One thing that has truly never made sense to me is the pressure put on young people at the tender age of 17 or 18 to make a decision about the rest of their lives. I look at me then and compare it to me two, five, ten years later. Totally different people. And you know the biggest part of changes in my opinions and passions over the years? Real world experience. Sound familiar?

Sometimes we get lucky, and we land a career that is perfect for us, but it makes total sense that after real-world experience in the job you always wanted that you may start doubting if this is what you want for the rest of your working life.

So what do you do when you realise you need a career change? It’s an incredibly scary thought to move from having a career and steady income to start from scratch and go back to your studies, right? But then again, is it scarier than spending the next 50-odd years not loving your work?

We spoke to careers expert Tina Monk from Sydney Career Coaching about when you should seriously consider a career change, and how to do it without the huge freakout.

Career Change - OC

When Should You Consider A Career Change?

Let’s be real, every job has its ups and downs. Unless you’re the luckiest human alive. As long as the majority of the time you like what you do, carry on.

But, according to Tina, if you can’t shake that feeling of just not fitting in your current role, there are a few pesky questions you need to be asking yourself, and make sure you’re answering honestly.

Do you dread going to work in the morning? What about when you actually make it out of bed and into work, do you continue to dislike what you’re doing? Are you just going through the motions without your heart being in it? Does your work feel so routine you could do it in your sleep? When was the last time you felt like you had the opportunity to do what you do best every day?

If you’re honest with yourself when answering these questions, you’ll be able to better recognize if you’re in a slump or need to make a career change,” says Tina.

Career Change - Rhianna Work

Are You Too Old To Switch?

For most careers, there is no age limit. We live in an aging workforce that is starting to value age more than ever before. We feel ageism will become a thing of the past for most people and organisations,” believes Tina, “Older employees are starting to be recognised for their wisdom and reliability. These are attractive qualities to a potential employer.

So basically, no matter how old you are when you start feeling a career change itch, or how old you’ll be when you’ve completed any necessary study or work experience required, do you! But of course, as Tina points out, if we’re being the super practical adults we are you do consider the more practical side of a career change. Mainly those pesky finances.

It is important to look at the economics of a career change, as you may need to start at the bottom of the ladder and take an initial pay cut. Can you afford the necessary education or training to get you to your ultimate goal? Are you supported by those closest to you to make the change?

So…What Do You Do Now?

You’re a little older and wiser now, at least in theory, so you’re in a better position to settle on a new career path that actually does suit you. But how the heck do you do know you’re making the right choice?

It is a good idea to conduct a thorough transferable skills audit before considering a career change as there may be a shift that you can make with little or no further study or training,” recommends Tina.

Talk to people already in the career that you want to get into and pick their brains about the role and the requirements. Most importantly, ask them how they got into the career as this could well inform your next steps.

We call this ‘informational interviewing’ and it is a crucial first step before making any career changes.

Career Change - Devil Wears Prada

How Do You Keep The Transition Smooth?

As excited as you might be to get going, Tina recommends a little patience before quitting your day job.

Hating where you work and what you do is an intolerable permanent situation. However, it is a tolerable temporary one. Having additional income coming in from your current job while preparing for a new career prevents stress.

Plus, you’ll be able to handle a job you don’t like better with the new hope optimism that acquiring new skills and preparing for a new career often provides. Knowing that there is an end to an unfulfilling job is a fabulous coping tool.

Beyond that, it’s all about staying open-minded and being able to roll with the changes as they come. It’s called a transition period for a reason. It won’t last forever.

A career transition rarely goes to plan. Keeping an open mind about where your new skills can take you helps to increase possibilities and secure an excellent new career. For example, taking marketing classes may make it possible to get an excellent job in sales. This may not be the career transition you were expecting, but it might end up being the career you love.

Learning new skills and making a career transition is stressful and difficult for most adults. Make sure you surround yourself with an optimistic, upbeat network of people who are supportive of your career transition. Embrace the learning process and look at this time as an investment in your future.

Career Change - Unhappy Employees

If you’ve made it this far in the article, I’m willing to bet you’ve been starting to wonder if your job is the career for you. Life’s too short to hate your job. Time to do something about it. I’ll leave you with these final words from Tina:

The key is to find something that you truly love to do. This is what most people, of any age, find the hardest part. Find your passion and follow it and once you know the ‘what’, the ‘how’ of getting into your dream career becomes a lot easier.

Go get ’em tiger!