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So, you’ve had enough. You’ve poured your heart out, worked your fingers to the bone, and turned your hairs grey, but no one seems to appreciate it. You’re unhappy, and ready to make a career change.Sounds fair. But hasty decisions might leave you in unfamiliar territory with neither field experience nor contacts. You might even start over as an intern with a salary of zilch.
This isn’t to say that it can’t be done. If you’re absolutely convinced that you’re in the wrong occupation, then switching careers might be worth going through the whole she-bang: selling your transferable skills, immersing in new industry knowledge, setting up informational interviews, and coming up with a moving story about why you want to change paths.
But there are alternative solutions to seemingly hopeless situations that you might want to consider before shifting gears completely:
1. You don’t fit in with the company culture. If your issue is with your relationship with your boss, co-workers, or your company’s values, then start exploring new workplaces. You might find that your job is much more enjoyable at a place that complements your work style.
For instance, working within a very outgoing company culture where everyone is fist-pumping and chit-chatting can be annoying and frustrating if you’re an introvert. But it doesn’t mean that you’re in the wrong job—it just means you’re at the wrong company.
2. You’re not getting the recognition or status you want. If you’re seeking validation from a prestigious title or fame, then you might be suffering from low self-esteem rather than the wrong career, says Penelope Trunk, founder of the career-management site Brazen Careerist. In a recent post of her personal blog, Trunk writes: “Prestige is a hollow goal when it comes to careers.” She points to a study by the University of Rochester, which found that those “who focused on goals tied to others’ approval (like fame) reported significantly higher levels of distress.” In other words, you’ll find yourself much unhappier if your goals are dependent on others’ approval. Trunk recommends therapy—but therapy is expensive. Try to let go of what others think and focus on you.
3. You’re bored at work. Yawning a little too much in your cubicle? Banish boredom by practicing your self-starter skills. Start your own side projects. Peek into others’ assignments and see if they could use your talents. Or challenge yourself to do your current job faster and better.
4. There’s nowhere else to move up in the company. The solution here is kind of the same as in No. 1. Just because your job seems to be a dead-end at one company doesn’t mean that you won’t land a higher position at another.
Another option is to consider going back to school part-time or online. “If you work in finance, for instance, and want to move to a more strategic role within the company, an MBA program with a general management foundation would be a great option to consider,” says Beth Flye, director of admissions for UNC Kenan-Flager Business School’s [email protected] online degree program.
5. You want to make more money. Changing industries or careers is much more worth it for young professionals on the hunt for a fat, juicy paycheck. But seasoned professionals are likelier to face disappointment.
“Often times you’ll have to take a step down or sideways before you get to the level you were in your previous career and finally rise above that,” says Judi Perkins, founder of the career coaching service site Find the Perfect Job. “If you’re recently out of college, this doesn’t pose much of a problem because you haven’t really begun to establish a track record, career path, or a significant upward trajectory in salary history.”
6. You made an embarrassing mistake. Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide, had one client who felt tremendous shame after being fired from a well-known and highly-regarded investment bank. Convinced that the entire industry thought of him as a failure, “[This client] decided to pursue a new career in a function and in an industry that he was not well-suited for,” Cohen says. “He was fired again.”
Later, many of the man’s former colleagues told him they never understood why he made the career change, Cohen says, because they still viewed him as a talented and astute banker. Remember, honest mistakes are forgivable. They don’t define you.
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