Are you ignoring the unsettling but consistent ‘nudges’ from your brain that say you’ve made a mistake?
When you’ve invested so much time and effort into a career, it’s very disconcerting when it doesn’t live up to your expectations or you realise it’s the wrong career path altogether.
It can take some time to feel comfortable in any work role, and your feelings might just be part of a passing phase, but if after a while you still don’t like what you see ahead of you in this career, maybe you simply need to acknowledge it.
The trouble is, we’re typically very young when we choose our career path, and there isn’t always the professional guidance we need to steer us in the right direction.
Maybe you’ve followed your parents’ expectations, or have had no useful guidance at all, so what might have influenced your choice of career?
Two factors that can affect career choices
Without the life experience that’s only gained with age, there’s always a chance that people will make the wrong choice. You might have been too young to understand your core values, for example, or the beliefs you hold now.
Parental and peer pressure, or perhaps misguided advice from teachers who didn’t really know you, can make it difficult to choose the right path when you’re young. Parents don’t necessarily steer their children away from certain careers deliberately, but their view on different types of work can linger in the subconscious.
How do you know if you’re on the wrong career path?
Ask yourself these questions:
· Did I receive any useful careers advice at school?
· Did any of my teachers really know and understand me?
· Was I influenced by one or both of my parents’ careers
· Did I choose this career to make them happy rather than myself?
· Did I choose this path because it’s well-paid?
· Could it be something else in my life that’s making me unhappy or causing me to doubt my choice?
Also look out for these signs that could indicate you’ve made the wrong choice of career
· Difficulty sleeping
· Digestive problems
· Poor mental health — feeling unhappy, anxious, stressed, or depressed, but not necessarily knowing why
· Unhealthy diet or eating habits — comfort eating, for example, or eating lunch at your desk every day and not taking breaks
· Poor physical health — frequent colds or general aches and pains
· Feeling irritable
· Lack of energy
· Putting pressure on yourself to appear happy at work
Finding motivation to make a change
When you’re stuck in a rut it can feel impossible to change anything. The motivation to act isn’t always there, and you might believe you can’t alter your career path without upsetting other people.
So make a pact with yourself — to put yourself first.
Take time to consider what makes you happy, and how you could feel more fulfilled in your work. Also think about the aspects of your current job or career that you don’t like.
This might be the work culture — perhaps the office politics is invasive, colleagues are constantly backstabbing each other to get ahead, or maybe you work long hours and are expected to be available for emails and calls 24/7.
A lack of work/life balance is insidious, and could be making you feel unhappy even if the job is well-paid. The type of work you do day-to-day might also be the problem, especially if it’s something you didn’t expect to take on.
How to find the right career for you
Determine your core values and beliefs
Take time to consider what makes you happy, and try to identify your core values so you can narrow down your options. Maybe you’d feel connected if you worked with more people, or in an outdoor setting — don’t forget to pay attention to how you feel in your leisure time as well as when you’re at work.
So what are core values? Your core values are the elements of life and living that are most important to you, and that guide your actions and decisions day-to-day. Honesty, integrity, loyalty, and compassion, are just a few examples of core principles that people live by.
Respect for others is another core value, so if you value respect and are being disrespected at work, whether overtly or covertly, it could be the reason why you’re unhappy and looking for change.
Professional career counselling
A career counselor can help you decide whether this is the best path for you, and if not, guide you towards the right one. They’d take an objective view of the situation without telling you what to do next, supporting each stage of change simply by listening.
Career counselors will also provide information on any other careers you have in mind, so when the time comes you can make a confident and informed decision that brings you peace and happiness.
What inspires you?
What or who inspires you? Again, pay attention to how you feel at various times, recognise when a person or event engages or inspires you, and use this to lead you to a career that suits.
Could you change your role at work?
Maybe a change of role in your current career is all you need? Promotion might be within reach, or maybe a sideways move to a role that’s more aligned to your values?
Take your time
However you proceed, you need to take your time. Try not to rush into leaving the career you’re in unless you’re certain it’s not what you want, or your role can’t change. Make a list of good and bad aspects of your job, and then work towards a new career if necessary.
If your health is suffering, you need to put yourself first. Simply making the decision to act can relieve some of the stress of feeling that you’re in the wrong place. We spend so much time at work, it’s very important for our physical and mental health to feel settled and happy.
So give yourself a break, put you first, and make the right move.
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