So you’ve built the foundation for a solid career. 40 more years and you can retire happily, right? If only that were true. Have you ever had that feeling in the back of your mind that there might be something better out there that you’d rather spend the majority of your working life doing as opposed to the career you’re currently in? If not, congratulations! You’re one of the lucky ones. If so, however, there may be signs in your working life that are pointing you down another path.
I noticed some of these signs while in my teaching career. After recognizing the signs, weighing my options, and taking a good, long look at what career path I wanted to take, I made the decision to switch careers.
Just the thought of uprooting something consistent and familiar like your career in favor of something else can be extremely scary. Not only do you have to start over career wise, but there’s no guarantee that you would end up in the career you’re seeking in the first place. This all crossed my mind as I contemplated putting aside my Vanderbilt education for something that I felt would check more boxes off in my career goals. I spent most of my school year trying to talk myself out of throwing away my current career for something else, but these recurring signs kept coming up.
- I wasn’t happy in my career
My last year of teaching was at my dream school, one of the top high schools in the city and state. I absolutely loved my students when I was teaching. Their success was my number one priority because their success equated to my success. However, when the kids weren’t around, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy with where my career was and where it could lead. With all the paperwork, long hours, and things outside of my control, I could not see myself having a fulfilling career teaching. I didn’t like how out of 120 students, a single student having a bad day could cause me to have a bad day as well. I put so much of myself into my work, but at the end of the day, I was counting how many more days until the weekend or the next holiday.
If you’re not happy with your career, it’s important to identify the specifics of why you aren’t happy. Are these things within your control to adjust? If so, would changing them change the way you view the outlook for your career? Although I had certain parts of my teaching career that I found meaningful, it wasn’t enough to where I felt like I could be happy doing this type of work until retirement. Even the thought of being promoted did nothing for my feelings towards the work I was doing.
2. I was burned-out
This one is common among teachers and other high stress and long hour professions. On any given week, I was putting in 60 – 75 hours a week into my work. This included the regular school day, planning lessons, grading papers, coaching sports, tutoring, and meeting with administrators and parents. Whenever I felt tired of the work I was doing, I would refer to the one quote that says if you love the work you do, you never work a day in your life. And then I would realize that although I had a passion for education, I was burned out. In order to push back against this feeling, I would list the reasons why I am doing what I am doing, find time for myself, and reset.
These strategies worked for me throughout the school year, but it also helped me discover that there are other careers out there where I can love doing the work and not get the feeling of needing to take a day off just to get away from the work for a day or play catch up.
Again, it’s common to get the feeling of being exhausted and overworked sometimes. Whenever you start to feel this way, there’s a few things I mentioned that would be helpful to do. First, it helps to remind yourself why you’re working hard. In my case, I was working hard to help my students be successful. I was also working to make a case for a future promotion. Second, take a time out to do something for you that would help you feel refreshed. Some things I did included spending time outside, enjoying a nice drink from my local coffee shop, and getting a good scoop of ice cream from my favorite ice cream shop. These time out activities don’t have to be time consuming, but it should be something you enjoy doing. Finally, reset in the work you were doing. Once you get back into the work, it should feel like a second wind for you so that you can complete your tasks.
3. Another field interested me
I get asked a lot how I went from education to software development. During open periods where I normally spent planning or grading papers, I often found myself going into other teachers’ classrooms to observe, gain new insights, spend time with my students, and provide support. It was one of my favorite things to do as it often helped establish bonds with my students.
One class I particularly enjoyed sitting in was the computer science class. It was so fascinating to me, more so than the chemistry topics I was teaching. And, the careers stemming from a background in computer science were in high demand. Sitting in these classes sparked my interest in the field, and I began doing research to see how I could begin a career in the computer science field.
If you’re unhappy with the field you’re in and something else sparks an interest, you owe it to yourself to research the new field. Some basic questions to help you in researching would be the following:
- What is it about this new field that interests you, and how is it different from your current field?
- Picture yourself in a specific career within this new field. What is different from where you currently are in your career to how you’re picturing yourself? What would be the same?
- What would be the pros and cons for pursuing this new career versus staying in your current career?
- How are the job prospects in this new field and opportunities for advancement?
- What would be the time commitment for pursuing this new career?
If you can answer these questions and all signs point towards starting a new career, it may be time to consider taking the leap of faith and switch careers.
It wasn’t easy making the choice to switch careers. Some signs that let me know that it was a good decision to make were:
- I wasn’t happy in my career
- I was burned-out
- Another field interested me
In the end, I know I made the right decision, and I hope my experiences here will be helpful if you’re considering making a change in careers.
Are you considering a new career? If so, what signs led you to thinking about pursuing a new career? Comment and send me an email. I would love to hear from you.
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