We will spend most of our lives at work, so it's understandable that we hope to find at least some level of fulfillment in what we do. But what if you hate your job but the promise of a steady paycheck (and those who depend on it) makes you feel like you can't make a move?
This week, leadership coach Lolly Daskal helps a reader figure out how to move forward under these difficult circumstances.
I work a dull job that I don’t exactly hate, but in an industry I no longer have any interest in staying with. I’ve been promoted twice in the four years since joining the company, so my current role now pays quite well, but in that time a close family member has had a lot of medical problems and I’m helping support them. The nature of the illness means that it can go on indefinitely, so my financial demands aren’t likely to change.
If I were to change careers into a field that excites me I’d have to take a big pay cut and probably wouldn’t be able to help out financially anymore. I’m in my late 30s so it seems like now is the last time I can make a dramatic switch. I could survive on less, but my family member would struggle.
What should I do?
I hear that you find your job dull and you no longer have an interest in staying in your current field. On the other hand, you’re reluctant to make a change because you need the salary you are making now to help your family member. It’s a tough situation.
When life gives you a challenge that feels overwhelming, it’s time to evaluate what’s really going on.
There are a lot of factors in your current situation besides your lack of excitement in your current job and field. Maybe the promotions have left you feeling out of touch with the elements of your job you enjoyed, or at a dead end professionally. It also sounds like you’re feeling that this may be your last chance to make a career change, and that you’re trapped where you are by your current financial obligation.
It wouldn’t be surprising if you were also feeling a little resentful now that your generous offer feels like an obligation that’s interfering with your own happiness. Think through your motives here and ask yourself what’s most important to you. What would you do if you had no restraints?
Depending on the answer, here are some options:
If you’re feeling generally bored and dissatisfied but not particularly drawn to any other field, maybe a transfer to a different role or department would give you more workplace satisfaction without having to give up your good paycheck. Failing that, think about taking on a special project or another special activity at work. You may enjoy taking a class to update your skills or expand your knowledge, attending a conference or another professional development activity, or creating a new program or resource. Teach a few seminars if you have the background. Even a vacation may give you a new sense of purpose right where you are.
If you definitely want to make a career change, look for alternate paths to start setting up the transition. Think about taking a class in the new area, signing up for volunteer work or maybe even taking on a second job (part-time) or independent work. Join a networking group or professional organization if there is one. Basically, look for ways you can start building your knowledge and connections in your new field. If you aren’t sure of your new direction, talk to a career counselor who can help you align with a field that matches your interests and requirements.
If none of this works and you know you have to leave your current job, first consider if the financial repercussions will be as dire as you think. Put out some feelers about what your chosen field tends to pay at your level of expertise in your community, or check an online resource for information.
And if you find that you do need to reduce or eliminate the assistance to your family member, look for other resources. Are there any others in the family who could help? Government or privately funded programs? Medical professionals and support groups may be good sources of information. Worst case, you may need to sit down with the person you’re assisting and explain your situation. Give them some lead time to make other financial arrangements and assure them that you’ll still help in any way you can.
Here are some things to remember as you explore a different path:
Support is essential. Whether your support comes from friends or family members, colleagues, mentors, or a counselor, it’s important to remember you don’t have to go through this alone.
Goals keep you on track. Set small action goals and timelines to help keep yourself from bogging down.
Love yourself. Sometimes the biggest obstacle is our own sense of unworthiness. Remember, you are worthy of happiness.
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