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How to change jobs without making a mistake

Tech or the real economy, freelance or hired talent — career coach and self-development specialist Elena Bogdanova discusses how to change your career vector.

Career coach and self-development specialist Elena Bogdanova

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Reasons for changing your career vector

— Why do people decide to make changes in general? From a psychological point of view, the desire for change is fueled by a lack of dopamine, a pleasure hormone. When a person ceases to enjoy their routine, they want a change. Maybe they color their hair in a new bright color, maybe they make repairs on their home, maybe they changes their habits, and maybe they change their job. Jobs are changed quite often. Work is something that takes up a significant portion of our lives. A person who decides to make changes often does it because they realize that work is an overwhelming part of their life, and it should bring pleasure.

Frequently, when changing jobs, people start looking at an entirely new field. They sometimes focus on fields that seem the most promising. One of these areas is, of course, Tech. Tech is desirable because it appears to be a field in which you can earn a lot of money. People don’t necessarily understand, however, that money is not uniformly available at all levels and positions. A Junior, for example, needs to work very hard in order to grow to an attractive salary.

And if money is a prime motivating factor, there is money not only in Tech, but also in real economy. There are a huge number of international companies where you can earn good money in the real sector.

If we are focusing on Tech, however, then in addition to money there is also the possibility of development. You can't come into this field and do the same thing for 20 years. To gain a foothold and then succeed in Tech, you need to always develop. For lovers of change, this is an ideal sphere. Dopamine is in abundance.

Another advantage of Tech is that, as a sector, it tends to involve less discrimination based on gender, age, race, and other grounds. When I transitioned into Tech and was interviewed, I encountered exceptional companies that did not ask about the presence or absence of children or my marital status, and who were not put off by my age.

Women in the IT industry: myths and facts

How do you avoid making a mistake

— How do you make a change without making a mistake? Everyone asks this. To answer it for yourself, I recommend considering 3 very important questions:

  1. Why do I want change? The reasons may vary, and they may include: insufficient salary, lack of career growth, or dissatisfaction with the work you are doing.
  2. What about my current activity does not suit me? Again, functionality, responsibilities, and income can all play a role, or maybe you’re just tired and need to go on vacation.
  3. What do I really want? You need to sit down and describe your perfect day in writing. When you understand what you want, you can start working on how to implement it.

Career path options

— First, I recommend identifying, in writing, what you can do well. To help you with this, you can contact an expert to help you "unpack" your skills. You describe what you are really good at, and what competencies you have. Then, you identify skills that can be transferred from your current field to other areas. Clients come to me who say that they have worked in the same place for 20 years and have done the same thing. When we start "unpacking" competencies, we recognize that there are a lot of them, and we can consider positions in both the real economy and in Tech. It is especially helpful if you have a high level of English.

Discover your English level

— Very few people can identify or appreciate their achievements. This is a skill that needs to be developed. It will be useful in your job, when you need to show results, and in interviews.

When you identify your transferable skills — skills that can be transferred from one activity to another — then you can start deciding where they can be applied. Tech is not only about developers, there are a lot of other professions in the field. Sales managers, for example, can be found both in the real sector and in Tech. Yes, it's not always possible to begin with a senior position, but you can start with middle or junior+.

Find the best IT profession for you

Hired or freelance

— Before making a final decision about the development of your career, you need to answer one more question: hired or freelance?

I often hear from colleagues in the Tech field who are in different countries. They say that companies now prefer cooperation with self-employed individuals, freelancers, and entrepreneurs due to the redistribution of financial resources. Objectively, an employee costs the company many times more than a freelancer. Hiring an employee involves an employment relationship, the associated legal implications, and a lot of obligations for the employer. Therefore, companies are more willing to take on someone who is self-employed. Doing so means that there are no labor protections or other similar obligations.

Large Tech companies also work in this format. In the US, freelancers are frequently hired for long-term projects, with 2-3 year contracts. These specialists have access to the benefits of companies, but they are not employees. After the end of such contracts, the freelancer can potentially join the company's staff as an employee. It will be easier to be brought in-house than if you were unfamiliar to the company. This trend applies across specialties. In the freelancer format, the company is ready to offer more favorable conditions for money, since the freeelancer is still cheaper for them than an employee.

The disadvantage of freelancing is that it is not an employment relationship. If the company decides to end the relationship, the cooperation is terminated without any kind of compensation. Sick days and vacations are generally unpaid time. But when you work as a freelancer, you have the opportunity to work with different companies. And these companies act as a guarantor of your income level. It seems that this relationship lacks stability, but — in practical terms — it does not. Stability is in short supply now, even in hiring. And the flexibility associated with freelancing can be its own sort of security and stability. Freelancing allows you to work from different parts of the world; you are not limited to the country or the geographic area in which a company is located. This is a good option for those who are not ready to relocate and move to other countries.

Large or small companies

— For people who have worked in small companies for a long time, working in giants can be hard. There are restrictions on communications, established internal processes, and many bureaucratic procedures. Conversely, people who are used to working in a large regulated environment may struggle to work in small companies without structured processes.

A practical exercise for a complete change of career vector

— To change the vector of building your career, you need to understand two things:

  1. What do you want in the near future? In 3 years. We live in a rapidly changing world so, without reference to external circumstances, you need to understand what you want in the future. You don't need specifics, you just need to understand what kind of situation you want in three years. For me, it is an opportunity to move freely between countries, a certain level of financial independence, an adequate work-life balance, etc. This is my perfect picture. Yes, it does not focus on professional development.
  2. What kind of life am I engaging in, and what professional activity will allow me to pursue this life? For many, Tech makes it possible to pursue your ideal picture — the ability to work remotely or use workation.

The most important thing when choosing a new workplace is that you must not be afraid to try. Until you try something, you will not know whether a particular company or position will suit you or not. I have frequently heard from my clients who really wanted to work in Tech, that they were not ready to work at such a high pace that often requires overtime. In Tech, it doesn't matter how many hours you've worked, it's what you've done that matters.

There are pros and cons in any field, so you need to understand what is more suitable for you.