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Better balance is top desire of career-changers, survey says
Fifty-nine percent of respondents to a recent survey said a desire for better work-life balance was the primary reason that they would consider making a career change. But that doesn't mean making a switch is easy. - photo by Greg Kratz
It was about this time four years ago that I started to seriously consider making a career change.

My children were growing up at a speed that still makes my head spin, and I needed to find a way to support my family financially while also being more available to them in other important ways.

However, even though I was determined to make a change and started to hunt for something new, I was filled with trepidation. Would I be able to find a new job that paid enough while still allowing me to build better work-life balance? Did I have skills that would translate to the world outside of journalism? Would anyone be willing to take a chance on someone who had spent his entire career working for newspapers or news websites?

Fortunately, the answer to all of those questions was a resounding, "Yes!" I landed in a great position with a boss who saw ways in which my news skills would fit the needs of a health care company. I've been able to support my family financially, and I've had the flexibility to spend more time with them.

In other words, making the switch was scary, but it was most definitely worth it.

The same fears I felt when considering a job change are common to many other people, too as are their reasons to move toward making a switch. At least, that's what a recent survey from FlexJobs would seem to show.

FlexJobs, an online service for professionals seeking telecommuting, flexible schedule, part-time and freelance jobs, asked more than 1,000 people what would encourage them to seek a new career, and what would hold them back.

It's not surprising at least to me that 59 percent of respondents said a desire for better work-life balance was the primary reason that they would consider making a career change.

According to the FlexJobs survey, 47 percent of respondents said a desire for more meaningful work would encourage them to make a career change, while 40 percent identified stress from a current career and 37 percent cited money or cost savings.

I always felt my various reporting and editing jobs were meaningful, and my decision to move into health care was partially due to a desire to continue working in an area that would allow me to make a difference in the world.

As for stress, well, I'm a high-stress person in the best of times, and the daily grind and constant deadlines of journalism certainly didn't alleviate that.

The FlexJobs survey also asked people what would keep them from transitioning to a new career. The top three factors identified by respondents were money or cost considerations, cited by 52 percent; not being sure where to begin, chosen by 45 percent; and the need to gain more education or training, also mentioned by 45 percent.

Again, I can relate. While I really wanted to make a career change, I knew I couldn't take a significant pay cut in order to do so. As any parent can tell you, children tend to get more expensive as they grow. Mine certainly have. So I had to be able to maintain my income level, even while altering the course of my career.

I was also worried that I wouldn't be able to move into another industry without going back to school. I could do that, I suppose, but I'm much more interested now in getting my children to and through college than going back myself.

Fortunately, I didn't need to head back to school before jumping to my new occupation. I do feel like I've learned new things every day I've spent on the job for the last three-plus years, though, so my informal education has definitely continued.

FlexJobs asked several other questions in its survey, and I believe they offer further insight into the importance of work-life balance and, more specifically, flexibility to the average worker.

For example, 72 percent of respondents said they would definitely change careers to gain more work flexibility. And when it came to their preferences for flex work, 46 percent said they would prefer "100 percent telecommuting," while 20 percent would like flexible schedules.

I definitely lean more toward the flexible schedule option. That's what I have now, with occasional opportunities to work from home, and it's a perfect fit for me.

While some people enjoy working from home all the time, I think I would miss opportunities to interact with colleagues. And frankly, for my management position, full-time telecommuting wouldn't be a realistic option.

As always, I would be interested in your opinions on this subject. What would be the most likely factor to drive you to make a career change? What would prevent you from doing so? Or, if you have made a change lately, what caused you to head down a new path? Has the change helped in the ways you hoped it would?

Please send me an email or leave a comment online with your ideas, and I'll share some of them in a future column.

And I hope all of you who are considering career changes find jobs that meet your needs, whether they are financial or related to work-life balance.
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