The Culture Change of Choosing a Career

Jun 21, 2023

by Deanna Parkton

In early childhood, adults often ask young children what they want to be when they grow up. Elementary schools hold career days in which the children learn about career options. High schools introduce students to career assessment tools that give them a list of careers based on how they answer a set of questions. 

As our young adults get ready to move into adulthood, high school graduates are then tasked with deciding whether they will pursue a trade or university. College-entering 18 year olds are encouraged to choose a major with a career in mind. As college graduation looms, the pressure to find employment related to one’s major is the focus of a college graduate.  

While there is nothing wrong with this approach per say, it might be time for us to think about how we talk to young people (and ourselves!) about career. Rather than encouraging young people to choose a career, we should start talking about how young people can use their unique set of skills throughout their career. 

Changing Jobs

There has been a shift in how people manage their careers. Throughout the last century, job seekers often sought out a company to work for the rest of their career. This loyalty often came with a pension at the end of a long career with one company. Over time, workplace culture has become a bit more transactional than a culture focused on loyalty. Employees stay in a job for however long it makes sense for them – whether that be for financial reasons, career opportunities or utilization of skills. 

From April 2021 to March 2022, a period in which “quit rates” reached post-pandemic highs, the majority of workers switching jobs (60%) saw an increase in their real earnings over the same month the previous year.  The data related to changing jobs shows that these career moves paid off – literally. 


Changing Careers

Even more interestingly, there has been an increase in people changing careers; meaning professionals that are shifting their careers into a new or similar field. In 2021, nearly 50 million Americans quit or changed careers. At that time, 74% of workers were looking to learn new skills. The research found that of those who left a job in 2021, 61% shifted their field of work or occupation (for those between ages 18-29). 

It is worth noting that the pandemic had quite an impact on career changers. Two-thirds of those who changed careers since March 2020 reported doing so as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The highest rated factor related to the pandemic was for better work-life balance (42%), followed closely by higher pay (41%) and pursuing an interest that they always had wondered about (39%). Over half of career changers (58%) that were surveyed took a pay cut to change career paths. 

Based on this data, we can make some assumptions regarding individuals’ motivations. The pandemic may have caused many people to reevaluate how they were spending their time and the impact of their work on their life. With a majority of respondents citing work-life balance, they were probably willing to take a pay cut to achieve that goal. Another assumption is that career changers felt that the benefit of pursuing a new career that they had always been interested in was worth the pay cut. 

Another assumption that we can make is that a pay cut is often a natural consequence of pursuing a new career path in which one does not yet have credibility. Once a professional is able to prove themselves in their new career path, their salary potential often is able to match their previous career or even exceed what they were earning prior to the shift. One can see this as a short-term loss for a long-term gain (financially, mentally and emotionally). 


Skills-based careers 

Often when one makes a career change, a job seeker will often seek out additional training or education to validate their skills in their desired industry or career. It is also important to think about how their skills can be translated from their previous profession to their desired goal. This helps a potential employer to see their value, even if they have not worked in that field yet. 

We are now thinking about how we can use our skills throughout our careers, rather than choosing a job title to stick with for the rest of our working years. Think about your career as a toolbox, with a variety of skills (tools) that can be used for different purposes. How you explain your “toolbox” to others is how others will perceive your value. 

As technology continues to change how we work, it is imperative that we are creative in our career mindset. We must be adaptable, versatile and creative professionals that are capable of achieving a variety of goals in a variety of industries. How we talk about our careers and how we guide the future generations in their career choices will make all the difference in not only work satisfaction, but the future of work as we know it. 

For more ideas on how we make choices related to work, check out our blog on Defining Ourselves by Our Jobs.

For more ideas on how you can strategize your work, consider working with a career coach. A coach can help you identify strategies to face challenges head on. Check out our executive coaching services and sign up for a free consultation here.

Deanna Parkton is a writer, career coach and educator with a passion for professional development and work wellness and happiness. With a focus on self-reflection, she works with individuals in their quest to reach their career goals as well as satisfaction in work-life balance. You can find more of her writing at and she can be reached at