The beginning of a new year is the time when many people set out to make major life changes, like getting fit or becoming more financially savvy. But if you always fail to keep your resolutions, clearly something is wrong. What if the change you really need can’t be found in a savings account or at the gym? What if the thing keeping you from a truly fulfilling life is your career?
With the shaky start of the financial markets in 2016, it might seem that now isn’t the best time to switch careers. However, there really isn’t a wrong time to seek out new opportunities in the job market. In fact, nearly 72 percent of employed adults said they remain aware of jobs in the marketplace regardless of whether they’re employed or not, found a 2015 Indeed study.
So perhaps the question is not if 2016 is the year to change careers — but when. Keep these seven tips in mind as you prepare to change careers this year.
1. Figure Out the Source of Your Unhappiness
If you’re unhappy with your job, it’s important that you determine the underlying reason why.
Pamela Horack, a certified financial planner with Pathfinder Planning LLC, suggested asking yourself questions like, “Do I like the work, but have a bad boss? Do I hate the work, but have a fabulous boss? What do I really want to do?”
Examine the answers to these questions so you can figure out where the real issue lies. “Maybe you find that you don’t need to change companies, but take on a new role,” said Horack. “And if the money and benefits are right, making a job shift might be the right call.”
2. Discover Your Passion
Most people entertain the idea of earning an income from something that they’re passionate about, but few take the steps to determine if it’s a viable career choice.
Horack said this might stand in the way of many employees who are unhappy in their current situations. “If you are unhappy because you are not following your passion, you will need direction and support,” she said. “Talk to others who have made the same leap of faith, and gather as much information as you can.”
You might have to have start some tough conversations with your family to garner support for striking out on your own, taking on a service calling or moving far away. “Be sure you know what you are getting into, and be smart about any big change,” added Horack.
Read more: 4 People Who Turned Down 6-Figure Salaries for Their Passions
3. Find Value in Every Experience
Many people decide to change careers because a particular job or industry no longer presents a challenge. But there’s no such thing as a useless experience. Every job has value — you just have to find it.
According to Horack, starter jobs like being a cashier or waiter teach you how to manage money and provide quality service. Data entry roles teach the importance of attention to detail. And working on logistics focuses on the value of teamwork and last-minute problem solving. All of these skills can help you find and secure the career you’re ultimately seeking.
4. Don’t Jump Without a Safety Net
For many people, the allure of entrepreneurship is the primary catalyst for changing careers. But Kali Hawlk, co-founder of Off the Rails, a mentorship platform for creative women, warned that it might be better to keep your day job while you make the transition.
“It’s really tempting to make the leap as soon as you land on a viable idea and you’re confident you can make it work, whether that’s going out on your own as a freelancer or founding some sort of startup,” she said. However, Hawlk said that people wanting to jump ship to entrepreneurship should plan carefully.
“That means holding down a crazy schedule for a while as you work your current job and work to build up some sort of business on the side,” she said. It makes good financial sense to do so, as you can keep the lights on and invest in your new self-employment needs with the paycheck from your day job.
“When I transitioned from my old 9-to-5 to running my own business, I worked 80 and 90 hour weeks for a few months because I wanted to ensure the income from my new business was the real deal and sustainable,” said Hawlk. “The last thing you want is your opportunity to create your own career to be sabotaged by the fact that you’re out of money and unable to support yourself or your business.”
5. Take the Time to Develop More Skills
While it’s far more glamorous to want to go out and reinvent your career overnight, a more realistic approach is to make small incremental steps toward your new career over time.
This could mean taking a course in your field of interest. You could also seek out cross-training opportunities with your current employer in order to learn skills that might ultimately make you a more attractive candidate to your preferred employer down the road. Take advantage of any and all opportunities to build your skills.
6. Network With People in Your Desired Field
Networking is a critical component for anyone looking for a job or attempting to climb the career ladder. But for individuals looking to transition into a new career, it’s even more important. The best way to learn about a new industry or the corporate culture of a specific company is to talk to those people who are currently working where you’re looking to go.
With the far-reaching abilities of social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, you can identify individuals who are in your desired field and cultivate relationships on your own terms. Through these interactions, you can determine if the industry is actually a good fit, while potentially creating an ally on the inside. This could have a significant impact on your employment opportunities.
7. Build a Support System
Changing jobs in the same field is stressful enough. But when matters are further complicated by completely switching career fields, you can expect to increase your stress levels exponentially. This is why you need a strong personal network to lean on when things get tough.
Turn to family members or friends who can help you brainstorm ways to market yourself or be a second pair of eyes to review your resume. You might even start seeking out other people who are also looking to escape their current careers. Interactions with others on a similar path provide the opportunity for networking and accountability.
Keep Reading: 20 Ways to Improve Your Chances of Getting a Job
Making a career change isn’t easy, but it’s possible. The longer you remain unhappy in your current situation, the more you’ll be putting your health and wealth at risk. So don’t wait any longer — take advantage of the tips above, and make 2016 the year you resolve to move into a career that you love.
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 7 Tips to Change Your Career, If You’re Unhappy
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