Inside though, I was deeply unfulfilled. I wasn't enjoying my work, I felt like I wasn't using my full potential, and I longed to wake up feeling like my work was making a difference — to someone or something. Indeed I'd struggled on and off for years to figure out a way to change, but without making progress. If you're stuck in your career change, there are three main challenges — or paradoxes — that you're going to come up against. In the depths of my despair about my job, there were signals from all around me that I wasn't in the right place: I was embarrassed to talk about my work with others at parties; I couldn't imagine doing my boss's job nor the one her boss had ; and I was petrified that I'd reach 60 or 70 and not feel proud of the work I'd done in my life.
On a day-to-day basis, I just felt numb — uninspired by the meaningless work I was doing, and seemingly stuck in a Groundhog-Day reality of waking up to the same story every morning. All I knew was the industry I was in. I was also scared of taking a cut in salary, scared of what my family and friends would think, and scared of losing the status I'd worked so hard to achieve.
These weren't obstacles in the outside world; they were obstacles in me. It was me — my lack of knowledge and my fears — that was most holding me back.
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My initial approach was to come home from work, wrap myself in my bedding, and go round and round in circles in my head analysing what else could I do. My colleague Natasha describes her version of this as her 'midnight crazy thought loops' — sitting bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night trying figure out what she could do next. The simple reality is that if the solution to your career change lay in more analysis — in making more lists, reading more books, taking more psychometric tests, or simply figuring it all out in your head — you'd have found it by now.
When I started to look for something different, recruitment consultants were my natural first port of call. They talked excitedly to me about roles with competitors or other positions in smaller organisations. You may have spent hours trawling through job sites or job alerts, and just made yourself more miserable by seeing again and again that you don't have the experience or skills that are being asked for. Or you may have had similar experiences to mine with recruitment consultants.
But nothing. Through no fault of your own, you're simply not going to stack up against other people with experience and skills in the different field you're interested in. There are solutions to each paradox, but they're likely not what you think they are they weren't initially for me.
The biggest challenge I faced in my career change was inertia. I wanted to change, but I didn't want to risk the security of the job I had. I would have bursts of energy to do something about my career, followed by periods where I'd get swept back into 'life', surfacing weeks or months later and realising nothing had changed. The net effect was different ideas, different connections, and accountability — all of which, finally, led to forward movement.
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If you were climbing to the base camp of Mount Everest, it's possible you could do it by yourself, but it's highly likely you'd want to go with others — peers, a guide, a support team. It makes the journey safer, faster and, heck, a lot more fun. In my career-change journey, it took me four and a half years to get out of a career that wasn't right for me.
As the coach I worked with at the time said, "Richard, it's like you're standing in a forest and you have a number of tracks in front of you.
But you're paralysed because you don't want to make a mistake. And the challenge is: if you don't take any of the paths, you're never going to get out of the forest. If you take one of them, it may not be the right track initially, but you can course-correct. I enrolled in a part-time journalism course. I loved it, but it quickly became clear that it wasn't for me as a career.
I shadowed my friend who worked in PR for half a day. I did the same with a friend who worked as a Japanese yen bond trader in an investment bank.
Both fascinating worlds, but neither appealed. As Seth Godin talks about, I was stepping into different worlds — sparking ideas and, at the same time, crossing off possibilities, rather than leaving them as open questions in my mind. Finally, thanks to an introduction made by my future sister-in-law, Sarah, I walked into the offices of a social start-up — and I knew in a matter of minutes I'd found something that was totally me.
Had I just seen the organisation's website or a job ad in a newspaper, I might never have discovered the connection I had with them. They're attached to people. If you're looking for an opportunity, you're really looking for a person. But they're not the place to start. I'm an introvert. So, you won't find me exuberantly working a room at a networking event. But I am comfortable meeting people one-on-one, or having phone calls. It took time. There were many 'dead ends', as I explained above, but ultimately it led me to a role in a field I didn't previously even know existed.
More than that, this approach meant I avoided the ruthless filtering that happens with conventional job applications. I wasn't 'qualified' to work in the social start-up I fell in love with. But what I did have was a ton of enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. I didn't get the job there through a formal application.
I got it because I built relationships with people in the organisation.
I did some pro-bono work, which led to consultancy work, which led to an interview for a full-time job. Oh, and if you're curious to know, I had the worst interview of my life for that role. Your circumstances. In order to avoid living a lie in your work life, you need to actively work to match your talents and personality to your occupation before navigating how to change careers.
Your personal brand should represent these skills and project your attitude to the world. Articulate a summary of this identity and put it front and center on your resume or personal website. As one of my smart college classmates told me when I later interviewed him professionally for his take on marketing, you want your byline to convey more than just the current company you work for. His reasoning was your time at any given employer may be limited, while the gifts you offer the world endure from job to job and therefore, deserve their own billing independent of your employer.
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This was the theory behind the practical matter of referring to me on his blog as Paul Richlovsky, [job title] at Employer X vs. Doing what you love is paramount, so you should be changing careers if your current employer is not fulfilling your will and drive for purposeful work. Contrary to the notion of being a quitter or paycheck-seeker, changing jobs to put yourself in the best possible environment to thrive is not only desirable, it is noble.
For inspiration, take my own story.
An English major one year out of college, I packed up and moved across the world to teach English in China. Teaching was a blast, though some of the required curricula of one my programs I was not best qualified to teach, such as English for business. In fact, teaching a business English class or two on marketing vs. Though I no longer stand in front of a classroom of Chinese college students, I am still teaching … and surrounded by college students I mean, recent graduates that continue to make me feel young.
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I am thrilled to have regular opportunities to learn and teach on the job. I educate clients, help my colleagues and try to keep myself informed in a rapidly changing marketing industry with monumental technological innovation and philosophical discussion on how to be excellent.
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Personal branding Speaking of building bridges, maintaining your personal brand independent of a single company is essential to creating a self-directed career. Loving what you do, doing what you love Doing what you love is paramount, so you should be changing careers if your current employer is not fulfilling your will and drive for purposeful work. Related Articles:. Article Tags.