(Thrilled that this piece was published on Forbes.com last week!)
As a career and executive coach, I’ve spoken with hundreds of professionals who’ve shared some version of, “I really want to leave my job and change my career, but I’m not sure what to do or where to go from here.”
If I’ve heard this message once, I’ve heard it 1000 times now. People spend years crafting careers that appear successful on the outside, only to find that at some point, usually in midlife, the career comes up short. It’s missing a vital component (or several) that turns the work into something dreaded – less than fulfilling, lacking in purpose, unstable, inauthentic, unsustainable, or a combination of all of the above.
I’ve personally lived this experienced as well – waking up at age 40 to depression, exhaustion, chronic illness, lack of ability to balance my family life and work, and feeling completely disengaged from the corporate professional identity I’d spent 18 years forging (see Breakdown Breakthrough for more).
Why are so many folks miserable in their work and long for change?
Here’s what I’ve found to be the top six reasons people are dissatisfied with their work and want out:
1. Balance: They find it impossible to balance work and outside/family life
2. Money: The money they earn isn’t enough to sustain them or their families
3. Skills: The skills and talents required for their work aren’t are a good fit
4. Respect: They feel chronically undervalued or mistreated
5. Meaning: They experience little positive meaning or purpose in their work
6. Struggle: It’s simply too hard to keep going with it
In short, they’re saying: “I don’t know what I want, but I know it’s not this.”
As the economy rallies, more and more employees are asking themselves, “Can I leave my job yet?” But I’ve discovered that if the above challenges aren’t effectively addressed in some core way BEFORE you leave your current job or career, they’ll follow you wherever you go.
If the above describes your experience, read on for some tips to help you create the change you want — away from feeling trapped, toward feeling more confident, courageous and committed to making positive career change today.
1) Commit Yourself to What You Want
A fulfilling, satisfying life is not going to just fall in your lap. You have to claim it, and commit to getting it with concentrated, continual effort. You have to work it.
How? First, figure out what is the most important thing in the whole world to you. What matters more than anything else? (For more on this, see Ric Elias’ moving TED Talk on 3 Lessons I Learned As My Plane Crashed).
Formulate this priority in terms of a “to be” statement such as “to be a great parent” or “to be a successful entrepreneur” or “to be a helper of others.” Then commit yourself to honoring this priority. Stop over-functioning (doing more than is necessary, more than is healthy, and more than is appropriate) in your life, your family, and work, and let go being perfect in the areas that don’t matter to you.
2) Refine Your Focus
Do you know exactly which talents and skills are easy and natural for you to use, that give your work a sense of purpose? Do you know what type of work would represent an ideal fit? Are you in touch with your core values, standards of integrity and life goals?
We have to understand our unique answers to these questions before we even contemplate making a major career change. Why? Because if you don’t understand who you are and what you want uniquely, you’ll end up making career change based on the wrong reasons and incomplete information, and the new career will disappoint you once again.
Take my Career Path Assessment (CLICK HERE to access the free Assessment survey) and figure out what you want to do more of, less of, and never again. Then find a way (either in your existing job or in a new field or job) to tap your true and natural talents more frequently and deeply.
3) Access the Courage to Make Change
During the eight years I’ve been a career coach, I’ve literally met thousands of miserable, depressed professionals who share their story of misery, but then do nothing concrete about it. I’ve analyzed why this is so – why so many people remain paralyzed in their misery – and I have some hypotheses as to what holds us back from life change (stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on that).
But what I do know is that if you don’t take concrete action that is different in content and process from what you’ve done before, your life and career will not change.
In the end, you can’t solve a problem on the level it was created.
Whether you’re in your own business and it’s simply not working, or the job you’re in brings too much struggle every day, it’s time for change. Let’s face it, most of us wait until there’s a full-blown crisis (read about the 12 “hidden” crises working women face) before we do something different. I’ve personally lived through all 12 of the major crises professional women face, so I get it. But I’m asking you NOT to make the same mistakes I did. Get outside your own head, and get outside help to figure out what you really want, and how to get it.
So, what’s your top reason for wanting out of your line of work? And are you ready to do something about it?