How to successfully navigate a career change

April 21, 2015, 5:30 PM UTC
Photograph by Peter Holst

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What’s your best piece of advice for someone looking to change careers?” is by Shahrzad Rafati, founder and CEO of BroadbandTV.

Years ago most professionals would pursue a single career path for the majority of their lives, but in today’s ever-changing world this notion has become something of a rarity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average professional in America now only stays in a role for about four and a half years. As an entrepreneur, I’ve made many pivots of my own, but the most important lesson I’ve learned is to gather all the facts before making a decision. Here’s how:

Ask yourself why
There are plenty of reasons for making a career change, and having a good perspective on your ‘why’ is a big step towards knowing what, how, when, and where. If you’re making the change because you’re unhappy in your current work environment, then you should look for a company who prides themselves on culture. Or perhaps you want to cut back on the long work hours and spend more time with your family. Be sure to look for positions close by in companies who emphasize a work-life balance. Every individual situation is different, so it’s important to recognize exactly what you are looking for in new career.

Recognize your own talents
Take some time to think beyond the skills you can list on a resumé. Do you have knowledge and experiences that can’t be quantified? You might have a laundry list of certifications, but some of our best skills are intangible. What are your hidden talents? How can they help you define your next career move? It also helps to ask people you trust for opinions on your skills and shortcomings. Outside perspectives can add a lot to either validate your thinking or even overturn it, which could take you on a path you haven’t previously consider.

Know your ultimate goal
What do you really want to get out of your career? What are your long-term goals? I always believe it’s important to think five to 10 years ahead. Starting with a vision of where you want to be can help you set short-term goals in order to reach your final objective. The change that you make should be a logical step in an overarching direction. I like to think of these considerations like a game of chess: always planning six to seven moves ahead given the current state of the board. This way, every move can be part of a bigger goal. The board will change (sometimes unexpectedly) and the short-term plays will inevitably adapt with it, but your vision for success should remain the same.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: What’s your best piece of advice for someone looking to change careers?

S’well CEO’s best advice for changing careers by Sarah Kauss, CEO and co-founder of S’well.

Are you really ready to change careers? by Sandhya Venkatachalam, co-founder and partner of Centerview Capital.

3 things you should know before changing careers by Lars Albright, co-founder and CEO of SessionM.

Is changing careers worth the risk? by Beezer Clarkson, managing director at Sapphire Ventures.

Thinking of changing careers? Here’s what you need to know by Shafqat Islam, CEO of NewsCred.

When you should (and shouldn’t) change careers by Ryan Harwood, CEO of Purewow.

3 things you need to know before joining a startup by Sunil Rajaraman, co-founder of

How to successfully change careers (at any age) by Matthew Salzberg, CEO and founder of Blue Apron.

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