Realizing It’s Time for a Career Change? You Are Not Alone

By Dr. Errin Weisman

The words, “I have to quit this job,” tumbled out of my mouth while sitting at our kitchen bar with my husband, in our brand-new home. My student loan statements were spread out in front of me.

The thought of working as a full-time, physician for the next 40 years brought waves of nausea. But admitting it was painful. Did I really waste 11 years of my life and hundreds of thousands of dollars on a career that was starting to feel meaningless? What I’ve come to learn is that this experience is common. The U.S. Bureau of Statistics published a report showing that people change careers up to 8 times on average.

If you’re feeling this way, rest assured that you are not alone. Disengagement, fear, and dissatisfaction are rough, but totally normal. It took me several years to fully transform my professional life. Now that I’m on the other side, I’m here to tell you that it’s possible. You are capable of making huge changes in your life.

Here are the keys to getting started:

Step 1: Feel your Feelings

Our feelings are information. And we need that information to make whole-hearted decisions. Don’t judge your feelings or try to figure out why you feel this way. Simply start to notice, “Oh, I’m having a big feeling. I wonder what it is?”

Only once you name your emotions, can you start to follow the breadcrumbs back to where, when, and why they emerge.

  • Where do I notice this emotion in my body?
  • What about my work triggers this emotion/sensation?
  • Does there seem to be a particular place, time, circumstance when/where this feeling occurs?
  • What similar memories does this emotion bring to the surface?

Take these questions and dig further. Get to know your feelings and use them as guideposts to understand your next steps.

Step 2: Acknowledge Your Exact Location

The experience I had was called burnout. But it took a long time for me to stare it in the face. No one likes discomfort, even though it’s necessary.

Instead of avoiding your feelings, try some self-compassion. Tell yourself, “Wow, this is difficult. Everyone feels like this. I’m not alone.”

You can’t change your life and career using the same cycle of negative self-talk that got you stuck. There are plenty of outside voices discouraging you and your desire for something more meaningful. How about being your own best friend?

Step 3: Uncover your Superpowers

Just because you aren’t satisfied with your career doesn’t mean you’ve wasted your time. Reflect and admire how far you’ve come and how much you’ve learned so far.

Then, begin to define your superpowers. What are you really good at? What do you enjoy? What are the things other people come and ask for your help? What are the characteristics that make you, you?

These are your transferable skills. Skills that may appear small are your true superpowers and will drive you towards the career you desire.

Step 4: Make your Plan

Though it may feel that you need to change everything NOW, the fact is that this career change will take time. Please, don’t quit your current job today.

Give yourself at least six months to figure out your next steps. Not deciding is a decision. And it gives you the time and space to develop clarity, confidence, and courage for your path forward.

Identify what you don’t like about your current situation and make a list. Then make a second list of everything that you can control. You have far more control than you know, so start making small shifts by advocating for yourself, asking for what you need, and regaining control of areas that you feel powerless in.

Step 5: Get Enlightened

I encourage my clients to indulge in two types of resources (1) those that will re-educate you for a new, meaningful career and (2) those that will help you better understand yourself. Figuring out the ‘how’ when it comes to changing your career is relatively easy: Take a course, look for mentors, and ask for help.

But if you don’t work on yourself, you will likely repeat this career change over and over again. Getting crystal clear about who you are and what you want will ultimately bring you to the greatest fulfillment.

This is the muddiest part because (despite the Facebook ads say) no one else can really tell you the answers. If you’re struggling, find a coach to help with this. There will be times when you want to give up. Remember where and why you started and keep going.

Kick of Encouragement

Your burnout might be different than mine, but the first steps to getting unstuck look the same for everyone. Listen to your emotions, figure out where you have control and, when you’re ready, take the leap.

You are capable of achieving a meaningful career. There is a better life waiting for you on the other side. Go get it!

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