Does Your Motivation for Changing Careers Stink?

light bulb - career motivation

“I want to stop reading and rotting and that’s why I want to leave law in pursuit of becoming a marketer!” Changing sectors takes extraordinary efforts and this reason will not move the mountains you need moved to successfully transition. However, you will gain traction if your motivation for the switch exhibits these four characteristics, it’s: 1) authentic, 2) positive, 3) specific, and 4) thoughtful.


You must believe in your motivation so search for a truth that you can share with a hiring manager. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be your primary motive it can be reason number three; it just has to be valid. Brainstorm your personal and professional motivations and then try them out on others to see if they pass this authenticity test; others can sense when a person lacks authenticity. For example, don’t lie by saying you always intended to become a marketer yet your career was sidetracked. Instead, talk about how your clients are marketers and you are always intrigued by the problems they are solving…if this is on your list of truths.

Keep it positive or else your negative sentiments will be met by negative responses with regards to your candidacy. In the same way that you should not talk poorly about an old boss you should not talk poorly about your current or even a former field. Your rationale for moving must be positive. For instance, if you tell a marketing organization that you want to pursue marketing because you want to stop “reading and rotting” as an attorney then chances are you will continue to read and rot. The better approach is to emphasize the reasons why working as a marketer would complement your lawyer-quality research skills.

Point to a situation or moment when you realized that your skills could be better used in another field. If you recall the time when you first envisioned yourself doing something else then use that as your motivation for the switch. If, as an attorney, you approve promotional copy and it was that time when you were working on the Nike tagline, “Just Do It” that you thought to yourself, “I wish I were a brand manager” then share that moment with a hiring manager. Illustrate what you saw that brand manager do on the day you had this epiphany.

As you learn about your new field incorporate your findings immediately as part of your rationale for the switch. For instance, if you currently work in a Spanish bank and you learned that there is a burgeoning industry in China then point to the firm in that hot sector that is opening a subsidiary in Guangzhou as part of your reason for why you want to make that leap (if it’s the truth). Using research findings in your motives shows that you are smart and a self-directed learner which a hiring manager will appreciate since you’ll have a steep learning curve to climb in a new field.

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Melissa Llarena

Melissa helps movers and shakers up to those in the corner office rediscover what makes them unique so that they can land their dream job in a forward-thinking company where their ideas are listened to, valued, and supported.

She brings insights from having worked in 16-business units (including Human Resources) in NY, Paris, and London. Additionally, in her former corporate career, she worked on billion-dollar brands for P&G and on IBM for Ogilvy & Mather. Later, as the founder and CEO of Career Outcomes Matter, Melissa created a 3-step “sellable strengths” process which has been the centerpiece of her clients' results.

Melissa applies this method consistently to support mid-level professionals up to the c-suite to get into Fortune Global 500 organizations and agencies. She studied Psychology at NYU and earned her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

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