Will changing careers be a bad decision?

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no-win-decision-300x300Jenny from the University of West Florida asked:

I will finish a Master’s in Industrial/Organizational Psychology in August 2015, but I am looking for a career change into massage therapy or cosmetology.

I have done projects and internships, and some of my job experience is related to human resources, but I have lost interest in the field.

I would like a more creative field, somewhat less stressful, and less administration/paperwork-oriented. I want to be able to help people feel better about themselves.

I am scared.  Is changing career paths in this way a bad decision?

Hi Jenny –

I can’t tell you whether or not changing careers is a bad idea, but I can offer three questions that will help you prepare to make the decision yourself.

Are you considering all of your options?

The change you describe is pretty drastic:  Switching from a professional field for which you are currently completing graduate-level study to fields that don’t require a Bachelor’s degree because you want to do something more creative, less stressful and less administrative.

Becoming a massage therapist or a cosmetologist may be the right move for you, but before you make that move, explore options that may exist to do creative, less stressful and less administrative thinks with your I/O Psychology degree.

People with psychology degrees do a lot more than just work in HR related fields. Check out the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology’s career page.  You will see you have a lot of options to consider in I/O psychology alone; some of which are bound to be different from what you have experienced thus far in your career.  You are not limited by your degree; you are only limited by your willingness to explore your options.

Are massage therapy and/or cosmetology the right path? Maybe, but before you jump from one field to another, very different field, consider all of your options.

Are you considering all of your priorities?

As you finish your degree and prepare for the next stage in your life, what are your priorities?

Are you committed to a specific geographic location?  Are you in a committed relationship?  Do you want a job that offers great flexibility or one that provides great structure?  Do you want a job that has a defined career ladder?  Do you want to create your own opportunities an/or perhaps start your own business? How risk tolerant/risk averse are you?  How much money do you need/want/hope to make?

When you make a career transition of any kind, it’s not just about the job.  You have a lot of competing priorities in your life (we all do).  You have to identify and balance these priorities

Consider all of your priorities, and how they impact the career paths you are considering. Then, start negotiating with yourself!

Are you considering all of your obligations?

You are about to finish a graduate degree.  Will you have student loans to repay?  Do you pay rent, have credit card balances, a monthly car payment or other financial obligations?

Do you have children, parents or anyone else depending upon your income, time and attention?

When making a career transition, you must ask yourself: Can I afford to do this?  Will I be able to pay my bills?  Will I be able fulfill my other obligations if I take this job right now?

These are hard decisions, but they are choices each of us have to make throughout our careers.  No one else can or should make these decisions for you.  It’s your call.

Is this a bad decision?

If you have thoughtfully considered all of your options, if you have factored in all of the competing priorities you have, and if you are confident you will be able to fulfill all of your personal and professional obligations, and you have come to the conclusion that you should go into massage therapy or cosmetology … go for it. It’s a good decision.

If you haven’t done these things, I would advise that you don’t yet have enough information to make an informed decision. When you have the choice – and you do have a choice – an uninformed decision is a bad decision!

Good luck,


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