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Is Changing Careers Worth The Time And Money?

‘JT & Dale Talk Jobs’ is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country and can be found at JTandDale.com. Dear J.T. & Dale: I was an English major in college and became an English teacher. I took a few years off to have my children, and came back three years ago. The job was hard to get, with more than 1,000 applicants for each position, so I feel gratified, but I'm also extremely frustrated with teaching. I've been looking into occupational therapy, but it would mean leaving my job and going back to school for two years, and would cost $55,000. Does it make sense for a 38-year-old to do that? Is changing careers worth the time and money? — Dana J.T.: It's a complex decision, so break it down like a lesson plan. You need to create homework assignments, with due dates. The first assignment is to figure out what the ideal job in occupational therapy would be. Until you have a clear vision of what you want, you can't move forward with confidence. Dale: That "clear vision" is about more than hours and pay — it means truly understanding the whole job, including the joys and frustrations. So, once again it's time for my grim warning: Do NOT change careers — ever, ever — until you get to know people who hold the jobs you are considering. We've all heard "Do what you love." Sure. Great. But even lovable jobs have parts you'll detest, and it's the love-hate ratio that determines if changing careers is worth the time and money. J.T.: Then, assuming you want to press ahead, continue with the assignments to get you there, including getting both the education AND some experience. Dale: By the way, Dana, the education might not require you leaving your job, at least not for the full two years. There are plenty of new options for summer courses and online courses that might change the economics of the decision. J.T.: There's also the possibility of working part-time in the new field, which will make all the difference when it comes time to get your first full-time job. Don't assume it can't be done; find a way to make it work. Soon, you'll have everything you need to succeed, step by step. Honestly, the reason most people don't change careers is they talk themselves out of it. Dale: And why not? Starting over is so daunting most people decide it's safer to just stay and be miserable. However, if you start at the end goal and work back, you might be able to see you aren't stopping a career and starting over, but you can create a logical and energizing transition. jt-dale-logoJeanine "J.T." Tanner O'Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm, JTODonnell.com, and of the career management blog, CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com. Please visit them at JTandDale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019. © 2011 by King Features Syndicate, Inc. Photo credit: Shutterstock