THE BLOG
12/16/2014 01:45 pm ET Updated May 10, 2015

Regretting Your Career Choice? Here's What You Need to Know

After dedicating four (or more) years of your life and tens of thousands of dollars to one degree, it's reasonable to expect a long and successful career in your chosen field. The reality is that your major at 18 may not end up being your dream job at 26 - and that's OK. According to recent research, 26 percent of Millenials switched careers within five years of graduating college. Typically adventurous and fast-paced, Millennials are constantly exploring new ideas and opportunities - and they carry this enthusiasm into their professional life, often leading to a non-linear career path. A career isn't something they simply do - it's a piece of who they are.

According to an Intelligence Group study, nearly 64 percent of Millennials would rather make $40,000 at a job they love than $100,000 at a job they don't. If after diving into their chosen career they find it doesn't offer the excitement and passion they anticipated, they're more likely to consider switching career paths all together. Combine this with their affinity for instant gratification and their penchant for taking risks, and you've got a generation that's daring enough to shake things up.

If change is in your future, consider the following tips before jumping ship.

What are you willing to sacrifice?
Before ditching your high-paying job for something a bit more modest, do an analysis of your current lifestyle. Could you afford to live on a revised salary? What will you have to give up in order to adjust? Would you need to take a second job to make ends meet? Ask yourself the tough financial questions and be honest.

If you know the switch is right for you, but are struggling to fund your dream, don't lose hope. There are funding options available - as long as you're willing to do a bit of research. Get creative and explore sites like GoFundMe, Kickstarter and Etsy, or search for organizations specifically designed to help you reach your goals. For example, my company, UChic, created the 1,000 Dreams Fund which provides scholarships to help fund life-changing experiences and educational costs that help young women reach their career goals and dreams.

How do you prepare?
A good rule of thumb: don't leave your current career until you have some experience in the new field you're considering. Your dream career should be your passion, the thing you would love to do even if you weren't working. If it's not worth the additional time or some financial sacrifices, it's not right for you. Test the waters before you jump - hold a part-time internship, volunteer on the weekend or pursue additional education opportunities so you can get a better grasp of what your new career actually entails.

Also, make it a point to network with people in your desired field and get a better understanding of pros and cons. While you may think you know what you're getting into, it's easy to romanticize something you know little about. Spend the time to understand now before giving up your career.

Is there another option?
Maybe you don't completely dislike your current career, but there's something about it that's leaving you unfulfilled. In this case, a complete career overhaul may not be necessary. Instead, talk to your boss about simple changes that could make your job more satisfying. Do you love to write but your job buries you in spreadsheets? Ask if there's opportunity to contribute to your company newsletter or blog. Though it may not be your specific job, there are ways to leverage your passions to benefit your workplace.

If you're looking for new challenges, try to find a company that allows you the flexibility to pursue your passions. More companies, like Microsoft, are offering time off for volunteering or traveling. This may give you the freedom you need to shape your current job into your dream career.

Use these questions as a guide to make your final decision, but remember, the process is different for everyone. Evaluate your personal goals, pros and cons, and the amount of risk you're willing to take. Life is too short to have regrets.