Young Alumni: Is it time for a career change?

Many of us grow up thinking that we have to choose just one career. In reality, people go through an average of 12 jobs by age 50. Career discernment — finding a profession that is personally fulfilling — is a lifelong process, and it takes time to find the right fit. How do you know when it’s time for a career change?

Discerning what kind of work will be meaningful can be daunting, and it’s normal to try out several different roles in your first decade of work before finding what feels best. As people get older and their values and interests change, their career goals do, too. Career discernment is not a linear path to one destination, but an ongoing process of work and reflection.

As you start out, it’s important to consider what kind of job will feel meaningful — but don’t put pressure on yourself to immediately find your dream job. In your first role, give yourself time to settle in; invest in an organization to see if you like the work and mission. If the job isn’t the right fit for you after those first two years, it’s time to consider some other options.

When is it Time for a Career Change?
There are several reasons that might lead you to a career change. If you feel that you’ve stopped learning in your current position, or the work no longer feels impactful, consider whether there might be other roles in your organization that are of interest. If there are, advocate for yourself and for more responsibility to better position yourself for a new role.

If you don’t see a pathway within your current company to a job that interests you, then you may want to start looking elsewhere. In the case of a toxic organizational culture, don’t wait — start looking right away for something that will better support your health and happiness.

When you are ready for a career change (or are searching for that first position), there are several things that you can do to help you decide where to go:

1. Reflect. Ask yourself: What has happened that makes me want to change jobs? What kind of impact do I want to have? What kind of problems do I want to solve? Journaling can be a helpful activity during this reflection process. If you’re still struggling to figure out what it is that you want, reach out to Jenele Grassle in the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career to set up an appointment for a career assessment.

2. Research. Start looking into the kinds of jobs in which you’re interested. Read job descriptions, review LinkedIn profiles, and reach out to your contacts — other Oles are great contacts — for informational discussions. Learn about what qualifications you need and the different pathways people have taken to reach their current role.

3. Reach out. Take advantage of the Ole alumni network! Reach out to fellow St. Olaf alumni in your areas of interest and network with them. Connecting with people working in your field of interest allows you to gain a better understanding of the day-to-day work. Attend industry-specific networking and professional development events to make additional connections. Consider volunteering at organizations whose work you are passionate about in order to get hands-on experience. And if you’re still struggling to find the perfect fit, try some contract or gig jobs in order to bulk up your resume—these positions often lead to full-time hires.

Remember: career discernment is not one-size-fits-all. Everyone has their own path to their ideal career, and that ideal career may change over time. No matter where your professional growth takes you, following these three steps will help you be prepared each step of the way.