There is no single catalyst for a career change.
Sometimes an event such as losing a job, hitting a career stalemate or realizing that a chosen professional path is all wrong for you, can send someone soul-searching. Or the trigger can be personal: A relationship dissolves, or maybe there’s no relationship to lean on at all. The end result, however, is similar: People are pulled apart, little by little, and pretty soon they feel like there’s nothing left.
Whether you’re employed or unemployed, the basic question you always have to ask yourself about your current or most recent job is, “Is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life?” The answer often is “NO” for millions of people and maybe for you, too. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you made a big mistake in taking your current job, though that happens often enough.
But even if it was a good choice, it’s common for jobs to change profoundly in a short period of time. You are given new responsibilities without any raise in salary, or your much-beloved supervisor moves on, leaving you working for a jerk. Or your workplace comes under stringent budget cuts and you can’t do half the things you used to be able to do. The job that was a perfect match for you just a year ago is now the job from hell.
You may also want to change careers for other reasons. When we are very young, work is largely a matter of paying the bills and having money for the things we need. But as we move through the different stages of our lives, our work becomes increasingly a matter of how our soul lives out its dreams.
For example, if we have been working too hard, we want to figure out how we can take more time to enjoy life. And through each of our work choices during our lifetime, we increasingly find ourselves looking for the work we feel we were born to do. This is what career counselors mean when they speak of looking for your calling, your dream job.
It’s always a great experience for me to see someone I know and like find the work for which he or she is best fitted and in which he or she can find himself or herself as a person. There is such work for each of us and finding it is the most important thing we can do.
Once upon a time, corporations were like ocean liners. Anyone fortunate enough to secure a berth cruised through a career and disembarked at retirement age. A clear agreement charted the voyage: In return for loyalty, sacrifice, bureaucratic aggravation, and the occasional demanding boss, you received job security for life. Unfortunately, in the last decade, organizations have started heaving their crews overboard. Instead of a lifelong voyage with only one company, most of us are now engaged in a life-long search for meaning in our work, a process in which career change plays an important part.
If people are bored by their work, chances are they haven’t found a creative way to make their time spent on the job interesting. Either that or they lack the courage or initiative to get into more interesting work. In either case, their problem is the result of the course they have followed. I know a woman who railed against her employers for 15 years: how they cheated her, how her bonuses never materialized, how promises were broken.
It never dawned on her — until events finally pried her loose from the hated work — that every time she complained about her bosses, she was saying that she lacked the intelligence and courage to quit and get into more agreeable work. Few people ever come to the realization that their worlds are description of themselves. If a person feels his/her world is too constricting, too uninteresting, too unchallenging, too unrewarding, then he/she needs to stand in front of the mirror and take a long look at the probable cause.
It’s a good idea for adults to take stock once in a while and ask themselves, “Is this the right time to change careers?” In our innermost spirit, we know that waiting for the right time is often just another name for procrastination. I can tell you from personal experience that there probably never will be a right time. Conditions will always be difficult. Obstacles will always be in your way.
And yet, a time comes in each of our lives when we know we simply must accept that challenge. When we know we must do what we really want to do with our lives, no matter how hard the times and no matter how difficult the struggle may be. We tell ourselves we’re not getting any younger. We know there’s a chance we may not succeed. But we know we’ll never live our life until we at least try.
So here’s the big question: “How do you know whether you’re on the right path, with the right career, or in the right job?” The same way you know when you’re not. You feel it! Each of us has a personal call to greatness – and because yours is as unique to you as your fingerprint, no on can tell you what it is.
Ignoring your passion is like dying a slow death. Your life is speaking to you every day, all the time – and your job is to listen-up and find the clues. Passion whispers to you through your feelings, beckoning you toward your highest good.
Pay attention to what makes you feel energized, connected, stimulated – what gives you your juice. Do what you love; give it back in the form of service, and you will do more than succeed. You will triumph.
About The Author
Joe Hodowanes, M.P.A., SPHR, is a nationally recognized career coach, syndicated columnist, and president of Tampa-based J.M. Wanes & Associates, www.jmwanes.com . J.M. Wanes & Associates is a career coaching, outplacement, and executive search firm specializing in executive-level opportunities.