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What happens when you realise you’re in the wrong career?


Have you ever had that sinking feeling when you realise you are absolutely in the wrong job, with the wrong company, or in the wrong career?

I'm sure most of us know it, or have experienced it at some point.

I have been in the wrong job probably 3 times in my life. Was it fun? Not one bit.

Let's just look at it and how it plays out. The pretty typical scenario goes like this...

Dread, disappointment, drag myself out of bed, uncomfortable, embarrassing, no motivation, lost moments trying to work it out, doesn't compute, failure, feel like I'm not cutting it, don't get it, don't really care, haven't you all got it wrong because I am right, don't look like I fit the role, don't now even look the part, it could be so much better, so glad I am not here forever, and oh gosh how can I get out?!

The reality is, it probably hasn't been working out for a while.

And now, your confidence is low.

The emails are piling up and your colleagues as well as your boss are looking at you wondering what is going on. After all, a few months ago, you may have been firing on all cylinders.

People don't quit jobs, they quit bosses

There is an age-old saying: "People don't quit jobs. They quit bosses." I am not sure I agree.

The fact is that even the most difficult bosses show you, however painfully, a reflection of you.

You may not appreciate it at the time. And if it's not palatable, it is often because you need to look in the mirror, not necessarily them or the business you worked for.

Of course, that doesn't mean there are not horrible bosses out there – I have had my share. But it does mean it's not all about others. It's not always someone else's fault.

It is often about you.

And that is not their or your boss's fault. It means you may have to look at how you change and evolve.

My most uncomfortable, unreasonable, angry-making bosses showed me a way forward and encouraged the best growth in me professionally and personally than the bosses that were soft and gentle. But it was up to me to look at the glass half full at that time and have the strength of character to rise to the occasion.

If I didn't learn immediately, I have always learned from my experiences. Interestingly, looking back on the experiences where bosses shaped the most change in me, these were the best learnings, if not the easiest experiences at the time. And actually, in retrospect, those bosses were good people with my best interests at heart.

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Needing a chance to start fresh?

From my experience, I found that some of my most difficult or pushy bosses taught me the most.

One doesn't grow from everything always being easy. We grow from challenge and being challenged and being pushed outside our comfort zone.

But sometimes, you reach a point where you can't continue with your current situation.

The feeling of being in the wrong place is potentially destructive and can dip your own self-esteem, performance levels, ability to think and ideate and potentially changes your capability in the eyes of team members and your boss.

Lucky for you when you move, you get to work with a new boss, new colleagues and now new positive challenges.

Or are they?

Moving jobs doesn't always solve the problem. Good bosses can be rare – as can be a great culture. Supportive team members aren't always around.

But if all good, a move gives you a new start to evolve, edit, adapt and re-present. After all, the new team don't know about the heroics, long learning curves, mistakes and failures of your past – it is a chance to start anew.

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How to decide whether to stay or jump ship?

If life isn't great and you think you are in the wrong career, we've already acknowledged this can be destructive and will not be constructive short term.

So what can you do to make a difference?

  1. First tip is to work through and identify the reasons for your discontent.
  2. Will it change if you move? Or will you stay the same and be the same person with the same discontent in the next role?
  3. Can your discontent genuinely be remedied in a different environment, or do you need to work on yourself? If so, what do you need to change or learn?
  4. If you are unhappy, work out why.
  5. Identify what you are good at and most importantly what you are passionate about.
  6. What do you want to do and why? It always pays to know your why and purpose.
  7. What will you put up with?
  8. What will you not put up with?
  9. What is important to you?
  10. What do you want?

And when you decide to move on...

Sometimes having a secure job is the right thing at the right time.

Sometimes doing what you love first, is the right thing at the right time.

Sometimes we get to work with people who allow both and for that we should celebrate. It's precious.

Self-worth and confidence is pretty much everything. You deserve to feel valued and happy and like you are making a difference. Life is short!

If you decide to move on, then take a moment, step back, be brave, have the conversation – and get out.

It potentially might (and probably will) get messy, although you should have the courage to be honest and not burn bridges with people you work with. Australia is professionally a small town.

When you've had the conversation, you will feel flooded with relief. Thank goodness that's over! On to better things.

The good news is that these difficult and sometimes traumatic experiences, usually evolve into events that form your best life lessons.

Over time, the toughest moments of challenge become memories and add to a good quota of past employment history and lessons learned that shape you forever, making you a better person and a better professional for your next opportunity.

Sharon Williams is the CEO and founder of Taurus, an integrated Marketing and PR agency that works with global brands.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article (which may be subject to change without notice) are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Finder and its employees. The information contained in this article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, investment advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort. Neither the author nor Finder has taken into account your personal circumstances. You should seek professional advice before making any further decisions based on this information.

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