Are You Really Ready to Change Careers?

Career Change

(This post first appeared on Fortune.com here )

Many people will have the urge to change jobs or careers at some point in their professional life. And I believe the most common reason for change is dissatisfaction–not enough money, growth, or work-life balance. While these are all valid reasons to make a move, I think that a proactive approach to career change will result in more success than a reactive one. Specifically, think about your profession strategically opposed to tactically. This will help you identify where you see yourself in the future, allowing you to actively seek opportunities on an ongoing basis that could advance your objectives, well before you are dissatisfied with your current job.

I’ve had a few major career changes in my own life–from investment banking, to corporate development at Cisco,and most recently to co-founding Centerview Capital (just to name a few). In each new career, I started with little to no expertise in that industry, forcing me to work extremely hard in order to prove I could do the job–and do it well. I always tried to figure out a new approach to the status quo so that I wasn’t just playing catch up, but rather bringing value that no one else had.

My experiences have led me to firmly follow threeprinciples whenever contemplating a career change:

Turn lack of experience into “fresh eyes”
I am a believer in cross-pollination i.e. applying a set of perspectives and expertise gained in one area to solve unrelated longstanding problems in a different area. So, find the angle where your past experience could give you unique perspective and discover how to best utilize this in the new career path you wish to pursue. This can actually give you an advantage, even if you lack relevant expertise. And sometimes, the very act of taking a risk and changing careers will reinvigorate your creativity.

Be humble
When considering whether or not to change careers, keep in mind that it should be done for the long term. Don’t get caught up in the particulars of title and compensation of a new role. If you believe that you can be successful over time, then pick the industry, company, and team that will offer the most growth—even if the exact role is technically a demotion. As Eric Schmidt said to Sheryl Sandberg, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on.

Know yourself
Sometimes, industries or companies other than our own just sound cooler or better, but what’s really the attraction? For example, are you moving to Silicon Valley because you want to be part of a hot startup or do you actually enjoy working in tech? In order to be truly happy, you need to know yourself and find opportunities that play to your personality, work style, and aspirations. So do your homework and don’t ignore repeated patterns you encounter in your diligence.

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