Stuck in a career you hate? Then it’s time for a Career Intervention!
I hear it all the time: people complaining about their jobs. Truth be told, they often whine about their jobs. They feel like they are prisoners-shackled to the career that was once a chosen path. The path was determined years earlier based on: a) family tradition (“five generations of Smiths have been attorneys!”); b) hopes of affluence (“why else would I have spent four years in law school?”); c) genuine interest that has since waned; or d) the path of least resistance (“I didn’t know what else to do”), but now they look back and wonder how they got to this point. Often they have achieved what they went into the career for-success, affluence, the respect of family and peers-but they are not happy. They lack two key ingredients that make for satisfaction: fulfillment and passion. Yet they don’t leave.
Why not? Why can’t these motivated, even driven, professionals move out of a job they no longer enjoy and into one that’s more fulfilling? Because they are addicted. They are addicted to playing it safe in their careers. They are addicted to the money and security their jobs provide. They are addicted to the comfort that comes from long experience in a career. They are addicted to the known-unsatisfying as it is-because pursuing the unknown is scary. And just like any other addict-alcoholic, workaholic, shopaholic, chocolaholic-they need an intervention. A career intervention.
What is a career intervention? It is giving yourself permission to dream. It is stepping back out of the “shoulds”-I should stay in my job (I have a family to support); I should be a lawyer (it’s what I’ve always done); I should be practical (and not fantasize about things that can never come to pass); and letting yourself believe (even if you only half believe) that you can truly find work you love. Because the very skills and traits that have made you successful in your current career can lead you to success in a dream career-once you break that addiction to the status quo.
What are the steps of a career intervention?
1. Grant yourself permission to dream-as if you were a kid again. What do you really want to do?
2. Research your dream-job: learn everything you can online, through books and by interviewing people who do it.
3. Find a mentor in your dream field and volunteer. Hands-on knowledge will give you contacts and inside knowledge that can ease your transition.
4. Envision yourself succeeding in your dream-job and hold that vision tight.
Yes, it sounds impractical, but many others have blazed the trail. Carolyn Walker gave up a career as a lawyer, went to metalsmithing school, apprenticed herself to a jeweler, and is now selling her own jewelry. Occasionally, she does contract legal work on the side. David Ryan stepped out of a two-decade career in international banking to become a dog trainer. Jessica Caulfield gave up real estate to open a clothing boutique. Dan Nainan left a lucrative career at Intel to become a standup comic. It can be done. What it takes is the courage to break your addiction to the status quo-and the willingness to try a career intervention.