Leaving any path, even one in which you are not particularly happy or fulfilled, can be hard. If, like me, you are lucky enough to like your current path but simply know it is not taking you to the place you want to end up then things get even tougher. A big career move is not something to be rushed or pressured into. It takes time to explore all your options and make sure you are choosing the right things for the right reasons.
For me it took three years to decide that a traditional medical career was not where my future lay. It was tough because I had worked hard for a long time to get where I was. On paper my job was secure, rewarding and well paid. But it wasn’t giving me the life I wanted. Most days involved high stress levels, from making important decisions about other people’s lives to more mundane stress about deadlines and extra work. I worked long hours and my life-work balance was suffering.
Eventually I knew if I was to be truly happy and gain back some control over my life then I would have to step away from this life. But the big decision for me was what to do next. I’m sure many people are in a similar situation, where they have worked hard and single-mindedly towards a certain end point only to realise it’s no longer what they want. I have compiled a list of questions that I asked my self and that I believe were key for me reaching the right decision. I hope by reading these and considering your own answers to them that you can also come closer to your own decision.
1) Do you want something new within your current line, or complete change of field?
Is it your day-to-day job that has worn you down, or do you no longer enjoy your wider field of work? Can you do what you do remotely, or request a transfer to a different office to allow you to travel and live abroad? Or are you just no longer fulfilled by the field that you trained to work in? This is a really important distinction to consider. It is usually easier to move around within a field than to come out of it altogether and break in somewhere new. But if it is a complete career change that you need then it is certainly far from impossible. Read on to get more tips on how to plan your move.
2) What transferable skills do you have?
These are so much more abundant than people realise. Are you good with people? A whizz with IT or social media marketing? Have you planned big events in the past or speak a foreign language? There are so many talents that people have and don’t realise a company will value. Make a list of all your skills and talents and then think of creative and fulfilling ways you can combine these to create a future you love.
3) What do other people with similar background to you do?
Did you do a more general degree at university? If so what other career paths have you old class-mates embarked on. If they have jobs you love or which allow them to travel and do the things you want then reach out to them and ask them how they did it. Social media has brought the world closer together so use it to your advantage.
If you did a more vocational degree like I did, there are still huge choices available to you. For example medics can go into teaching, industry jobs, they can travel and volunteer overseas, they can work for expedition companies. Just because most people who complete such degrees embark on a traditional career path doesn’t mean you have to. Ask around, I bet there’s a bunch of inspiring people with awesome career just waiting for you to reach out.
4) What are the most important things you want from your career change?
This is so important. You don’t want to leap out of the frying pan and into the fire as the old saying goes. Leaving your current path without considering what you want from the next one might cause you to end up in a worse situation down the line. Now please don’t misunderstand me – I am a huge believer in spontaneity and going where the wind takes you and I don’t mean that you must have every single detail planned out before you consider leaving. What I mean is that you have to know the key aspects of what will make you happy. Does it need to involve a lot of travel? Is income or income security important to you? Should it be helping people or contributing to society? Do you want part-time work, or complete location independence? These are the broad things that you need to figure out, the small stuff will sort itself out.
5) What skills might you need to acquire for a career change?
Maybe you want to go from being an investment banker to a scuba dive teacher. Maybe you only want to leave your big corporate firm for a small start-up in a similar field. But in either scenario there will likely be some skills that you need to pick up to ease your move. It is worth considering these in advance and budgeting the time and money required to gain new skills that you will need.
6) What is your time-frame?
Does it need to be now? Sometimes when you are unhappy it can cause you to act irrationally. Perhaps it would be better for you to wait until you have worked out some of the things above, or paid off your car. Conversely maybe being stuck in your job is making you complacent and too busy to figure out the important stuff. In which case maybe quitting sooner will be the wake up call you need to start improving your life.
I hope this helps you move closer to the life you are dreaming of. Sometimes we need to be brave, but I believe in you.
I would love to hear your plans and success stories, so please do comment below x