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Career Change or Job Change -- Which Do You Really Want?

Ask yourself the following questions to determine if a whole new career path is really what you desire. Keep in mind, there are no right answers here--the quiz is for self-assessment purposes.

Start learning about yourself …

1 - After your last company meeting, you:

  1. began brainstorming ways to dazzle your manager with follow-up ideas
  2. IM'ed your friends to complain about the hour of your life you'll never get back
  3. resumed surfing school sites to see if there are some classes that will help you break free of your humdrum position

Consider this: If you answered C, it indicates that you're not just daydreaming about moving on, you're actively researching your escape plan. And education is a great way to launch your new career. For instance, in a typical MIT Sloan School of Management class, about 85 percent of students hope to use their degrees to change careers. The same holds true for students who turn to career training programs to increase their business knowledge in areas like accounting.

2 - You met up with an old friend for lunch. When the conversation turns to how your job is going, you:

  1. launch into a tale about your latest office triumph
  2. find yourself making an effort to change the subject since talking about work depresses you
  3. admit you're miserable and start asking about prospects in his/her field

Consider this: If you answered B, take heart--many people are not content in their current positions, simply because they don't fit in with company politics. In a recent Maritz poll of 1,300 full-time employees, more than half (58 percent) of
respondents agreed or strongly agreed that if they had the chance to do the same work at the same pay for a different company, they would continue doing their current job, just elsewhere. The good news is, you can make that happen through accessible and affordable online degree programs, so that if you decide to make a job leap, you'll have the educational foundation to get it done.

3 - Every time you've just about had it at your current job you:

  1. take a deep breath and get over it-- you're too loyal to look elsewhere
  2. surf job boards and blog about how cranky you are
  3. kick yourself for not pursuing the career you really wanted

Consider this: No matter what your answer is, you should note that it's perfectly alright to see what else is out there, whether it's within your current industry or beyond. The result might be bettering your situation, or realizing you are indeed happy where you are, but you won't know until you inquire. The latest findings from a Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) survey indicate that sixty percent of IT workers say they're looking for new jobs, and 81 percent of job hunters describe their searches as active. A whopping 80 percent of those looking for new gigs say they hope it's with a new employer. These employees know the competition is fierce, and often turn to online education to strengthen their appeal should they decide to move on.

4 - You are working on a project and an obstacle comes up. You're most likely to:

  1. brainstorm with co-workers to come up with a solution.
  2. find a way to patch up the problem, and let the next guy deal with the consequences.
  3. do your best to handle the situation, but realize that this is not something you want to deal with for the rest of your life.

Consider this:  If you answered A, you're not afraid to seek advice and are open to learning new things. Success in your current job as well as in the future is dependent on constantly learning. When one considers the fact that unskilled labor has decreased from 60 percent of the workforce in 1950 to 15 percent today, and that more than 80 percent of new jobs require an associate degree or higher, it's important to invest time in continuing your education. The flexible nature of online degrees will let you study on your own terms.

5 - If money wasn't a factor and you had your choice of profession, what would you honestly want to do?

  1. Exactly what I'm doing now, but maybe in a higher position at my company.
  2. Work for someone who actually cares about their employees, and not only the bottom line
  3. Something totally different--I feel stuck here.

Consider this:  No matter which answer you chose, the fact is that when you're considering a job or career change, salary isn't everything. According to a recent survey by JobsInTheUS.com, job seekers want more than just a paycheck when considering a career change. Top wish-list items include flexible schedules (27 percent), advancement opportunities (24 percent), employee appreciation (17 percent), professional training (14 percent), and tuition assistance (12 percent). Nearly one-third of corporate tuition reimbursements now fund online or blended programs, according to a survey by the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD).

6 - You are in your current position as a result of:

  1. luck. My company took a chance on me despite little experience and I work hard to prove myself.
  2. necessity. I took the job for the money--plain and simple.
  3. a poor choice. I thought this was the field for me, but I was wrong.

Consider this: If you answered C, don't beat yourself up. While education often leads into corresponding career paths, you can't possibly know if you're suited for a field until you try it out. What's more is that what makes you happy at 25 might not cut it at 32. “Psychologists are recognizing that human beings experience distinct periods of transition approximately every seven years,” says Geil Browning, Ph.D., founder/CEO of Emergenetics International, which provides a psychometric analysis on how people think and behave for top corporations including Microsoft and Bank of America. “If you are thinking about a career change, it could be a natural life transitional period that we all experience. You can either ignore this transitional feeling or see it as an opportunity to move to a new level,” he adds.

7 - You've contemplated what it would be like in a totally different career path, but you:

  1. don't want to start over after all of the years you've invested in your current position.
  2. really do like the nature of your work, even if you don't necessarily like the daily rut you've been in.
  3. aren't sure how to go about making the switch successfully.

Consider this: If you choose A, remember that studies have indicated that people make as many as five career changes over a lifetime. By enrolling in post-baccalaureate, second degree, or accelerated degree programs--all of which are offered in online formats--many adults have made the move to the health care field later in life. In fact, according to a survey by the National Student Nurses' Association's (NSNA) Breakthrough to Nursing program, only 33 percent of students entered nursing programs directly after high school. Of the two-thirds who did not enter nursing directly after high school, 49 percent had prior careers, and 27 percent came to nursing after marriage and family.

THE OUTCOME?

Mostly A's > You're a team player and happy with your current job. You're thriving and genuinely enjoy going to work each day. Maintain that excitement by keeping your skills fresh, or even learning something new so you can take on different projects and move up the ranks.

Mostly B's > You're not happy with your company's culture – perhaps it's time to look elsewhere, but within the same industry. Career education can help you fortify your skills set, and make you more marketable to a prospective employer.

Mostly C's > You want to pursue a new career altogether. The best way to start is by assessing your strengths and building on them, and researching fields for which your attributes will benefit you. Of course, if you already have a specific industry chosen, bulk up the education section of your résumé with the appropriate training or degree to get your foot in the door.