Career Change: When You Know What You DON’T Want

This post is the fourth and final (for now) post in our series on career change. Here, we talk about what to do when you have no idea what you want.

6070334707_d47c353f87_nSo far, we’ve talked about moving into a new career that you know you’re cut out for and moving into a new career that you think you might be cut out for, but career changes aren’t always about the into; sometimes they’re about the from. Sometimes it’s less about doing something new than it is about not doing the same old thing anymore.

As I said in my initial post about career change, this is the most difficult path, because, well, it’s not really a path at all. “Not my current field” is no more a career choice than “not celery” is a favorite food and “not 317 Main St” is an address. However, if you need to get out of your current job, then you need to figure out something.

How? You can start by asking yourself some questions:

1. What time of year is it? Jobs change with the season. For example, if you work in retail, chances are you go a little crazy in November and December. Make sure to assess your situation during a stable season so you get a clear picture of what needs to change.

2. Do I do the job that I applied for? Did a job ad promising a creative position lure you unsuspectingly into a data-mining position? If so, then maybe the career change you need isn’t as drastic as you thought. Maybe you should focus on getting into the field you thought you were getting into in the first place.

3. Do my colleagues at other companies deal with similar issues? Let’s say you’re tired of all the backstabbing and gossiping that goes on at your current job, so you vent about it to a friend who works in the same field, just at a different company. How does he or she respond? Does he or she say, “Yeah, that can be tough,” implying that it’s just an occupational hazard wherever you are? Or does he or she look at you crooked and tell you, “I’ve never heard of such a thing!”? The point here: don’t mistake a company’s culture for an industry’s culture.

4. What parts of the job do you like? If you put a drop of soy sauce in a glass of milk, it’ll ruin the whole thing. By the same token, if you have to do something that you hate every day at work, it can make your whole week feel terrible. Step back and take stock of what you do day in, day out. Do you enjoy any aspects of it? If you do, then look into starting a career (or taking refuge) in a related industry that focuses more on those aspects.

5. What do your friends do? Reach out to your network (I bet you didn’t see that coming) and talk to them about how satisfied they are with their jobs. It would be great to find others who have moved on from the career field you’ve grown tired of, but really anyone who has an outlook and approach similar to yours could provide some insight. Who knows, maybe there’s a career field out there that you’re built for only it’s never crossed your mind.

Photo by flicker user al3xadk1n5, used under a Creative Commons License.

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