Is it time for a career change?
Everyone has awful work days, weeks, and sometimes even months, but how do you know if there is any hope for improvement or if it’s time to change things up?
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman
It’s the fall of 2019 and I’m out for my usual morning walk. I always look forward to my early morning walks because the world is simple at that time of the day. Things are quiet. The few people that you meet are usually friendly. Stress and busyness hasn’t emerged yet. The day feels full of possibilities.
But this wasn’t my experience that morning or many mornings around that time. I wanted excitement and the quiet was frustrating. I wanted to engage with something new, something fresh – but everything felt the same. Boring. Stale. Life itself felt heavy but there was nothing that I could identify as the reason.
Probably under more usual circumstances, I might have languished in those feelings for a much longer time but like many others, Covid magnified and accelerated those feelings. In the fall of 2020, after over 25 years in my career, I decided to retrain and try something new.
Is it time for you?
Since you’re reading this blog, I think it’s safe to say you’re wondering this question. I’m not an expert on life changes (if there is such a thing?) but I think there are a few common themes that I’ve seen and heard over the years.
Although this isn’t a medical diagnosis, I think it’s generally accepted as a real condition. One definition of burnout is emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. The reasons for burnout are difficult to nail down because it isn’t simply from having too much work. There are some people with very demanding jobs that never experience burnout. It’s important to note that it isn’t a matter of mental/emotional fortitude either as there are many strong, capable people that wrestle with burnout. Burnout involves some combination of overwork/demanding work, “payoff” in regards to the work (ie. job satisfaction, social impact, wages etc.) and personal circumstances (ie. work/life balance, health, relationship stresses etc.).
Do you dread the thought of going to work on a regular, consistent basis?
Do you get physically and/or mentally exhausted regularly/consistently?
Do you struggle to focus/concentrate more than you’d expect?
Are you lacking in creativity that you’d expect from yourself?
Do you wonder about the meaning behind your work?
Is there a change in your social patterns? Do those close to you notice a difference? Are you socially isolating?
Rustout might be considered the opposite of burnout except prolonged stress is often a shared reason. “Quiet quitting” might be one of the symptoms of rusting out. Generally speaking, rustout is characterized by apathy and disengagement. It is the feeling of malaise and boredom at work or at life. The causes behind rustout could be many including: deskilling of once complex jobs, repetitive tasks, paperwork or people overload, endless meetings.
Do you lack motivation for things that once were exciting or fun?
Do you find it hard to concentrate?
Are you working only for the money?
Do you envy others that seem to feel passionate about their work?
Do you dream of doing something else or being in a different situation?
Do you no longer care about doing your best work or being at your best?
Moving out is the sense of just wanting to get on with your life – to find progress in your career, in your job or in your life in general. Moving out is the healthiest of the three reasons I’ve shared because moving out is natural. It may or may not have anything to do with external reasons as the primary motivators for moving out are internal.
Do you wish you could better utilize your skills/personality?
Are you wanting/needing to earn more?
Do you have an entrepreneurial itch? (ie. want to work for yourself or start something yourself)
Are there people that you’re wanting to work with that aren’t in your current role (ie. mentors, colleagues etc.)
Is your job/role/industry in decline? Can you see yourself there in 5 years?
Do your life circumstances allow you to try something new/take on risk?
So, what do I do now?
Before anything else, be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up because you aren’t what you once were. None of us are. Reading this blog might be one step towards being a better you tomorrow. I’ll talk more in other blogs.
Read the quote at the beginning. What makes you come alive? That’s a good start.