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The No. 1 reason why Americans want to change careers right now

You might be surprised to learn it's not about pay.
Image:; A mother works at her make shift office set up in her daughter nursery.
A mother works at her make shift office set up in her daughter nursery.Drew Anthony Smith / for NBC News

When it comes to changing careers, pay isn’t the No. 1 motivator for Americans.

Instead, they want a better work-life balance.

Higher pay came in second for wanting to make the switch, followed by a more meaningful or fulfilling career, according to a survey by FlexJobs.

Meanwhile, more than 68 percent of U.S. workers polled said they would consider changing careers, and 19 percent said they would think about it if it was an amazing opportunity.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led many to rethink their lives and their careers, accelerating trends that were already humming under the surface, said career transition and leadership coach Alex Durand, founder of Los Angeles-based Frable Consulting.

“Before the pandemic, a lot of people felt it was self-indulgent to really question what working differently would look like,” he said.

“The pandemic actually put everybody into this experiment of seeing how you could value your professional dimension by factors other than pay, such as quality of life [and] quality of time with people you care about.”

If you are thinking about changing careers, these five strategies can help you.

1. Figure out what’s missing

To decide if a career change rather than a new job in the same field is the right move, Durand counsels his clients to look at the three Cs: competency (baseline skills for your job), challenge (being pushed outside your comfort zone) and curiosity (you feel genuine intrigue about your work and want to keep learning).

If you have just one of the Cs missing in your current job, then you may be able to address it by looking for a new role within your company or industry, he said. More than that, it’s time to seriously consider a career change.

2. Flip your thinking

Decide the top three criteria for your life outside work, whether it is elder care, childcare or the ability to live anywhere in the country, suggests Durand.

“The main mistake people make is they start designing how they want to work and whatever resources and time are left over are for how you live,” he said.

“You are going to start designing how you want to live.”

3. Start practically planning your switch

To come up with different career options, think what your experience can translate to, Durand suggests. What challenges you? What are you curious about, both professionally and personally?

Once you have a list of ideas, start thinking about how to tell your story in the language of your new career. That means understanding who your audience is and making adjustments.

Also, look into what skills and certifications you may need for a new industry. To get a sense of what a job might look like day-to-day, talk to other people in the role, suggests certified professional career coach Matt Glodz, founder of Chicago-based executive resume writing firm Resume Pilots.

4. Network

Make a list of as many people as come to mind in your network, regardless of industry or whether or not you have a new career plan in place.

Start with two or three to message, saying hello and asking to catch up, Durand advised.

During your conversation, you can tell them you are thinking about a change. You don’t have to have any other answers, but tell them you will keep them posted about your journey. This will get you comfortable with networking and, once you make a career decision, you may have someone to help you out, he said.

5. Update your resume

Position yourself for your target roles right at the top of your resume, with either a career highlights or key experience section, Glodz said.

“When you have recruiters that receive hundreds of applications, what they are going to look for is someone who already has experience in that role,” he said.

The career highlights work best for those with more than 10 years of experience, and therefore have a two-page resume, he said. Less than that, consider a section that highlights your hard skills, such as computer software or financial analysis. If you went back to school for a graduate degree or even a certification, put that above your experience section, Glodz recommends.

It’s also important to remember that companies often filter resumes by keywords. To make sure you can get through the applicant tracking system, naturally incorporate language from the job posting into your resume and cover letter.

Lastly, remember that switching careers is a process and is hard work.

“It takes intention,” said Durand. “When you change your career, you are choosing short-term discomfort over long-term regret.”

This article originally appeared on Invest in You: Ready. Set. Grow., a CNBC multiplatform financial wellness and education initiative, in partnership with Acorns.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.