Future of Work | Mid-Career Switch: A Framework to Assess Your Next Career Option

Top 3 reasons for a career switch: Fulfillment, Career Growth, and Salary Prospects. What are your career aspirations and how do you pick a worthwhile next step? Here’s an evaluation framework to help assess your options.

Career Guides
Jadyn Teo

The Top 3 Reasons why you should make a Mid-Career Switch

Career burnout is incredibly real in Singapore. We used to see work as a means to be financially independent and glorified the idea of staying at the same company for a long time.

Moreover, in light of the pandemic, the government is enhancing more job support measures for job seekers. Therefore, a mid-career switch can be less intimidating and financially viable than ever before.  Now, with more reasons to reassess our career path, making a mid-career switch could possibly be one of the best decisions to make.

Reason 1: Personal Fulfilment and Passion

After 10 years of working as a graphic designer, Gog Meng Hee realised that the job didn’t match his preferred working style. “I missed face-to-face interactions,” he explained, “It was almost a fully desk-bound job, and the only communication channel to the world and my client is my computer.”

It can be a dreary experience starting the workweek every Monday knowing that the nature of your work doesn’t excite you.

“I (also) didn’t enjoy the frequent amendments,” says Meng Hee. Making a seemingly endless series of edits for a client is commonplace in the design world. The frustration that Meng Hee felt might be something many others can understand, even if you work in another industry.

If you consistently feel like you are dragging your feet to work each morning, or perhaps you know your heart is not truly in the work you do, you are not alone. A 2019 report by Qualtrics finds that “2 in 3 Singaporeans dread going to work daily”.

Specifically, of those in the middle of their careers and were willing to make a career switch outside their field of study,

36% said that they want to switch to pursue personal fulfilment and passion.

Reason 2: Stagnating Career Trajectory

The second most common reason for a mid-career switch is a stagnating career trajectory. 23% of career switchers in Singapore cite the lack of advancement opportunities and growth as their reason for making the switch. Ms Chew Siew Mee, country manager at JobStreet.com Singapore, explains, “When their career trajectories stagnate, employees do not derive any form of satisfaction and may begin to resent their jobs.”

Reason 3: Salary Prospects

Along with a lack of career progression, limited salary prospects are also cited as another reason for making the switch. 31% of career switchers did so to get a better salary and financial stability.

Personal Fulfillment, Career Growth, and Salary Prospects are the top 3 reasons for making a career switch. So how do you make sure that you are switching into a career that will be worthwhile?

For those who are still exploring what fulfilment means for you, check out our guide on how to start planning towards a fulfilling career. For those who are looking to make a job or mid-career switch and have 2-3 options to consider, this is a practical ‘thinking-frame’ that you can use to assess those career options.

Introduction to the Mid-Career Evaluation Framework

3 key attitudes ground this framework: Adaptability, Long-term Thinking and Welcoming New Beginnings

1. Adaptability

Accept that things will change. New jobs will emerge, and others will be made obsolete by technology. This principle helps you make space for change in your plans.

2. Long-term Thinking

Think about costs and gains on a 15-30 year timeline. In evaluating our choices, we have to keep future payoffs in mind. For example, if you choose to enroll in upskilling courses on top of your full-time job now, the financial burden and physical exhaustion are some of the short-term costs. But as your career progresses in the long-term, these skillsets could invite job opportunities with far better prospects. Having smart resilience means being able to take short-term costs to reap long-term benefits.

3. Welcoming New Beginnings

This principle helps you play the long game. Sometimes we can get too comfortable with the jobs we’ve always had. This can keep us away from being brave in imagining new ways of working. Take this new chapter as a fresh new start, and permit yourself to explore other areas that you might be good at. That’s the spirit of a mid-career switch!

This ‘thinking-frame' consists of 3 overlapping circles:

  1. Desirability - How personally fulfilling might this career be for me?
  2. Feasibility - How do-able is it to successfully make this mid-career switch?
  3. Viability - How much career growth might I have in this new career?

Our goal is to find a career option that sits in the overlapping portion that fulfils all 3 circles.

This framework is based on a model created by the global design and consultancy IDEO to evaluate business innovations. Isaac Jeffries explains how this model works, “in order to run a successful business, we have to create something that is Desirable (people want it), Feasible (we can actually do it) and it has to be Viable (we don’t go broke).” We adapted this comprehensive, well-proven model to think about our lives and our careers.

