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Are you thinking of making a career change? Whether it’s a smaller change such as applying for an internal promotion with your current company, or a huge change such as switching industries, going back to school to prepare for a new career, or going out on your own and starting your own business, the idea can be both exciting and terrifying. Thorough research, careful planning, and thoughtful reflection can make this time more enjoyable, and help ensure you are making positive decisions for your present and your future.

Here are a few questions to think through as you approach this change:

When am I happiest at work?

Think through your time at work over the previous day, week, and month. During which tasks did you feel the most engaged and fulfilled? When does the time fly by? Is it when you are working with other people? When you are given time to fully focus on a task? When you get to be creative? When you have a clearly defined project and feel confident you can accomplish it well? When you receive positive feedback? Whatever it is, would you have more of this type of work, more of these moments, in the new position or industry you are considering?

When am I happiest away from work?

Think about the times in your personal life that give you the most fulfillment. How do you spend your free time? Whether it’s filling your home with loved ones to enjoy a meal you’ve prepared, getting lost in a great book, attending a concert or play, hiking in the woods, working with your hands on an art or craft project, or something else entirely, is there a way to incorporate aspects of the things you love most into your work life? If you love being surrounded by people a career where you work alone most of the time might not be the best fit. If reading and research make you happy perhaps you’d be well suited to an industry where continuing to learn is important.

What is my ideal schedule?

While how much we work and how often is often is sometimes dictated by budgetary concerns, it is helpful to think through what, in a perfect world, a great schedule would be. Are you a morning person or a night owl? When do you do your best work? Are there times you’d like to be away from work for other commitments or activities? Do you prefer a set routine or a flexible schedule?

What are my financial goals?

Money is far from the only factor when it comes to work, but it is an important part of the equation. What do you need to earn in order to meet your basic immediate needs and to prepare for emergencies and for retirement? What would you hope to earn in order to live the lifestyle you aspire to, whether that involves travel, time off away from work, or activities you enjoy.

What are my greatest skills? And weaknesses?

Aside from preparation for a classic interview question, thinking through what you do well and which aren’t areas of strength for you can be extremely helpful when approaching a career change. Will the type of job you’re thinking about make use of your strong suits? Are there any skills you should work to improve in order to excel in that field? Are there courses you could take (either online or in person) or books you could read to help you address this?

Best of luck in your journey to a new career!

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