New research published in January by GoBankingRates found that 23 percent of Americans regret changing jobs. According to the survey, most people who missed their old jobs wanted to reunite with their co-workers, but even that response represented a small percentage of the whole. People who switched employers missed their old jobs for a variety of reasons, and no single factor stood out.

Despite many people regretting their move, valid factors drove them to seek new opportunities. GoBankingRates found that men and women changed jobs for different reasons. Men were most likely to leave for more money (16 percent), while women were most likely to seek escape from an unpleasant work environment (14 percent).

If you're thinking about a career switch, ask yourself the following questions before pulling the trigger:

1. What kind of work do I want to do?

With so many types of opportunities out there, which one is right for you?

You might choose to pursue a new full-time position. This is the most common path because it offers a good blend of security, income, and opportunity for advancement. However, if you're looking for something with serious flexibility or immediate earning potential, full-time work may not be the answer.

If you enjoy working for yourself, you could join the 56.7 million Americans who worked as freelancers in 2018. Self-employment has its perks, and while the security of freelancing is far less than that offered by traditional employment, the flexibility and short-term earning potential are dramatically better.

Direct sales, a hybrid form of freelancing and employment, can be a great opportunity for people who seek a middle ground of security, earning potential, and flexibility. "With direct sales, in particular, the products and company mission are super important because you become an extension of that brand," says Tiffany Wojtkiewicz, president of ONEHOPE Wine. "You are an ambassador who's telling the story, and it makes sense for the products to be ones that you love and believe in."

2. Am I financially prepared to make the move?

Switching jobs can be an expensive process. Even if you leave your old job on Friday and start your new one on Monday, factors like payroll processing or startup expenses could put you in a bind if you don't prepare. If you quit your position before you start looking, the financial stresses become more significant.

Discover recommends saving at least six months' worth of living expenses if you plan to quit now and find a new opportunity later. For those planning to walk the path of self-employment, Discover recommends extending that emergency fund to a year's worth. That might sound like overkill, but if you struggle to find clients or go through a slow period, you'll be grateful for the cushion.

Other factors can affect this figure. For instance, if you want to move to a new city to look for work, you should save a little more. If you plan to start working for a friend's company, you probably don't need quite so much stashed away.

3. Does this plan have long-term potential?

Unless you're looking for a part-time job to pay the bills while you plan your next move, don't settle for a new opportunity with limited potential. Whether you seek full-time employment or strike out on your own, your new opportunity should be filled with promise. After all, why leave one dead-end job for another?

For full-time employees, evaluating the potential of a new position is straightforward. Does this company value its employees and help them work their way up the ladder? Look at reviews on Glassdoor to see what current and former employees think about the business. Every company has a few negative reviews, but if disgruntled ex-employees cite limited opportunities to advance, proceed with caution.

Those who choose to go into direct sales, freelancing, or entrepreneurship must answer more complex questions about their plans. While starting any new venture requires long hours or research, the two most important questions are these: Can you offer something of value, and does the market want what you're selling?

Lack of product-market fit is the No. 1 reason new companies fail. It doesn't matter how good your idea is -- if you solve a problem no one experiences or your target audience is too small, you won't be able to sustain your business. Similarly, if you go into direct sales for a company without a good product, don't be surprised when you struggle to move inventory.

Whether you leave your old job for more money, more flexibility, or a bit of both, don't take the leap until you know you're ready. Ask yourself these questions to plan a smart exit. When the time finally comes, you can hand in your two weeks' notice with confidence.

Published on: Feb 28, 2019
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