June 10, 2015

5 Career-Change Myths Exploded

Changing OccupationWhile the job-for-life was once the “gold standard” of employment, few people who enter the workplace nowadays believe they will work with one employer for the rest of their lives. Indeed, it has been this way for a few years now.

However, what’s also beginning to slowly change is the expectation that a worker will have one career for their entire life. In today’s world, it’s possible you might start your career as a high-powered accountant and end it as a chilled-out tree surgeon. Massive forces are acting on the workplace — e.g., greater independence and self-determination, globalization, automation, unprecedented levels of economic and corporate instability, etc., – which means that very few career paths can be truly considered “secure.”

What I mean to say is that we are moving into a career-change world; soon, the career-changers will be the rule, rather than the exception. And many people will become “multi-career-changers” — that is, many people will change careers multiple times throughout their lives.

The multi-career-change world is a new and untested environment for employees and employers alike. As a result, many myths prevail that can hinder workers who are seeking to change careers; these myths may also cause employers to pause when looking at career-changer candidates.

Therefore, I thought it would be useful to disprove some of the myths surrounding career changes and career-changers. Doing so will help us build a healthier environment in the talent ecosystem.

Myth No. 1: The Average Person Will Have Seven Careers in Their Lifetime 

The statistic that the average person will have seven careers in their lifetime has been floating around the Web for some time now. However, this stat was never really plausible, and now it has been roundly debunked by many researchers. In my personal opinion, I would expect that the average person might squeeze in two or three careers in a lifetime.

Myth No. 2: You HeroismCan’t Change Careers, or If You Do, It Comes With a High Risk of Failure

A lot of people view career changes in a negative light, but this perspective is not totally justified. Research from the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) found that success rates for career changes are astonishingly high. The institute found that 82 percent of people over 47 who tried to move to new careers were successful in making that change. The truth, then, is that you can changes careers — and if you do, you have a high chance of doing so successfully.

Myth No. 3: You’ll Have to Take a Pay Cut If You Switch Careers

According to the AIER study cited above, sideways career changes are possible. The AIER found that, for 68 percent of career changers, pay remained the same (18 percent) or increased (50 percent). Thirty-one percent of courage changers took pay cuts.

So, while pay cuts are a reality for many career changers, they are not the norm — in fact, career changers who saw their pay decrease were in the minority.

Myth No. 4: You Are Too Old to Change Careers

Remember when the AIER found that 82 percent of people over the age of 47 successfully changed career? I also want to mention research from the AARP Public Policy Institute, which found that 63 percent of older workers who went through long periods of unemployment found jobs in completely new lines of work.

The point here is that career change is an option open to anyone, no matter their age.

Myth No. 5: Needing to Change Careers Is a Sign of Bad Career Planning

HeadscratcherSeveral pieces of research show that our personalities change over the course of our lives. And as your personality and values change, it’s only natural that your career expectations and needs might also change.

So, needing to change careers is not necessarily a sign of bad career planning or failure in you current career path. Rather, deciding to change careers can be an acknowledgement of the natural change in your personal priorities and preferences as you age.

Read more in Career Change

Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.