Change Without Change

Often when people get frustrated with their chosen career, they panic and think they need to change it completely. This could even involve a retraining of sorts – courses or even a whole new university degree. Sometimes this is the answer. But more often than not, I don't think it's necessary. It's worth considering another alternative.

Take me for example. At least five years ago I decided that I was fed up with being a journalist. But I wasn't sure what else I was qualified to do. Journalism requires all sorts of excellent skills (dealing with tricky people, boiling down an argument to the essential, questioning things, to name a few), but it's not always clear how to apply these skills to other jobs. So I panicked and began worrying that I had probably chosen the wrong career to begin with – what an idiot I was!

Immediately I started sending away for brochures on going back to school. I even applied for a psychology conversion course. I got in and then kept deferring my acceptance (twice I believe, if not three times). Then, after I eventually decided not to attend, I took another journalism job (indecision, indecision). I also flirted with the idea of retraining as a lawyer and applied for public relations jobs. But the thought of neither thrilled me. It wasn't until I was out for lunch with a contact of mine as a journalist, and I admitted that I was unhappy in my job, that I found something to do next. He worked for a financial services firm and they were looking for a writer – one who understood the markets. I applied, was offered the job and took them up on it in less than three days.

Sometimes you don't even know that the job you want exists. I certainly didn't. And when I look back on it, it wasn't that I wanted to change my job entirely, but only certain aspects of it. I still wanted to write, and speak to people, and do research. I just didn't want the extreme deadline pressure (I still have some deadlines). And I wanted to work inside an organization and have more variation in what I did. All of which I now have with my current role.

My hunch is that whatever job you're in at the moment isn't entirely wrong. Make a list of the things you like about your job and what you don't like. It may tell you a lot.

So if you're thinking of re-training in anything, take a moment to consider – is there any way you can use the skills you already have as a stepping stone to what you want to do next? There's a chance you may already be doing what you want to do to some extent and your dream job may be just a lunch conversation away.

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  1. Good tips. I think key, too, to what you did, is you networked and mentioned your dreams/discontent without bitching that lined you up to get the job that was a better fit for you. Sometimes if you don't mention it, people think you're ecstatic (or at least content) where you are, and won't even think of mentioning to you any openings.

  2. That's a really good point. I think people are afraid about being honest when they are unhappy but I think if you own it (i.e. "It's just not the right job for me") others will respect that. Also, the reality is that even if you're happy at your current job, there's nothing wrong with being open to new opportunities at any time.


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