Many people are asking themselves this question. Whether it is because the industry you know has lost its purpose (CD anyone?), your lifestyle demands your increased presence (twins!), or you are unmotivated, disenchanted, burned-out, under-stimulated, or just can’t face looking at that guy in one more meeting, the thought of making a radical change probably has occurred to you.

There are more opportunities than ever before and a greater acceptance of career switchers in the marketplace as the numbers grow. A child born today will probably have three distinct, full-fledged careers, and maybe ten jobs, during his/her lifetime. You may be considering a change right now.

There is a lot written out there about following your passion, doing what you love and the money will come, and taking the fearless leap. This is all fine and probably acceptable to people with few responsibilities. But let’s face it, goat herding and making chèvre requires an investment and will never come close to paying enough to put the kids through college.

What are some of the questions and actions reasonable people must undertake before taking the plunge?

Keep in mind hobbies are hobbies and your career is not a hobby. Because you like fine dining doesn’t mean you should open a restaurant. One of the reasons the food business has so many failures is just that mentality. If your hobby does have career potential, you must further investigate how others made the transition. Take the hobby up a few notches (become a prep chef on weekends or a hostess on Fridays nights) then see if you still find it so intriguing.

I find, myself included, that you can love the essence of the career and be less than thrilled with the day to-day administrative parts. In corporate and firm work most of those tasks are done for you, now, in your new entrepreneurial life they are sitting in your in-box. Ready?

The bright lights can be a big, dangerous draw. Sure, everyone is talking online, digital, genetics, and green, but if you have no interest in a topic, why would you consider it?

They say everyone in therapy has thought of being a therapist. That could be true but watching someone do something is very different from getting the education, training, and paying your dues to work for something you have a very narrow and skewed view of. Just because a friend loves what he does and it seems interesting doesn’t mean you should follow. Step back, take a critical look, and imagine yourself in the game in the later innings.

I’m a big proponent of education. Would hope everyone could get as much as they want and need, and have as wonderful an experience as I had over the course of my undergrad and graduate work. On the other hand, graduate school is rarely the place to find out what you want to do. It is an excellent venue though very expensive way, to find out what you don’t want. That’s why second year law school classes are smaller than first. Most graduate programs are intense and specific to their subject, not a lot of time to dabble and you are surrounded with people who are really into the work. My suggestion—don’t register until you are pretty sure you have a serious and deep interest. If you are fascinated with a period of art history and want to learn more, get into a program with the understanding that this will enhance your life, not your job.

Money is a factor in most people’s decisions to make a career transition. It would be naïve not to consider the ramifications of salary change and investment needs. That said money should not be the only deciding factor. As many people will tell you, they can live on less, if they like what they do. Sacrifice and compromise often come in the early rounds of change. A colleague’s wife said, “I understand the rags to riches, we’ve got the rags down pat, let’s try out the riches.” The reality is after leaving an important job in the media, going out on his own, doing related but not identical work for very little in the beginning, he is now reaping the joy and the benefits of a career he loves.

Finally, take advantage of time. Spending six months to a year to putting your financial house in order, doing the necessary research, acquiring experience, and then executing while you are still earning a salary or severance can be an enormous advantage (and luxury). Don’t have that kind of time? Accelerate the process. Get on a strict money diet, use all available non-work time to talk to as many people as possible and at least vicariously get some experience. You will place yourself in a position to make an informed, affordable choice.

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.