by Annie Favreau, guest blogger

If you’re craving a career change, you’re not alone. According to a recent poll, 56% of US workers want to switch their job.

There’s no doubt that changing career paths can be a huge, exciting, and positive move for your future. But it can also be a daunting process. Especially in today’s rocky economy, a hasty or ill-planned career switch is risky business. As an old college professor once told me “You don’t want to take a leap without at least knowing where you’d like to land.”

To see if you’re ready for the big jump, answer these three questions:

  1. What do I really want out of my career shift?

To figure out your true motivation for changing careers, you’ve got to know what you don’t like in your current job. Maybe it’s your stress level, your colleagues, your work environment, your industry, or any other number of reasons. Knowing what isn’t working is the first step to ensuring your new career that won’t land you in the same hole.

But don’t stop there: To fully answer this question, you’ve also got to also identify what changes (like more responsibility, less stress, etc.) would make you happier. What do you expect to gain from a career change?

If you need some perspective to tackle this topic, try keeping a daily work journal, detailing what you do and how it makes you feel. At the end of a week or a month, look back through your entries to spot recurring themes.

  1. Am I ready to invest money and time into training?

Not all careers require a complete new degree. In fact, you can prepare for some transitions by simply taking on new responsibilities at your current job. However, many major career changes will demand some kind of formal training—whether through an internship, extra class, certificate program, or traditional degree.

It’s important to figure out what training you’ll need to be a competitive applicant in your new career. As Julia Erickson recently wrote on this blog, more education can “add to your toolbox of skills, increase your ability to hit the ground running, show that you are a lifelong learner, and boost your self-confidence in the search process.”

  1. Do I have the support from my friends or family?

Changing careers can have a big impact on those near to you and getting their support makes a huge difference. So whether you have a close-knit group of a few friends and family members, or a wide community of allies, let people you know about your career change plans!

They will be the cheerleaders who will keep you going, give you fuel, and support you through the tough patches.

What do you think is the most important question to ask yourself before transitioning careers?

Annie Favreau works for Inside Jobs, a site that helps people discover careers they’ll love and find the education to make it happen. Join the conversation on Twitter at @InsideJobs!