When we as young and naive high school and college students start “planning our career paths” many of us looked for well-paying jobs with an upward trajectory in the field. Or at least our parents told us to. Others searched their heart and soul for careers that they’d find personally and creatively fulfilling, only to have their passion extinguished by tough competition, naysayers, or low-paying careers in the field on their dreams. We are trained from early on to plan our career path and stick to it, and that it will pay off in the end. But what if we find ourselves halfway up the path, and completely miserable?
According to a 2019 Indeed survey, nearly half of workers have made a “dramatic career change” and 88% are happier now because of it. The reasons they cited for making the switch included: being unhappy in their previous sector, seeking greater flexibility, wanting to earn more money, not feeling challenged or satisfied, and wanting more opportunities for advancement. The average age for making a major career switch was age 39.
If you are considering throwing your traditional and expected career path out the window, and following your intuition, here are some considerations to keep in mind:
#1. GET BACK IN TOUCH WITH WHO AND WHAT YOU WANTED TO BE AS A CHILD
Remember that high school kid who visited all the art schools then signed up for a career in business? Time to revisit what happened to that interest, and to consider how it could be merged with your current skill set. Sometimes a career change doesn’t have to be an entirely new profession, but can be at the intersection of what you currently do and what you want to do. For example, maybe with a few classes, your current business career could involve some side work for the graphic design team at your company.
#2. CONSIDER YOUR OPTIONS WITHOUT MONEY IN THE EQUATION, AT FIRST
The reason you are where you are (feeling stuck) is because you probably had money on the brain the first time you picked a career path. This is totally understandable, and money does provide you and your family security and things that make life more enjoyable, to a point ($75,000 to be exact). But what would you consider doing everyday for the rest of your life, whether you were paid for it or not? That’s where you passion probably lies, and a great place to start exploring.
#3. ASK OTHERS TO SUPPORT YOUR JOURNEY REGARDLESS OF THE OUTCOME
Your partner, family, children, friends, and coworkers may be confused by your search for your life’s true work and your purpose. They may criticize you taking the long weekend to figure out if you really want to be a writer while you isolate yourself in a woodsy cabin to find out. They may question your sudden fascination with pottery class when you leave every Tuesday night to make mugs. But that’s not what you need right now, and you can say so. By explaining to loved ones that you are trying to reconnect with yourself and your most meaningful purpose for your next years of life, you are more likely to gain their understanding, not their criticism.
#4. FOLLOW NATURAL CURIOSITIES, EVEN IF THEY DON’T SEEM LIKE A “REAL” CAREER
What do you actually want to know more about? When you can’t sleep at 2 am, what types of articles are you reading on your phone? What documentaries do you love watching? All of these questions (and more) can provide clues into where your true curiosities lie. Allowing yourself space to investigate these random interests, from tree frog life cycles to what happens if you take a sink apart and try to put it back together (not recommended, honestly), you may happen upon something that matters in your future. By taking away the stress of finding a career, you can find interests instead and go from there.
If you aren’t confident in doing any of this, but still feel totally stuck at your company or in your profession, that’s where I come in. Burnout Institute is meant to help people reconnect with their true passions and to awaken whatever creativity has become dormant after years in a cubicle. Come explore your past, and future with us, as we figure out what you were really meant to do.
Written by Jessica Walther, CEO of Itivate