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Almost half of us 'want to change career'

Research indicates 'millennials' in particular want better pay, job satisfaction, status and work life balance. Omg.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 14 Oct 2015

Are you disillusioned with your career? If a study released today by the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) is anything to go by, there’s a 47% chance that you’ll say yes. That’s the proportion of professionals it found wanted to change career, with the figure rising to 55% in London and Scotland, compared to a measly 33% in Northern Ireland.

That’s interesting, but it needs a generous pinch of salt. Half a kilo should do…

The sample was 1,000 ‘professionals’ from across different age groups and regions, but not apparently weighted by sector. Given the huge difference in answers you’d expect between industries, that’s clearly too narrow to draw any definitive conclusions.

That notwithstanding, it’s probably true that a good proportion of people do indeed want to change careers, though of course that doesn't mean they'll actually go through with it (the risk of half your accounts department suddenly dropping out to become florists tomorrow morning is fairly slim). It also doesn't mean they’re necessarily unhappy with what they’re doing now. Wanting more money or a better work life balance could just as easily reflect pull factors as push.

The key figure in that regard from the LSBF survey, which asked five questions including whether, when and why workers wanted to move careers, is that 23% regret their current career choice. Given that 47% want to move careers, it would follow that 24% want to switch but don’t regret their current choice, implying a fairly even balance between those miserable where they are and those adventurous enough (or just extra miserable) to try something that could be better.

The reasons preventing people from switching careers imply a similar pattern, with 29% being deterred by financial risk and 15% by fear of failure, but with 20% simply not knowing what they want to change to (just that they want to do something else) and 11% not knowing how to go about it.

With that in mind, it’s especially unsurprising that the research found the desire to switch careers was highest among ‘millennials’ (air quotes mandatory round these parts), otherwise known as 18-34 year olds. Apparently, 66% of this group want to change careers, compared to 52% of 35-44 year olds, 43% of 45-54 year olds and only 19% of over 55s.  

The main reasons for wanting to move among ‘millennials’ were better salary (54%), job satisfaction (46%) and work life balance (43%), with higher status (26%) coming in a respectable fourth. Although these are broadly the same reasons that drive older worker to move, money and status were relatively bigger factors among the youngsters.

So, young people, plump with ambition and unrealistic dreams but starved of cash and status, are more likely to want to try something different than older people who’ve already had time to make their mistakes and who’ve got more to lose. Well, if that’s not enough to make you succumb from shock, we don’t know what is.

It’s possible that ‘millennials’ are for cultural reasons less willing to settle and in today’s dynamic labour market the ‘job for life’ is an obsolescent concept. But the chances are they want to try something different predominantly just because they’re young.

‘The high rate of desire to change careers in younger people comes from them arriving to the workforce eager to succeed but professionally immature, said J.T. O’Donnell, career expert at CareerHMO and Careerealism. ‘The result? They get into a new career and employer and the first impression is that this is not what they wanted. Thus, they make a generalisation that’s the wrong career and they want to change.’

The grass, as they say, is always greener on the other side. Especially if you’re a ‘millennial’.

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