Dear New Shrink,
I have been a working professional for approximately 15 years now. While I have always been a diligent and hard worker, lately I have begun to feel that perhaps my current job is not the right one for me. I have spent my entire professional life in the financial services industry and although I have been financially successful, I still feel as though there is a part missing from my life. What signs should someone look for to know if they are in the wrong profession? What steps can I take to explore something else without risking everything?
Lost in Transactions
Dear Lost in Transactions,
You’re asking a question that a lot of people face at some point in their life. There is often an event that gets us thinking. We start to consider whether there is something more to life than our current post. I think that it takes a lot of courage to ask this question and to really consider and take full stock of your situation. Moving passively through life can be exhausting and take away from our true identity as individuals. Although I have a hard time saying that there is a “right” or a “wrong” job for a particular person, I do believe that there are jobs that fit one’s personality and interests more than others. To me, the journey is about making decisions based on what fits you well and the best way to learn that is to simply try things out. While it sounds like you have made the most of your current position, and have thoroughly tested it out, it is significant if you are asking yourself questions regarding your own fit and personal enjoyment of the experience.
First off, I would consider whether your feelings about your job have come about after a recent incident, or problem, or whether these are lingering feelings that have developed over an extended period of time. If the rejection of your current career is a result of a bad experience at work, it is natural to want to pull away from the experience as a whole. It may be that you are confusing a bad circumstance for a bad profession.
However, if these feelings have stretched over a longer portion of your career, then it may be time to think hard about the meaning of those nagging thoughts. Do you find it difficult to convince yourself to go to work in the morning? Do you dread certain aspects of your job? Do you often daydream about vacations or opportunities to get away from your work? For instance, one of my clients even noted that his daydream fantasies involved something awful happening to his office building just so he wouldn’t have to go in. If these are things you are experiencing, this is likely a strong sign that your job is not fulfilling you and now is the perfect time to start exploring your options.
In terms of moving forward, it may be helpful to examine your current job and determine whether there are parts of your work that you truly enjoy. For instance, perhaps your current position requires that you spend a lot of time at your desk, but upon reflection you realize that it is when you’re out meeting clients that you truly enjoy your work. If this is true, perhaps you can find ways to spend more of your time focusing on the aspects you do enjoy; this may help build your job satisfaction, even if just for the short-term while you evaluate your options.
Examining your hobbies and other things that you do for fun can also provide new insights. What topics do you enjoy reading or learning more about? Where do you spend your free time? If someone else were paying the bills, what would you be doing? These reflective questions may provide us with great ideas for new ventures based on your own natural interests. For instance, if you find that you spend a lot of your free time playing intramural sports, watching games, and reading about the field, it may be worthwhile to investigate options that would allow you to work within your own interest area. Perhaps it is the content of your professional work within the financial services industry that is bringing you down. Shifting to a new environment and working with numbers as they relate to sports, may bring a refreshing change to your workday.
Finding a career that fits your natural talents is an important part of personal and professional fulfillment. This does not always need to be a major shift; like leaving your industry and finding something totally new; it may be some simple shifts in your everyday work that make all the difference.
KATRINA DAVY is a Santa Monica-based professional career counselor with degrees from Columbia and Cornell universities. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions are kept anonymous; let us help you with your life matters!