Why do you work at your current job? Do you feel fulfilled by what you do? Do you have a job, a career, or a passion? Yup, that’s a lot to unpack all at once. Work seems to be not just important, but central to life in the 21st century. In this country, we consider a 10% unemployment rate to be pretty high. One of the first questions you get asked at a dinner party is, “What do you do?” promptly followed by, “That’s so interesting,” or, “I had a brother that… blah blah blah.” This might just be a reflection of the people I encounter, but it seems clear to me that people strongly value the idea of working. So, why do you work?
One simple answer is that work equals money. Honestly, that is a pretty good reason to go to work every morning, noon, or night. I have never known bills to pay themselves or have food magically appear before me without paying someone first. Yet, as you may have undoubtedly heard quoted time and time again, money doesn’t equal happiness. Research suggests that we might not get any happier after we start making more than $75,000 per year (Luscombe). Like some of you, I am looking forward to the day that I get to test that theory. For others of you already there, it might be terrifying just thinking of making a career change that could cut your income in half.
The reality is that working just to make a paycheck might leave you feeling stressed, burned-out, and trapped in a never-ending mary-go-round of frustration. While COVID-19 has been a terrible experience for so many people, there has been a silver lining in this storm cloud. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in July of 2020, the rate of people who quit their jobs increased to 2.1% or 2.9 million, compared to months prior in the year (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). These are a far-cry from record-breaking numbers, but to see that a handful of people left their jobs while a pandemic rages on could mean some saw an opportunity to break that cycle of daily dread. If nothing else, it at least shows that if you are thinking about a job change even in a pandemic, you are not alone.
This is the part where I say, “…but switching jobs is easier said than done,” with a finger wave and knowing look. I hope you read that with your favorite annoying voice in mind because I’m not here to patronize you. Quite the opposite, I want to help you break out of this rut with meaningful, practical advice. Here are a few things to consider:
You already know how hard it is to switch to a new job, let alone a career, so how do you do it? If you want to make a successful career change, you need to do some planning. Before you ask yourself what you want to do, you need to ask yourself, what are my values around work. Not only is there no wrong answer, but I also find that there is no truly shallow answer either. Take my earlier example, working for a paycheck. It might sound superficial to some, but having money and wealth offers stability and security. If you strongly value financial stability, then it’s worth considering a career choice that emphasizes high pay. If instead, feeling personally challenged is what gets you out of bed in the morning, you might want to find a fast-paced job that continuously gives you a new hurdle to overcome. Thinking about what values you want to be expressed in your work will give you a goal and end that sense of endless searching.
From there, you need to do your research in finding the careers that best fit your goals. Not long ago, this used to mean buying someone lunch and asking them tons of questions about what they do. This is still a very good recommendation if you have access to the people you want to speak to. However, the good news is that if you have access to this blog post, then you have access to a gigantic array of information on just about every career imaginable. You can find videos created by professionals in the industry and use online databases like the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics to learn more about what the job pays and the educational/work requirements to get into the field. You can also lookup any professional organizations that are affiliated with that industry. For example, learn more about the APA if you are interested in becoming a psychologist.
One secret that I will share with you is to find two or three different careers that you are interested in and learn more about them all. Even if one really speaks to you, learn more about other careers and how they can align with your values. This will expose you to career options you might not have thought about and help reinforce your choice even more.
Once you have figured out your work values, and which career makes the most sense for you, it’s time to move forward and… make a plan. Don’t just job ship and expect to land your dream job tomorrow. You need time and a strategy. If you need specific educational requirements, ask yourself how you are going to acquire them. Will you be able to do school part-time, will you need to keep working during that time, and how long will it take? Many careers require relevant work experience. Don’t sell yourself short just because you think you don’t have that experience. Think of the work you have done and what parts apply to the career you are going for. If you want to go into marketing for example, think of the experiences you have helping someone find what they are looking for, or building rapport with a customer when you weren’t trying to sell them something. I can’t think of any career that doesn’t involve customer service, or to put it in a better way, meeting people’s needs.
My goal with this blog is to provide practical ideas and ways to approach a career change. But if you think that you need more help or even direction on how to find a career that you are passionate about, then career counseling is a great short-term, goal-oriented, effective way of searching for those answers. A good career counselor will not only talk to you about what you want out of your career and your life, but they can also offer assessments that help you identify what you are passionate about and ways to incorporate that into a career you may or may not have thought of, but something you would love to do. If you are interested in career counseling, then you don’t have to look very far. I offer career counseling as a service because I am personally passionate about helping clients shape their work to reflect who they are as a whole.
Luscombe, B. (2010, September 06). Do We Need $75,000 a Year to Be Happy? Retrieved September 18, 2020, from http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2019628,00.html
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Table 4. Quits levels and rates by industry and region, seasonally adjusted. (2020, September 09). Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/jolts.t04.htm
Denis Mundere, TLLP, is a therapist at Lifeologie. He knows that it can take peeling back a person’s layers to better understand what is causing their discomfort. Denis likes to dig deep and get to the root of the problem. Denis specializes in working with older teens and adults to better understand themselves and their identity. Denis also specializes in providing ADHD testing to children and teens. He will immediately put you at ease. To find out more about Denis, check out his biography.