SadMany people are unhappy with their jobs: perhaps their salary does not meet expectations, or they have not advanced as quickly as they would have liked, or they have wanted to leave but job prospects elsewhere have been slim. Faced with such situations, they may decide that the only solution is to start from scratch in an entirely new career.

However, a mid-career switch can be very risky, especially in a down economy. That brand new life could end up being a costly mistake.

Not only could such a move potentially require additional schooling and training, but it also returns the individual to the ground floor, in terms of their role in the company. New-career job seekers quickly find that age and life experience will do little to get them beyond the entry level. On average, individuals who change careers can lose 20-50 percent of their former income on the new job. It can take an average of 5-10 years to get back to the former salary level after changing careers.

The more years the individual has invested in a career, the longer it takes to equal the former salary in their new career. Career jumpers may face significant lifestyle changes when accepting a salary reduction, and they are at an immediate disadvantage when it comes to competing for jobs.

Employers cannot afford — or are otherwise loathe — to spend time and money on extensive training. When someone is hired to fill a position, they are expected to immediately begin contributing. Put briefly: job experience is valued more than age and life experience.

Even if the hypothetical career malcontent is able to move to another field, they can expect to be outclassed by more experienced competition. Also, lower salary and on-the-job status are likely to be a source of discontent over the long run, which could adversely affect job performance. This is why those who wish to make mid-career switches should consider changing industries, not functions.

The source of a person’s perceived career unhappiness is often not the career itself. It may be a bad boss, or the industry may be in a slump. It may also be that the position is not challenging enough or lacks direction. Most career problems can usually be solved by moving to a new company and/or new industry. Most people need to find a new environment and start somewhere with a clean slate.

In most areas, it is viable for people to transfer their functional skills to another industry and be accepted by that industry at competitive salary rates. From the employer’s standpoint, industry hoppers bring fresh perspectives to the more staid industry traditions. They may see situations differently and suggest new solutions.

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