boomers continue to retire or scale back their careers in record numbers. While short-term job prospects don’t look quite as cheery, that doesn’t mean that opportunities don’t exist or that you’re stuck in job purgatory for the duration.
If you’ve been feeling unhappy in your current career, there’s no time like the present to kick-start your career change and position yourself for years of future success. Here’s why:
1) Your current job is not secure.
You may be tempted to grit your teeth and cling to your current position until the economic forecasts start to look sunnier. In today’s workforce, that’s a dangerous strategy. When an 80+-year-old Wall Street institution like Bear Stearns can disappear practically overnight, no job is truly secure. It doesn’t really matter how good you are at your job or how much boss butt you kiss.
If you have been contemplating a career change, there’s no good reason to put it off until the unemployment rate falls again. I’m not suggesting that you make any rash moves like quitting before you’re financially ready, but you can start developing your career change strategy now. Get started on the homework you need to do while you’re still collecting your paycheck. Update your resume, step up your networking, explore your options, and develop your skills.
You will be taking a career risk whether you resign yourself to staying in the job you hate or start moving toward the job you’ll love. Why not put your energies into the risk that could have the biggest reward?
Put your career change in motion now, even if it’s only taking baby steps in your spare time. Not only will you be ready to launch your dream career that much sooner, you will also be better prepared just in case your name pops up on one of those downsizing lists unexpectedly.
2. Plenty of companies are hiring right now.
The overall job forecasts may look bleak at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that nobody’s hiring. There have been a flurry of articles about “recession-proof jobs” in the media lately. The fields that are expected to stay strong despite a possible recession include education, energy, health care, environmental careers, and international business. That doesn’t mean that you should flee blindly to these professions if they don’t inspire you. However, if your dream career is connected to any of these growing industries, you may find it fairly easy to make a move.
Lots of other companies in all industries are also hiring. Yes, there are fewer job openings than there were at this time last year. Then again, you only need one good one. It may take a little bit longer to land a great position, but there’s no reason to abandon all hope.
3. But if you really want job security, you have to work for yourself.
When you work for yourself, you never have to worry about getting fired. Today, just about anybody with a computer and an Internet connection can start a business. You can even keep your day job if you want to (or need to for financial reasons while you build your business).
Of course, you’ll have to be prepared to put in some work. Running a successful business is no cakewalk and entrepreneurship may not be the right career move for everyone. However, it’s definitely the best way to go if you really want to live by your wits. You’ll have to find your own clients, manage your own time, and pay for your own bagels. But you’ll never be at the complete mercy of one boss or one company ever again.
4. Living in fear isn’t healthy.
When layoff rumors start flying, it’s easy to get caught up in worry and speculation. We gossip about who deserves to go, we curse the stupid managers who got us into this mess to begin with, and we waste a lot of time on scary worst-case scenarios. If it goes on too long, this can sabotage your job performance and have an impact on your mental and physical health.
The best thing to do to stop the madness is channel your energy into something constructive – like preparing for your career change. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel once you’ve taken charge of the situation and are actively working toward your next career move.
5. Sometimes you need someone to light a fire under your ass.
Apologies if that sounds harsh. But the truth is that lots of people stay stuck for years in careers that are uninspiring or downright miserable. Why? Because it never gets quite bad enough to force them to make a move. I know I stayed in my corporate career for a good couple of years longer than I should have because of my belief that “it could be worse.” Nice words to live by, huh?
A layoff or the threat of layoffs could be just the spark you need to get moving on the career change that you’ve been fantasizing about for a while. I can’t tell you how many people I know who felt overcome with relief after getting served with pink slips. They had been ready to leave for a while, but just hadn’t been able to work up the nerve to walk away on their own.
6. You can turn a layoff into a stroke of luck.
That’s not to say that I take layoffs lightly. I know how devastating it can be to lose your job when you’re unprepared financial and/or emotionally. I’ve been in that position and it’s not a lot of fun. Not at first, at least.
That’s why I think it’s so important to get moving on your career change plans now, no matter what the economists are saying. Then, even if the layoff fairy visits before you’re 100% ready to leave, you’ll still be several steps ahead of the average job-hunter.
In fact, if you do your homework and prepare for your career change in your spare time, you might soon find yourself longing for a layoff. After all, a good severance package can give you a nice head start on your new career if you’re adequately prepared. Even some of us who weren’t perfectly prepared have managed to leverage severance packages as start-up funds for our new careers.
7. There’s never a perfect time to change careers.
The bottom line is that there will never be a perfect time for a career change. The perfect opportunity will never just fall into your lap. You will never achieve anything great without at least a little bit of risk and some hard work.
If you are unhappy in your current career, it’s worth taking a calculated risk. And it’s better to start now than to waste more of the best days of your life stuck in a dreary job hoping for the right moment to come along.