How to use the Mid-Career Evaluation Framework

This framework is a thinking tool that can be used during or after the research for your mid-career switch. For example, if you are doing an informational interview with someone in the field, you can fill up this framework as a way to consolidate your thoughts.

You can use this framework as a tool to help guide your thinking in unpacking the holistic and long-term view of jobs: they should be personally desirable, feasible to get to, and viable for earning a living.

Download the Mid-Career Evaluation Printout here:

Career Evalution Framework
Download PDF • 113KB

The Three Considerations in the Career Evaluation Framework

Consideration 1: Desirability

Our first circle, Desirability, is about your passions and interests. Without a compatible fit into the areas that you feel naturally more fulfilled in, finding satisfaction in your new career endeavours would be a difficult feat.

For some, a desirable job might be accompanied by a rush of excitement or passion. A straightforward way to find this is to think about your interests or hobbies. Perhaps you like hosting and entertaining guests at home. This is a clue that you might be passionate about working in the hospitality industry.

However, for most of us, a line of work with a good interest fit might be more subtle and is best discovered by trying it out. Generally, a job that has good desirability for you should:

  • Feel like it sits well with you and aligns with your values
  • Suits your expectations on how you want to balance work and life
  • Feel challenging, but shows progressive success in an enjoyable way

In assessing job desirability, also consider these enduring factors such as personality, values, and work interests. Christopher Soto writes, “sudden, dramatic changes in personality are rare. (Changes in personality) tend to unfold across years or decades, rather than days or weeks.” This allows you to assess how you might interact with the job in the long run.

Here are some considerations when assessing desirability:

  1. Given my personality and style of working, how might I perform in this role and industry?
  2. Where do my values align (or not align) with this job or industry?
  3. How is my level of interest regarding the industry/domain of this job?
  4. How might my expectations of work and lifestyle change through the next 10 years?

As said in our previous guide on Planning Towards a Fulfilling Career, “Ask yourself, what ideas, stories and environments excite you? What do you find yourself getting effortlessly drawn to?”

Consideration 2: Feasibility

Next, we assess how realistic it is to gain the required skills, experience, or certifications to enter the career path given your existing resources and personal bandwidth.

For every option in life, there always is a State A and a Point B. State A refers to where you’re at now. This includes your accumulated hard skills, soft skills and knowledge from your life and work experience thus far. Point B represents the minimum required standard to work in a certain job.

Take the job of a Registered social worker for example. According to Social Work Accreditation and Advisory Board (SWAAB), here are the tangible requirements to be a registered social worker that would make up Point B:

[insert screenshot]

Note that Point Bs can be made up of implicit requirements that are not formally stated. For example, social workers are expected to have strong communication skills to flexibly adapt to the style of their clients and pick up nuances that a layman might miss.

Here are 3 ways to suss out the requirements:

1. Job Descriptions

Look at multiple job descriptions across different companies for the same job and pick out the requirements that repeatedly appear. These are the basic requirements for the job that most companies have.

2. Speaking to People in the Role

You can search on LinkedIn for people in roles and industries similar to the job you have in mind. Reach out with a friendly message to invite them for a video call or a quick chat over coffee. You can ask questions such as, “What are some key skills needed for this job?” or “What should someone do to prepare themselves for this role?”

LinkedIn Networking
Try this template when approach new contacts on LinkedIn

This is a great way to pick up the implicit requirements of the job that you might miss from job descriptions.

3. Check out the Skills Framework from SkillsFuture

SkillsFuture has extensively charted out the skill requirements of jobs across industries, job functions, and seniority levels. Check out the main directory here and find the one for the industry you have in mind. They have covered just about everything from Accountancy to Food Services to Infocomm Technology.

Take for example this skills map for a Marketing Executive in the retail sector. It lists out all the skills needed along with their level of mastery, critical work functions, and everyday tasks.  This helps you get a fuller picture of what you will be doing and the skills you need to perform those functions.

After discovering the requirements for a job or role, we have to gauge the distance between State A and Point B.

Assess how close you are to that Point B. Do you already have some relevant experience for this job? If not, are there some skills that can be transferred over from your past experiences?

You might happily discover that many of your skills can fulfill the traits that employers are looking out for. That’s great! On the other hand, specialised roles such as UX Designer might require more formal certificate courses with an extensive portfolio that signals your professional proficiency in the role.

