Change Careers or Start a Business? Know the Signs That Indicate What to Choose

Sometimes we come to a place in our lives where there’s simply something more to be sought. People have been shifting their perspective on what it means to work, rather rapidly over the past few years. This is specifically in the context of work-life balance and working flexibility. While many start-up organizations and modernized companies are readily and happily embracing the digital and remote-work environment, some organizations are still holding onto the ways of old. As a result, many individuals have come to the realization that working the same old day job they’ve been stuck in simply isn’t for them anymore. This is one of those crossroads we come to, where a decision about what’s next needs to be made. Some people are lucky enough to be close to retirement age and have simply chosen early retirement. Others, though, have to choose between starting their own business or simply making a career change.

“There’s no perfect way of measuring these types of factors. But what we do see is a lot of people asking about getting remote work, for example, and a lot of people questioning low-wage, high-turnover situations, and employers starting to respond, but pretty slowly relative to the expectations of workers.”

Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard –

How Much Do You Already Know?

When it comes to making a career change or deciding to start your own business, a pinch of self-awareness is incredibly important. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself how much industry knowledge you already have. This is a process you should go through no matter which option you’re considering more seriously.

There is, of course, a follow-up question to this. If you aren’t coming into a position or industry with a lot of pre-existing domain knowledge, how much are you willing to learn? There are plenty of entrepreneurs who start with nothing more than an idea and teach themselves the rest.

“Honestly when I started this whole thing I had no idea what I was doing or what I was getting myself into. I just had a vision and a bit of determination. And a ton of coffee, too, let’s be honest. But it all worked out, so here I am.”

– Brandon Sunny, CEO, Royal Moon

That being said, learning an entire industry, and all of the ins and outs of owning, operating, and running a business, isn’t for everyone. It takes a special type of drive to start your own business. If that doesn’t appeal to you, consider taking the route of a career change instead.

How Long Have You Been Considering the Change?

This is another good question to ask yourself while you’re doing a bit of self-evaluation. If this is a brand new idea that you’re running with, it may be wise to take some time for consideration. Jumping head-first into a brand new idea can end up being a less-than-pleasant experience.

If this has the feeling like it’s been a long time coming, on the other hand, then maybe you’re ready to take the plunge. It can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling to build your own business from the ground up.

“It felt like it was taking ages. I mean those first few years, brutal. But after that, I got into the groove, and things started getting a lot smoother. If you have the patience and you can put in the consistency, there’s no other feeling like the freedom that comes with running your own business.”

– Sumeer Kaur, CEO, Lashkaraa

Pre-Existing References and Referrals

Something that everyone learns eventually is that it isn’t always about what you know. Sometimes, it’s about who you know. While this can be frustrating in some cases, it can also be really helpful in the context of making a career change or even starting your own business.

In the context of starting your own business, having good personal relations with previous colleagues, clients, and partners can give you an excellent starting audience base. This is especially the case if they already know you as a high-achiever or believe in your talent in your chosen field.

“I wouldn’t be here today without my mentor. They really believed in me from day one and helped encourage me to take the leap when I thought I was ready. They had my back when it was essentially just me on my laptop. I owe them so much. Without them, I might still be in that cubicle, who knows.”

– Jae Pak, Founder, Jae Pak MD Medical – 

Self-Evaluating Your Comfort with Risk

There is never an economy that makes it risk-free to start your own business or to make a career change. While neither of these are guarantees, there is certainly less risk associated with making a career change than there is with opening and operating your own business.

When it comes down to it, you have to have an idea of how much personal risk you’re comfortable taking on. Building your own business can be extremely rewarding, and offer limitless potential in the long run, on the other hand. The bigger risk, the bigger the reward.

“When I lost my job I was considering just, y’know, taking my talents elsewhere. Trying to find the same position just in a more interesting field. After about, I don’t know, two days of job-searching online I was over it. The very next day I started my business and never looked back.”

– Ryan Rottman, Co-Founder & CEO, OSDB

What Are You Looking For?

We don’t always know what exactly it is we want in our next chapter. But knowing what’s made you unhappy or hasn’t worked out in the past can help direct you toward what you need in future opportunities.

Even in the context of job negotiations, it’s important to know what you’re looking for in an opportunity and to have your priorities sorted beforehand so you end up in a position that makes you happy.

“If the offer is not what you were hoping for, you may want to think about a counteroffer, or you may decide that this isn’t the best job for you.”

Alison Doyle, Job Search Expert, The Balance Careers –