Who else needs to ditch careers?
How I did it. And how you can do it too.
‘When you’re doing the work you’re meant to do, it feels right and every day is a bonus, regardless of what you’re getting paid.’ — Oprah Winfrey
Do you feel nauseous at the thought of going into work on Monday? Or know deep down you’re in the wrong industry or job? You want to get out but you’re scared shitless of making the move…
I used to feel like that.
It started soon after I graduated. I got into a top tier accounting company many students dreamt of.
I dreamt of it too…
Until I started and realized it wasn’t the right fit for me.
The dream job was someone else’s dream
Everyone seemed far more ambitious. More competitive. More willing to work crazy hours. To suck it up and put it down to ‘that’s just how it is here.’
Perhaps I was idealistic after a refreshing work and travel stint in Boston after 5 years at university.
Perhaps I still wasn’t used to the reality of a full-time desk job.
Or perhaps I was intimidated, scared, and didn’t feel like I was enough. Like a fraud who somehow got in under the radar.
I just knew I wasn’t happy. And travel had enlightened me to the buffet of options available. If I was unhappy and stayed where I was, that was all on me.
I was a wreck. Who would ever hire me again? What was I supposed to do with my life now?
It was irrational and dramatic, I know. But everything I’d done so far had led me to this ‘dream’ job. I couldn’t imagine how life was supposed to go on.
Are you contemplating a major career change? Perhaps you feel paralyzed. Overwhelmed. Scared shitless to do anything about it. Like I did.
What’s stopping you?
If you’re thinking about a career change, there can be so many obstacles:
‘I’m in a senior role and don’t want to start again. I can’t go backwards with lower pay and the humiliation of a lower role.’
‘I haven’t got myself set up financially yet.’
‘I’ve invested so much time and energy, I can’t let my career go now. It’ll all be wasted.’
‘I have a family, I need to keep my stable job.’
Do you recognize any of those?
How about the other side of the coin:
‘I’m not passionate about what I do.’
‘My job is so stressful, I’m sick of it. It’s not the right fit anymore,’
‘I’m good at this, and so successful. But it doesn’t light me up.’
When’s the right time to leave?
‘Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we are seeking.’ — Barack Obama
I remember sitting at my hotdesk outside a partner’s office. My resignation letter had been written. I was in denial.
I kept feeling like I didn’t have to go through with it. No-one had a clue that I hated it there and I was about to resign.
Everything would change once I’ve handed it in. It didn’t have to happen.
The realization that changed my life
I knew within 1 week I hated it there. It wasn’t for me.
My soul whimpered pathetically every day for months. I wasn’t helping anyone on a personal level. Not making a real difference to anyone’s lives. That was important to me, I realized.
Yet I was scared.
My parents were going to freak out. I was leaving that stable job in a big company. Where they’d take care of me. Pay for my travel. Give me many amazing opportunities. They were so proud of me.
I couldn’t tell them of course. My dad’s philosophy is ‘a rolling moss gathers no roots’.
It felt important to organize something to go onto. Something to say to my colleagues and director. A reason for leaving.
I applied to teach English in Japan. And got accepted.
Then I resigned.
I still didn’t tell my parents. Instead, I put on my suit and heels every morning, and continued to leave the house early with my laptop bag.
And headed to the beach.
I spent two weeks sitting in the driver’s seat of my car. At the beach. In my full suit. Teaching myself Japanese. Then I’d arrive home at the end of each day as usual.
I did that until I got another job (much to my relief). I ended up passing on Japan — I didn’t want to feel like I was running away.
Only then did I tell my parents I’d left, ‘but don’t worry, I got another job’.
They were surprised. Shocked. And disappointed, though they didn’t say it out loud.
Jobs were everywhere
I worked at a cosmetics company. Filling mail orders and managing their website during the busy Christmas period.
I thought I’d enjoy this job outside the corporate world. But retail wasn’t for me either.
Fast forward several years later, and I’d worked in Student Administration, Personal Training, Bookkeeping, International Recruitment, Tutoring, Event Management, Hostessing (in restaurants), and many other jobs in Boston, Melbourne (Australia) and Vancouver.
I was lost
Often I felt like a drifter. I was alone trying to figure out where my compass was taking me. My friends were still in their corporate grad jobs 5 years afterwards and seemed so irritatingly happy.
But then it happened…
I finally stumbled into my ‘perfect’ job in Online Communications — the perfect blend of meeting new people, writing and editing, managing projects, and creating websites.
It fulfilled my need to be social while being an introvert. I could use my skills in web without having to do any programming!
I built and managed websites, created content strategies, and improved business processes. I spent time understanding what website users do — and what they expect from websites.
Throughout it all I discovered my passion:
I write content for all things online (and offline too): email newsletters, ads, radio scripts, web pages, social media posts, brochures, prospectuses, and more.
More than a decade later, I’m still in this field. As a freelance digital copywriter.
I actually get paid to do what I love. Who would have thought that would happen?
Yet I made it happen. I didn’t know how it would pan out, but I stuck with it and looked for any opportunity to make it happen.
If I could do it, there’s no reason why you can’t too. Really.
We all have a nagging voice in our heads that work it’s damndest to be heard. That voice that doesn’t like change. That just wants a cushy ride.
