Knowing When to Switch Careers and How to Take the Leap


Young professionals are looking for more from their careers than a corner office and a paycheck. They want a sense of purpose, freedom to control their schedules, and the opportunity for continued professional and personal growth. If you aren’t getting those from your current position, it might be time to consider a move.

It’s never easy to make a career move, but with the right approach, you can find yourself in a career that both serves your life and feeds your soul. To make sure you’re making the right decision, here are the things you need to consider – whether you’re looking for a new public relations position or are breaking into PR for the first time.

Understand What You Want

To determine if it’s time to switch careers, take an inventory of your current professional situation. Do you feel excited about your work? Are you energized or do you feel drained at the end of the day? Is your work contributing to your personal and professional development? Is Sunday night full of anxiety and dread?

If you’re feeling more strung out than exhilarated by your current career, it’s probably time to make a change. But to make a move that makes your life better, you must identify what you want from your career. Don’t think too specifically about a certain position – consider the broader implications work has for your life as a whole.

Once you identify the key factors that really matter to you – time, creativity, freedom, making a difference – you’ll be prepared to make a move that delivers what you want. Consider more than the paycheck; think about your overall quality of life and how your work either contributes to or takes away from it.

Understand Your Options

There is no one way to be a public relations professional. Whether you want the security of a regular job that includes customary career trappings like paid vacation and a regular salary, or prefer a consulting or freelance position that gives you more control over your income potential and the types of services and products you promote, PR offers plenty of opportunities.

Climbing the traditional career ladder is a possibility for those looking to contribute to an established organization. If that’s you, than you should consider if the change you’re looking for is a move in your current company or a jump to a new organization. But it’s not all about moving up – sometimes lateral moves are worth considering if it would provide the chance to learn and apply new skills in a way that would be more rewarding.

Forging your own path as a consultant or freelancer can be scary but provides the greatest freedom when it comes to how you spend your time and the types of clients you choose to work with. The downside can include an irregular paycheck and the burden of drumming up business, but if you’ve got the energy and the drive, going out on your own can be rewarding.

If you’re not quite ready to jump ship, consider picking up some freelance work on the side and feeling out what it would be like to be on your own. Another option is to approach your current employer about opportunities to work remotely. If a better balance between work and home is at the top of your list then telecommuting might be the perfect solution.

Take the Leap

After you’ve identified what you want and narrowed down the right career move, it’s time to take action. But don’t make a move just for the sake of making a move. Be strategic and make sure that you end up where you want to be. Make a plan that takes everything into consideration, including how to manage your finances if you’re looking at a potential reduction in pay.

A successful career move can take months, so plot out a plan that makes sense and give it the time it needs. If you need time to give your savings account a jolt before putting in notice, include that in your plan. If you want to work for yourself you’ll need to build up connections and create a network of potential clients. Make building the right relationships a key element of your plan, including how to follow up and stay in touch with contacts.

Seek out a mentor who’s currently doing the type of PR work you want to do. Learn from them and use them as a sounding board to help you see where you’re on target and where you need to adjust while making your career switch. There’s no better way to reach your destination than to learn from someone who’s already there.

But, whatever you do, don’t burn any bridges. Make sure you leave your current position on good terms and with a great recommendation. Public relations is a small world and, if you leave on bad terms or act unprofessionally during your job search, word is likely to get around.

Whether you’re ready to set the PR world on fire or simply want to carve out your own, exclusive piece of the pie, making an informed, prepared decision is the key to success. Before making that career change be sure you’ve taken the time to reflect, plan, and take the actions necessary. With the right approach, you’ll be sure to end up in a position that makes you excited for Monday morning.

Sara Pike is a freelancer and college writing instructor. When she’s not writing or teaching, she’s probably binge-watching RomComs on Netflix or planning her next camping trip. She also enjoys following far too many celebrities than she should on Instagram. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.

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