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Is it time for a change?

by Brought to you by ACS Careers
July 31, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 28


An illustration of a person with a briefcase staring up at an alarm clock.
Credit: Shutterstock
Significant life changes can help you determine when it's a good time to make a career change.

How do you decide when it’s time for a career change? Sometimes you come to a natural end—graduation or the end of a contract term—but often it’s up to you to set your own ending. As the pandemic wanes, we are seeing a lot of job churn as people decide that this may be the right time to start looking for a new opportunity. But how do you determine if it’s the right time for you? Start by asking yourself some of these questions:

Do you have to go to work, or do you get to go to work?

When you wake up in the morning, are you excited about going to work? Do you look forward to the projects you do most days? Or do you watch the clock and count the minutes until you can go home? No job is great all the time, but do you mostly enjoy what you do each day or each week?

What do your friends and family say about your work?

Do they say that “you go to a smelly lab every day where you try experiments that never work”? Do they say that “it’s messy and smells, and the people you work with are all horrible”? They most likely got these ideas from you and are just reflecting what you have told them about your workplace. If you are not proud of what you do, others will not see your work in a positive light.

Has there been a change in your life?

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in big changes for many people. How has it affected your work life, your personal values, and your priorities? Has the composition of your family changed recently, or have some of your family members moved to a new stage of life since you started your current job? Whenever one part of your life changes, the other parts often adjust to accommodate. It may be a sudden change—like a global pandemic shutting down your children’s school—or a more gradual change, like your children (or parents) getting older and needing more or less or different kinds of attention.

Has there been a change in your work environment?

While you’ve been adjusting to changes at home and work, so have your coworkers and workplaces. Some people may have moved on to other jobs, which may cause reassignment of responsibilities. Maybe your company switched to remote work, which you loved, but is now asking you to start working on-site again.

Has there been a change in your industry?

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a lot of changes for many industries. How has your industry and business sector changed, and do you see it changing back? Do you want to stick around in your current job and see the changes through, or would you rather move on before additional changes arrive?

The only thing that is inevitable is change. While some changes are out of our control, how we react to them is something we can control. If you take the time to pay attention to the changes in your life and career, and plan how you will adjust to accommodate them, you can turn challenges into opportunities.

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Credit: ACS

Get involved in the discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first issue of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (


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