The voice that smirks when you throw your hands up in the air and sigh ‘It’s just too hard. Why bother?’
You know the one don’t you?
I bet you do… so here are a few practical ideas for you to get past the paralysis. Past the excuses.
Ideas to overcome paralysis
‘Never follow anyone else’s path, unless you’re in the woods and lost and you see a path. Then, by all means, follow that path.’ — Ellen DeGeneres
Here are a few ideas on how you can overcome the common challenges many face when switching careers:
Challenge 1: I don’t want to go back to study — or it’s not convenient
This time, study will mean more to you than it did in high school (and college, if you went onto that).
You’ll be hungry for knowledge because you know why you’re there and where it will take you.
Online courses are a great option.
Take it from Steven Spielberg who graduated with a BA in Film Production and Electronic Arts after finishing study through distance learning courses.
Challenge 2: I need to work to live
Save up enough for 6 months buffer or more. Review your budget and adjust. Live with less.
Do what you know to get by while you get to where you want to be.
Like Harrison Ford, who continued to work as a carpenter to support his family while he transitioned into an acting career. He got his break at 31 in his first main role in American Graffiti.
Or J.K. Rowling who was an unemployed single mum with a young daughter. Yet trudged through loads of rejections from publishers, before her $25 billion dollar Harry Potter series.
Challenge 3: I’m lucky to have a stable job. I shouldn’t leave
Stop kidding yourself. Is any job really that secure?!
Be resourceful. You’ll find plenty of jobs and business opportunities.
Take it from Martha Stewart, who’s had a host of jobs and businesses from modelling and stockbroking before getting into the food industry —as caterer, editor-in-chief, and TV personality.
Challenge 4: I’m too old to try something new
Tell that to Colonel Sanders, who was 62 when he started Kentucky Fried Chicken. Or Arianna Huffington, who worked as author, then politician, before she founded Huffington Post — aged 55!
Don’t let age hold you back from your dreams. It doesn’t matter how old you are. Make what you do next matter. Not what you haven’t done.
You’re more creative and determined than you realize. Go on, I’m sure you can come up with plenty more ideas to knock off the excuses — and go for what you want.
‘Success isn’t about the end result, it’s about what you learn along the way.’ — Vera Wang
Ideas to get into a new career
Here are ways I’ve landed jobs in many different industries:
- Take up a short course (or a full course)
- Study without a course
- Accept an offer of a job from a contact (a job you might not have even considered)
- Get an entry level job in a field you’ve always been interested in
- Join a local business network
- Go overseas where no-one knows you and get jobs you wouldn’t usually consider at home
Do something. Anything to head in the direction you have in mind. It may not happen immediately, but be persistent and you’ll be amazed at where you’ll find yourself.
Still not sure how to begin?
I won’t sugarcoat it. It can be devastating. Lonely. Unsure. Scared.
And people around you may not understand. They may be angry. They may think you’re selfish. Silly. And whimsical.
It took my dad at least a decade to get over me leaving that first ‘real’ job.
Yet others will think you’re gutsy. You’ll see the envy and wonder in their eyes — without the drive or courage to make it happen for themselves.
But you are not that person. You’ve got this. Stick with it. It gets easier.
What you’ll gain
You build courage.
You’ll realize going your own way is not selfish. It means you’ll have more energy, happiness, and light to share with people around you.
You’ll figure yourself out along the way. What you enjoy. What really matters to you. Who matters to you.
You’ll realize you don’t need to be a lemming. That you won’t die if you jump out of the lemming line. That society and other people’s expectations don’t matter as much as you thought.
You’ll see more than the average person. Your blinkers will fall off. You’ll gain more insight, experience, and intuition than you could ever imagine.
Your new experiences will be gold. In your career, the skills, the way things are done, the way people are. It’s all gold for you next job. Or business.
You’ll get used to taking responsibility for your life — and your happiness. You won’t be like the ones around you that blame everyone except themselves when things don’t go as planned. You’ll take the reigns of your destiny. Rocking and rolling with whatever life throws at you — cheerfully.
You’ll choose to be cheerful. You’ll learn that negativity has no place in your life. And that there’s no satisfaction in dragging yourself down. You’ll be grateful, the essential ingredient for cheerfulness. And like will attract like.
I dare you to get started. Now!
If you’re really serious about changing careers, quit with the verbal vomit. You’ve got to take action. Consistently. You’ve made it this far. If you do nothing else after reading this, take 5 minutes and do this:
- Write a list of what you enjoy — and dislike about your current job.
- Write a list of what your ideal job includes: the environment, people, culture, work
- Visualize: what sort of life do you want? Write it down.
- Look through a job website’s categories. Including the ‘Other jobs’ category. Get ideas about what else is out there.
Don’t be one of those people who torture themselves about what they could’ve, would’ve, should’ve done.
If you want something enough, you are the only one who can make it happen. It really isn’t ever too late.
Go on my friend. Do it. I believe in you.
‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ — Nelson Mandela
Much love to Jheelam Dutta Roy for requesting this post.
What would you love to do in your next career? Please share, I’d love to know (and who knows, another reader may be able to help you with the next step)…