Next-chapter careers

illustration with man standing with back to viewer looking at several arrows ahead going different directions

Are you at a career crossroads? If so, you’re not alone. According to a joint study by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gallup and other associations, more than 50 percent of American workers are unhappy in their jobs. 

However, the unhappiness didn’t necessarily stem from lack of pay or long hours. The study found that a major reason for respondents’ dissatisfaction was their longing to have work with a purpose. That feeling of wanting the work you do to have meaning is a primary reason many workers decide to take the leap into what we’ll call a “next-chapter career.” If you’ve had thoughts about changing your career, here are a few preliminary steps that can help you make the next chapter of your career a successful one: 

Don’t rush it

Why panic and take the first opportunity that comes along, only to find you’re just as unhappy as you were before? According to Indeed, the average worker takes 11 months to consider a career change before making a move. Take advantage of this “exploratory stage,” as some career coaches term it, to examine and research the possibilities. At this point, you don’t have to make any decisions—just see what’s available out there. 

Assess yourself

Make a comprehensive and honest list of what you know and are able to do that can translate to any field. What are your interests? Your skills? Your values? What do you enjoy? What do you hope you never have to do again? Look beyond your work history to consider volunteer or other work you’ve done, and don’t dismiss anything. For example, you may not have management aspirations, but skills like people management can be put to use in many different ways in other industries and professions. 

Look at your current company

While the job you have now may not be ideal, if you like the company you currently work for, another department or division may offer the change and challenge you seek. If you’re sure your future doesn’t lie there, while you’re investigating your next move, take advantage of training opportunities to upgrade your skills. 

Test it out

Consider using volunteer or freelance opportunities—or opps within your current company—to see how interested you really are in a particular field or position. Do you want to work with animals? If so, then volunteer at a local shelter. Would you love to be a journalist? Then volunteer to produce and/or edit your company’s employee newsletter. If you know someone or have connections in your desired field, you may be able to job shadow and spend a few hours observing “a day in the life of” someone in your dream job. 

Before Julia Child wrote her first cookbook, she worked in advertising. Before becoming a fashion designer, Vera Wang was a dancer, figure skater and journalist. And before Ina Garten became famous as The Barefoot Contessa, she worked at The White House. These famous career-changers found their bliss, and you can too, as part of the 88 percent of career changers Indeed found were happier in their new careers. Start planning for your next chapter today! 

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