What To Do When You’ve Sank 10+ Years Into the Wrong Career
posted on July 29, 2019 | by Niala Kalola
This isn’t the Sunday scaries, this isn’t your boss being a jerk, or your colleagues and employees pushing all of your buttons, it’s something more…
It’s been nearly a year for me, but I remember the onset of my symptoms. At first I was a woman just like any other, believing the “you get out of your career what you put in” motto (mainly because it’s true). Sure, I worked a ton of hours but I wanted to work all those hours. Sure, I was glued to my phone and work computer, but honestly there was a sense of pride in being known for my work ethic.
But soon that all stopped, and the inevitable burn out that I was working towards started creeping in. Worse than that, I genuinely was not a nice person to be around, and was emotionally lashing out at colleagues. After months of pondering, I knew two things: 1- I didn’t know what I was going to do next. 2- I knew I couldn’t stay. So I quit my job.
Then I did what I’d been avoiding for some time. I introspected. I know I’m not alone in this: we are so caught up with the “what’s next?” in our lives that we forget to stop and think “what do I want for my life?”.
So I asked people about their experiences, from old bosses to friends, family to even Lyft drivers. Here are three pieces of advice that I’ve found helpful during this process:
Be honest with yourself about what you want and cut yourself some slack
Is your dream to be in the C-suite? Are you working for the weekend? What do you want your life to look like?
We are a generation of overachievers, programmed to believe that you go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house, have some kids and then live happily ever after. But for most of us that happily ever after is non linear.
This is especially true when it comes to our career. Just because you’ve done something doesn’t mean you need to keep doing it. What you decided you wanted at 21, does not have to be the same as what you want when you’re 31. You’re not broken, you just haven’t had a chance to think about what it is that you want.
Talk to people
I was surprised to learn how many people I admire as experts in my field, who did not start there. They switched jobs, pivoted skills, or switched careers altogether. And all for the better.
I’ve heard the words almost verbatim: If I hadn’t switched careers I would’ve never gotten the skills and experience needed to reach the next level.
If like me you’re not sure what’s next, you can always ask people to share their honest perceptions of you, (get ready because it might not be what you expected). But, I found it to be incredibly valuable! That third-party inventory of your strengths and weaknesses can help guide you in determining if this is just a bad job, or something bigger (hold that thought for the next section).
If you are sure or at least have an idea of what you’d like to do next, congratulations you’re a much better person than me, but also I’d still suggest talking to experts in that field. LinkedIn is your best friend!
Pause for a story:
I thought my skills would be best suited for project management. So I reached into my network and spoke to 3 different project managers, picking their brains about all things related to their field. Not only was this incredibly educational, it was also a great networking opportunity!
Analyze and Improve
I can’t stress enough: take inventory of yourself. Whether by speaking with your network or taking one of the many personality and strength assessments such as Myers Briggs, Strengths Finder or Enneagram to name a few.
Once armed with this information, really lean into your strengths. I know we’re programmed to start improving our weaknesses, but the improvement you will see in the areas you are already strong in will be vast compared to trying to improve the areas you are weakest.
These strengths will also help you to navigate the next steps in your career as they should align with potential and new job responsibilities. In the meantime, of course you should also take a look at your weaknesses, look for major gaps and devise a plan to incrementally improve over time – but don’t beat yourself up about it!
Have any of you decide to pivot careers? How did you navigate these murky waters? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!