What to Think About When Making a Career Change

From setting boundaries to looking after your mental health, here’s how to re-evaluate your professional life this year.

Illustration by Pete Ryan.

The decision to make a career change is never an easy one. Leaving a position can feel risky, but, while change is necessary at times, it doesn’t have to be scary.

“We’re all the CEO of our own brand and our own career,” says Dr. Laura Hambley Lovett, an organizational psychologist with Calgary Career Counselling.

Hambley Lovett suggests three areas to consider for a smooth transition in your professional life. “Know yourself; what’s important to you, your value, interests and transferable skills,” she says. “Equip yourself with the knowledge of what’s out there, including networking, and then put together an action plan for how you are going to get there.”


Further Education

Don’t get a degree first and then figure out what’s next, Hambley Lovett stresses. Instead, “figure out what’s next first and then educate yourself on … the best way to get to a certain career outcome.” Start with what transferable skills can be used to pivot into a new career or position. Next, talk to people who are doing the things you want to be doing, which Hambley Lovett calls “information interviewing,” to get first-hand knowledge of a potential new career path.


Asking For a Raise

“If you don’t ask, the answer is no,” says Hambley Lovett. “There’s no harm in asking, but it’s also how you ask. You need to go into the conversation with a mindset of confidence.” Gaining confidence starts with equipping yourself with knowledge about what the salary ranges are in your field and what range is normal for your current skill levels. If you want to learn learn more about current salary ranges, start by visiting payscale.com.


Setting boundaries

“I don’t like the term work-life balance; I think it sets people up for failure. I like the term work-life wellness,” says Hambley Lovett. “It’s about what you need to be well in your work and be supported, and doing well in your life physically, mentally and emotionally.” The key thing to remember, she adds, is that nobody can set your boundaries except you. “Anyone can knock on your door at any hour of the day, but it’s up to you to open the door, and you don’t have to.”


The B-Word: Tips for avoiding burnout

“It’s a slippery slope when people go through stress into burnout,” says Dr. Susan MacDonald, a registered psychologist with 20 years of experience offering career and personal counselling services. “Our brain becomes really stressed then produces way too much adrenaline and cortisol, and too much of that creates an inflammatory reaction in both our body and our brain and will eventually lead to chronic diseases and ailments.”

Work-life balance, says MacDonald, is not just talking the talk, it’s walking the talk. “We’re not machines; we need to have a healthy balance,” she says. “Getting enough sleep, eating healthy diets and exercising regularly all contribute to our mental and physical well-being. Clear signs of burnout are feeling a lack of energy, motivation, feeling disengagement, rushed or pressured. That’s where career counselling is amazing in terms of helping people understand why the work they’re doing is not a fit and also what would be a better fit and how to get there.”

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This article appears in the January 2023 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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