The goal is to discover how possible it is to bridge that gap. Here are some areas to look out for:

1. Financial capacity

How is your financial safety net? Do you have 6 months worth of your monthly expenses saved up? This will tide you through the job-switching duration.

Assess your financial capacity to take on a short-term pay cut. If the career path is relatively new to you, you might be starting at entry-level positions, which will probably have a lower starting pay. When you’re just starting to build up experience in this field, you might have to take on some financial risk.

Is it financially possible for you to take on courses that you need to? Take into account the full cost of the course, the cost after subsidy, and any other expenses associated with the course (e.g. new equipment)

2. Personal bandwidth

Would you be working full-time while making your mid-career switch? What other commitments do you have outside of work?

These affect your bandwidth to take on mid-career switching activities. Explore creative ways to get around from A to B too. Some people take on part-time courses while working full-time so they can work towards a switch while maintaining their flow of income. It takes discipline to pull through the tough workload, but keep the long-term view in mind to reap the benefits in the long-haul.

3. Access to relevant work experiences and projects

Explore various ways to gain some work experience. One relatively risk-free method is through traineeships, which gives you more flexibility and opportunities to explore a new industry. You can also approach those you know in the industry on LinkedIn. Remember to be open about your exploration process, and ask if they have any opportunities to job shadow or do an internship with a company.

This could also be in the form of some freelancing opportunities that can build the skills needed for the role, such as taking up freelance copywriting projects to build your marketing portfolio.

Take a scan of these options available to you. The more accessible these options are, the easier it is to bridge that skills gap.

Consideration 3: Viability

This dimension of viability is all about the returns that this career will give you. For us practical Singaporeans, we’re used to talking about salaries when it comes to evaluating jobs. However, finances are just one metric of career returns. Viability should also be measured in terms of skill growth as well.

This is because developing in-demand skills allows you to have continued employment and continued income. ManpowerGroup’s Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision (Singapore) found that 40% of millennials take Job Security to mean having ‘job skills that match the market need’. This is a much larger proportion than to ‘secure a job for the long-term’ (20%) and having ‘income security’ (12%).

Job security findings from ManpowerGroup's Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision (Singapore)
Image Credit: ManpowerGroup's Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision (Singapore)

Measuring Viability through Skill Growth Potential

To assess the skill growth potential of a career, start by researching the kinds of skills that you can pick up in the field by looking at job descriptions, interviewing those in the field, and accessing the SkillsFuture Skills Framework. While this is similar to researching the skill requirements of the job, ask the question “Once I get this job, what skills can I grow?”

After the research stage, make your evaluation and try to answer this question: “If I go into this line of work, does it make me stronger or more vulnerable to the changes that are coming?” To get a feel for what shifts in market-relevant skills are happening, check out industry and business news articles such as Forbes’ The Skills You Need To Succeed In 2020 And Beyond.

Measuring Viability through Financial Returns

Here comes the part where it’s all about the dough. There is a great salary guide compiled by Seedly. Aside from this, you can also look at Payscale’s tool or SGCharts (which pulls data from the Ministry of Manpower). For a reference on the job titles that vertical or horizontal career progression might take you to, refer to the SkillsFuture Skills Framework. Their career progression map for the Design Industry is particularly useful for any Business, Design, Innovation, and Technology specialisations within that industry.

Before you go wild looking at all the salaries, manage your expectations for the salary you might receive in the first 1-2 years. Realistically, it might be lower than the salary you are drawing now, or the salary of peers of the same age in the new line of work. However, if you can accept the discomfort in the short term for greater long-term gains, it will pay off with more career potential and greater fulfilment.

Use the Mid-Career Evaluation Framework to guide your next career decision

Our jobs have a great deal of influence in our lives now and many years down the road. Understandably, making a career decision is a process that involves taking risks. This framework doesn’t entirely take the risk out of your choice, but it does help guide our thinking so we can make good long-term decisions about our jobs that address our holistic needs. It is designed to address the 3 major reasons why people switch their careers in the first place.

Careers should be personally desirable and fulfilling. They should also be feasible to attain and viable for earning a living in the long-term. This framework can be used after or in parallel with your research. Let yourself change between ‘discovery’ and ‘evaluation’ modes of thinking as you learn more about the career options ahead of you and make your next brave choice.

In case you missed it: Here is a downloadable framework. Add to it on softcopy, or print it out and use it to accompany you on your career exploration.

Career Evalution Framework
Download PDF • 139KB

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