The state of today's business world is fast-paced, constantly evolving and undeniably competitive. Having a successful career, regardless of what position you are in, is highly dependent upon several factors, including knowledge, confidence and finesse. Many people decide to change careers midstream for a variety of reasons, including wanting to try a new line of business, learning new skills or to make their resumes appear more marketable to hiring managers. Changing work paths can revitalize your career, increase your earning potential and help you secure the dream job you've been chasing. If not done carefully, however, a drastic job change can sabotage your career. While the jury is still out on the perfect way to change careers, there are plenty of career-changing don'ts and career changes that you simply do not want to make. Here is a look at five career-changing mistakes that professionals should avoid at all costs.

Unclear or Indecisive Career Planning
One mistake that can significantly limit your career potential is not having a long-term goal. If you are switching career tracks frequently, or have no real direction in your career, you are not likely to get very far in your profession. Build upon the experience and education you already have, and opt for a career move in which you can apply your previous knowledge. Career goals, whether long- or short-term, act as a road map. Without clearly-defined goals, your career does not have much definition or depth. There are plenty of skills that are diverse and can easily be applied to a plethora of different careers. Make sure you have at least a general goal in mind before making any major changes. There are many organizations that can help if you don't have any idea what career path you want to take.

Changing Paths Without Doing Your Homework
Another mistake that can cost you big in the long run is changing career paths without doing any homework or research. While the position may sound interesting and lucrative, it is vastly important to fully research where it can take you and what training or experience you need to succeed in this field. Prior to changing career paths, make sure this is the route you truly want to take and that any assumptions you may have about the new career path are actually true. By fully researching the limitations and potential of different career paths you will also be helping to ensure that your career is not negatively impacted by a rash or ill-conceived decision.

Making a Career Change out of Desperation
Take a poll and ask your friends and colleagues if they are truly happy with their current positions and the state of their careers. Chances are that you are going to receive some feedback about just how unhappy they are in their professions. While it may seem desirable to escape a dead-end job that you are miserable in, it is not advisable to escape your profession completely based on that fact. Career changes tend to work best when you are at the top of your game in one profession and want to make a change to further your earning potential or knowledge base. Changing careers just to escape an employer you do not enjoy working for is probably not a good idea, because the chances are you will make a rash decision out of desperation.

Following the Money
A major reason for anyone to have a career is to earn money to support his or her lifestyle and loved ones. Although money is the main reason most people work, it should not always be the deciding factor when changing careers. While the salary may exceed your expectations, it is important to research whether or not this career will take you to where you want to be. Changing careers based upon money alone may be a decision you later regret if you do not do the necessary research to justify the career switch. Make sure your new career path is something you're passionate about. Many successful people found success by following their passions, and they did this by aligning their work with their preferences. You will want to ensure that the type of work you will be doing and the amount of work you will have to put in will be worth the pay increase.

Taking an Entry-Level Job in a New Field
You've spent years bulking up your resume and gaining important skills and knowledge to perform your job well. When making a career change, you want to make sure you can apply past skills and knowledge in your new job. While you may be desperate to make a change in your career, it is vital that you do not sell yourself short. Never opt for anything less than a lateral move. A lateral career move will allow you to maintain your salary and expertise level, while learning a new trade.

The Bottom Line
While there is no surefire recipe for success in the business world, there are plenty of pitfalls that professionals can fall into when changing careers. It is vital to consider each career move with care. Not only will your experience go on your resume at some point, but your work history is the backbone which your entire career is based off of. Smart business moves that build on your strengths, knowledge base, experience and personality make for a strong career, while poorly thought out career moves can sabotage all that you have worked so hard to achieve.

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