Report: Why Are Workers Choosing to Switch Careers? 

Job seekers have a lot of options in today’s tight labour market and due to the abundant possibilities, they don’t have to be pigeonholed to one job, company or even career. People are increasingly active in their job search and they’re not just looking for roles at different companies, but making complete career changes, too – jumping from, say, a finance role to a tech job or a marketing role to teaching.  

To gain a better understanding of how many people have made complete career changes or are planning to do so and why, Indeed surveyed 1,023 randomly selected full-time workers in Canada from a variety of industries and educational levels.

Over a third (38%) of respondents say they’ve made a complete career switch at some point. Of those respondents who haven’t changed careers, 35% of them say they’re thinking about it or have previously considered doing so. 

So, what are the trends among career changers? What motivates them to shift gears and how do they go about making these decisions? Let’s take a look at the findings. 

To many, money matters the most 

In a healthy labour market, workers feel empowered to demand more and aren’t willing to settle for less. While there are a number of factors that entice workers to change careers, respondents indicate that their main motivation is to make more money, with 63% of career changers saying that they left their old roles for higher pay. Among those who are planning to make a career change, 70% cite a higher salary as the main reason.

However, it’s not all about money – workers also want to advance professionally, with 57% of career switchers saying they did so because they wanted more opportunities for growth. Additionally, nearly half (47%) report enrolling in specific education and training programs to qualify for their new career. 

For employers to retain their workers, it’s not only important to offer competitive salaries but to implement programs for growth and development. Companies should also support career switching internally, allowing people to switch departments – for example, from sales to marketing – in an effort to help employees gain experience in the fields in which they wish to work.    

Workers seek happiness from their new career, and most find it

Happiness is another driving factor: 59% of career changers, as well as 59% of those planning to switch, say being unhappy in their current role is a driving factor, and 52% of respondents planning to make a career switch say they’re unhappy with their current industry.

Of course, happiness might mean different things to different people, but we all know it when we see it. Workers weigh multiple factors when considering whether to stay put. People tend to place emphasis on workplace culture – in fact, the majority of the winners on Indeed’s Top-Rated Workplaces in Canada list ranked high in the culture category. 

Reducing stress is also a top priority. For those who have already switched careers, 55% say they did so because they wanted to work in a less stressful industry, and 59% of respondents who are planning on making a career switch are looking for a less stressful job. 

Career changers are also motivated by flexibility. Today’s professionals not only value, but may even expect, to have multiple options for when and where they work. Among career changers, 55% say they left in search of greater flexibility; this might include the option to work from home or to choose different working hours. Similarly, of those planning a career change, 56% say they’re doing so for more flexibility. 

Offering flexibility can go a long way, in another study, almost half (47%) of respondents who work for companies without a remote-work policy feel frustrated, and wish their company offered this benefit. 

The bottom line? Employers still trying to maintain nine-to-five schedules might want to reconsider their stance – or risk losing talent.

Workers don’t make career changes on a whim

A lot of time and consideration goes into making a career switch, with 62% of career changers reporting that they planned their career change far in advance, spending an average of 11 months thinking about the move prior to making it. Moreover, 56% say they consulted with friends and family extensively about their plans to change careers. 

Taking the time when making this decision is important, especially given that about two thirds (66%) of workers who made a career change report that they were impacted financially. Moreover, for 49% of career changers, the decision to leave also took a toll on their families and friends. 

Nearly half of respondents (46%) claim that switching careers meant having to take a pay cut. This is interesting considering that, for many, making more money was a key motivator for switching jobs in the first place. Depending on the industry, however, they could stand to earn more money down the road in their new career.

Is it worth it in the end? 

Making a complete career change is a big undertaking. So we wanted to know, to those who made a career change, was it all worth it in the end?  Fortunately, nearly nine in 10 (87%) of respondents who made a complete career switch say they are happier since doing so. 

But, making this kind of leap isn’t for everyone – 63% of Canadians haven’t made a career change, with the average Canadian being at their current job for 9 years 

When employers understand the motives behind people switching careers, they can begin to make efforts to keep them from leaving. The key is to keep employees happy and motivated. Consider implementing a work-from-home policy to provide employees with more flexibility; have open conversations about their career aspirations and offer relevant training opportunities; and, send an anonymous engagement survey to better gauge what you can do to improve your workplace culture. If you offer your employees more of what makes them happy, you’ll be able to hold on to them for the long haul. 

Methodology:

The survey was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Indeed among 1,023 randomly selected full-time workers Canada, between October 28 and November 1, 2019. The margin of error is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

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