How do you know it is time for a career change?
Before we get into that question, it is useful to talk about work in general. And when talking about work I like the work of Elizabeth Gilbert, she of “Eat, Pray, Love”.
Now, the book and what it represents may not be to the taste of men aged 37-56 but what she has to say about work is definitely worth listening to.
Her thesis is that we mix up the concepts of hobby, job, career, and vocation. These four things are all different and (should) have different meanings to you.
A hobby is something that brings you pleasure and there is no intention to be compensated for it. It is something you do to keep life fun and interesting.
With a hobby, the stakes are zero. You don’t need it to succeed. It’s something you enjoy doing. Hobbies are a reminder that you’re a human, not an automaton. In her definition, a hobby is something you do, and you like it, and you don’t need anything back from it.
A job is something you have to earn enough that you can pay the bills. A job is an exchange of money for time and effort. We live in a material world and money is a currency to survive it.
You do a thing someone needs doing, and they pay you to do it. A job is a thing you have because we all need to pay the bills. It doesn’t need to fulfill you. You can have a life outside of your job.
A career is a job that you love, a job you’re passionate about. A career requires cultivation and sacrifices. You are willing to do this because you believe in your career’s mission.
Disliking a job might be okay because there’s a straightforward exchange – task for money. But disliking a career is a tragedy. Better off finding a new career, or get a job. “You should love a career, or not have one.” A career is a job you care about. Realising it is time for a career change has implications….
A vocation is your calling, you may or may not receive compensation for it. Usually used to describe the priesthood, it is something sacred, mystical, spiritual. It’s something you can’t not do. Someone can take your job or a career away – but no one can take away a calling.
No amount of money could stop you from pursuing a calling, nor seduce you to start a new one. It’s on a higher plane than hobby, job or career. Fortunate are those who can make their callings both a career and a job. A vocation is a “sacred calling,” something that is wholly you.
Time for a Career Change?
Based on the above, there is only one time to consider a career change. And that is when you have fallen out of love with your current career. Remember, a career is a job you are willing to make sacrifices for, a job you believe in.
Have you lost the passion? Was it ever there?
Don’t mistake wanting to change jobs with thinking it is time for a career change. We want to change jobs for: an increase in salary, reducing commute time, a change of company, wanting to improve your working conditions.
Also don’t make the mistake of equating a job with blue-collar and a career with professional work. There are plenty of professional men, who get paid very well to do a job they have no passion for. But who are stuck in it due to financial pressures.
Which is why realising it is time for a career change is about dealing with loss and disillusionment.
You are working in a domain you love, that you feel passionate about. Then over the years you become less enamoured with it than you were when you started. This can occur for many reasons. As many reasons as there are people and no-one has any right to comment on your reasons. Because they are not you.
The falling out of love with your career will pitch you into the grieving process. You won’t feel it as finely as you might if you lose a spouse or a parent or a sibling but it is there, even so.
Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief are a useful model to help understand what is going on. The stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
All normal emotions that we need to acknowledge but not allow to drive us. Recognise them but don’t let them control your life. Realising that it is time for a career change is not on the same level as having someone close to you die.
I have a short, twelve-part email course on managing the change in career. You can express interest here.