How do you know when it’s time to give up or make a career change?
There is most definitely a difference between “giving up” and making a change. However, no matter who you are or what you do (entrepreneur, professional athlete, designer) you’ve heard “never give up!” “Just keep trying, keep going!”
You’re also probably familiar with the concept of burnout. Feeling disconnected from what you normally love, overwhelmed, stressed, exhausted.
Where is the line between going through a phase of burnout and when it might be time to make a significant change in your career? Put more simply, is there an appropriate time to give up? And what does that look like?
In the many interviews we’ve done through Ways We Work, we’ve asked this question, and while the answer is different and complex for everyone, hopefully these points can be a place to start when answering it yourself.
Do you care?
Take a long look at the problems and the challenges that you currently face in your career. The daily challenges, but also look at what things you’re going to have to do to reach your goals. Do you care enough about those challenges to put in the hard work it’s going to take to overcome them? Anything worth doing is going to be hard, so you need to ask yourself if you care enough about the problems you currently face.
If you don’t, take some time to ask yourself why.
No place is free of challenges. Buzzfeed has challenges, problems we’re trying to solve, things we’re not happy about internally, it’s true everywhere. I think one of the big things for me is: are the problems and challenges that I’m facing in my job, problems and challenges that I find valuable to solve? That’s an important question to ask.
Always be taking stock of how things make you feel. You might not always understand why you feel the way you do but if you at least know how you feel, you have one piece of the puzzle. Do you suddenly find yourself avoiding the kinds of work you normally love doing? Are you dragging your feet to get started on a new project? It sucks to feel that way, but you can’t change it if you don’t notice it.
Whenever something that used to bring you joy no longer brings you joy, it’s time to try something new. It’s not that that thing will never give you joy again, it’s just that you need some time away. Your relationship with your work is like your relationship with any really close friend. No matter how tight you are with someone, you don’t want to have a slumber party for three months with them.
Trust your gut.
Sometimes no matter how much reflection, you just don’t know what you should do next. Whether you should continue on your current path or go a different direction entirely. Don’t wait for a well formulated answer to come to you, just explore your options, and follow your gut. At the very least it’s the best way to discover what you don’t want to be spending your time on.
I’ve found that sometimes I don’t necessarily know what I really want to do, or what’s exciting to me. So, I could either sit and wait for some revelation of what I want to do, or I could try things. I’ve found that trying things is always better than not…
…If I ever find myself in a place where I’m not engaged, or not learning, that’s the signal that I’m giving up freedom. Then it’s just a matter of trusting your gut.