Switching Jobs / Switching Careers

About three years ago, I essentially switched careers.

When I look back on that decision now, what I see is that I loved my job, but I hated big aspects of my career, at least in the direction it was headed.

I spent more time than I would like away from my family on trips that felt unimportant. At the same time, I very much enjoyed the people I would spend time with on those trips and in my workplace. I still miss the daily interactions with most of them.

Although my job offered some creative outlets, I couldn’t help but feel that my career path didn’t offer many creative outlets at all without going back to school for some intense graduate work. The future held repetitive grunt work – and a lot of it.

I loved my job and felt reasonably secure in it, but if the project I worked on was eliminated, I could have wound up in a place I really didn’t want to be had I been reassigned.

I loved my job, but I hated my career. It took me some time to realize this, too.

There’s really a big difference between the two. I often get emails from people who describe a situation where they seem to hate their job but love their career. They don’t get along with their boss. They feel as though they’re being pulled away from what they should be doing by workplace forces. None of these elements were ever true for me.

Some people, of course, seem to dislike both their job and their career. They don’t like their boss or their working situation and, at the same time, they don’t see leaving their current situation as a solution, either.

Of course, each of these situations demands a different solution.

If you hate your career but love your job, as I did, you need to look at a completely different career path. For me, I switched from a research-oriented job to writing – a radical career shift. For a few years, I spent a lot of my spare energy on writing as a release and I realized that, when the writing finally took off, that this was the path I wanted to follow with my time and energy moving forward. I miss my old job, but I don’t miss my old career path and where it was seemingly headed.

If you hate your job but love your career, start polishing up your resume and your skill set now. Don’t worry about the pressures of your current work environment. Instead, focus your energy on your exit path. Don’t sit there and stew and let the stress of the situation make you become strongly bitter and, eventually, unemployable. Make a move, and move on. If your work environment is so dysfunctional that it makes Office Space seem healthy, it’s time to move on.

If you hate both your job and your career, switch to a “transition” job – and quickly. Look for employment in an area where you can easily get into that doesn’t demand too much of you and get out of the stressful situation. Once you’re in this new position, start evaluating where you want to go from here. Preferably, it’s in an entirely new direction.

Two final notes. First, security isn’t everything. Many people are afraid to move on because they feel their job is safe. Very few jobs are truly safe these days, and if you’re in a situation where you’re miserable, others are probably aware of it and you begin to slowly look more and more expendable the longer your misery continues. Don’t wait for the hatchet – take action and move on to something that excites you and makes you want to go into work, do a great job, and move forward in your career path.

Second, money isn’t everything, either. If your job or your career path is making you deeply stressed, it’s likely also making you sick, reducing your current state of health and also possibly reducing your long-term health. No amount of money is worth actively sacrificing your health and well-being. It is far better to live a frugal life with your sanity and your health than have a well-paying job that’s sapping your vitality away.

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