Q: I’ve been getting really restless with my job and have been thinking about a career change, moving into a role that would have more personal meaning. What should I be thinking about to pursue this idea?
A: Consider your life goals and the investment of time and money you can handle to make a change.
The inner game
Let your mind settle down so that you can think this through without extreme emotions. If you’re preoccupied with dissatisfaction with your current job or overly infatuated with the idea of change, it’ll be difficult for you to draw sound conclusions.
Think about what having “personal meaning” in your work life means to you. Does it pertain to the type of organization you work for or the role you have? For example, are you thinking about a change to a nonprofit or moving into a job at your current organization that provides direct service to people? Or are you feeling drawn to some type of artistic work?
To what extent does the rest of your life reflect this values-driven need? Is your restlessness at work a symptom of a broader disconnection? If so, then changing your work will not be the solution you’re seeking.
Also consider the aspects of your job that you’re satisfied with and the aspects that drew you to your career in the first place. Are these still attractive and important to you? If so, bring them front and center in your focus.
If not, think about what has changed for you in the intervening years.
The outer game
Having reflected on the situation, you first need to decide if a career change will truly serve you. You may have realized that it’s more appropriate to focus on building inner satisfaction than changing external conditions. That’s a topic for another column.
If you’re set on making a change, first and foremost you need to decide on what’s next. A career counselor or coach could help with this step, which requires both research and reflection.
If that’s not an option, there are plenty of books on the subject that you could use. One tip: Notice feelings and physical energy levels when you think about different options — these can provide real clues about the fit of the options you’re considering.
As you identify possibilities, talk to people in those roles to learn more about what they are like from the inside. A role may look inviting, but if it requires a lot of flexibility and you prefer predictability, it won’t be a good fit. Don’t be hesitant to ask people; in general, people are happy to help and are often flattered to be asked. Also gather information about education and training requirements, as well as salary information.
If you have a family, keep their needs in mind. If you’re looking at going back to school while working full-time, this has time and money implications. Likewise, if your new career entails a pay cut, you’ll need to be sure your family supports you in this choice.
The last word