The One Question to Ask Yourself if You Think You Should Change Careers

I won’t exaggerate. It does not happen every day, but at least once a week I get a phone call from someone considering changing careers. As we chat it becomes clear that their problem is not their career but rather their job.

There’s a difference. If you basically like what you do but don’t like your boss or colleagues, you want a new job. If you like what you do but want to do more, and there is no room for growth with your current employer, you want a new job. (In that case, you actually need a new job!) But if you really don’t like what you are doing, despite the fact that you like your boss and colleagues, then it may be time for a new career.

That’s a major step. You will have to learn new things, maybe even go back to school. You could require a license or certification. And, no less importantly, you may need to create an entirely new network. This is not buying a new car or changing your appearance!

When you have issues with your job, it is good to talk to friends and family. They can help. They can listen. They can advise. But when the topic is changing careers, friends and family may let their feelings get in the way. They are rightly concerned about your finances. After all, a new career means starting over and starting over usually means a much lower salary. They care about you and don’t want you to end up loosing what you have worked so hard to achieve. And they may be right!

Some people, including career counselors, will suggest that you take an aptitude test to determine what you are good at. Nonsense! It’s a waste of money. If you actually want to take a test, ask the counselor what test she recommends and then go to their website and take it yourself. You’ll save time and money and won’t feel like a total idiot since you will be wasting less time and less money if you had used her services. (Usually all that happens is that the counselor sends you a link to the test and then the company sends her the link. She then calls you and, basically, reads you the results.)

The fact is, you know what you want to do, you just don’t know it! So sit down, alone, in a comfortable chair, without any distractions, and ask yourself one simple question: When you are working, doing your job, what do you daydream about?

Once you have that answer you may know what your next career will be. To find out, most friends and most family members will be of no help. As stated above, they are going to let their personal feelings get in the way. Instead of encouraging you, which means encouraging you to take a risk, they will encourage you to play it safe. That’s when you go to a career counselor. Because a career counselor can help you answer the next question, Can you make an actual career out of what you daydream about?

Previously I have written, and said at my public presentations, that when choosing a career counselor to help you conduct an effective job search you should always ask one question: How many people have you hired and fired? If they have not hired or fired anyone, then, for them, career counseling is an academic pursuit. You don’t need theory you need experience and they can’t provide it.

The same is true when it comes to choosing a career counselor to help with a new career. The one question to ask them is: Have you ever changed careers? If not, then, again, all they can do is to tell you what they have read in books and articles. You need someone who can hone in on the real issues career changers face and then, together, decide if that is really what you want. If they have not been through it, they won’t know what to ask (unless they read the right books which, after all, you can read on your own saving yourself time and money!).

The good news about changing careers, as opposed to jobs, is that you can actually change careers while keeping your current job. You can test it out and see if you like it before taking the plunge and quitting that job about which your friends and family are so concerned. Which means they will not be negative influences since there is nothing for them to be negative about. There’s no risk – which is obviously the same situation if you want to change careers because you lost your job.


Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that!

Bruce is a recognized authority on job search and career issues, having been quoted in over 700 articles, appearing in some 500 publications, across the United States and in more than 30 foreign countries. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 300,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador.

An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website,, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.

%d bloggers like this: