How to Change Careers: Where to Start if You’re Feeling Totally Overwhelmed

How to Change Careers: Where to Start if You’re Feeling Totally Overwhelmed

by AnnaMarie Houlis

Picture this: It’s Monday morning. You sit down at your desk and open your email to a flood of messages, and you begin your week digging yourself out of your inbox. You’re reading through emails about client conflicts and impending deadlines, and a campaign that’s running behind schedule – and, underneath it all, what you’re really reading is: It’s time for a change.

You’re likely feeling frustrated, unmotivated, or overall unfulfilled. Or maybe, in another scenario, you're simply bored. These are just a few of the many indicators that it's time for a career change. But how can you make moves in that direction, without landing in another position you'll be sick of in six months?

Here’s what to consider when getting started on your new job hunt:

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1.  Ask yourself what you enjoy doing – and what skills you need to make that your focus  

Start by tapping into your inner joy. Do some internal digging to really pinpoint what you enjoy doing – what makes you passionate, what makes you tick, what fosters your sense of self? This could be things like:

  • Volunteer work you’re actively involved in

  • Continuing education classes you’ve taken that you’ve enjoyed (languages, photography, graphic design)

  • Education – whether it’s tutoring, writing, or teaching large groups

  • Whatever you spend your weekend doing – baking, visiting the library, gardening, experimenting with power tools, etc.!

Still not sure where your passions lie? Ask yourself these questions:

  • What topic could I read 10 books about without getting bored?

  • What is one activity I’d be willing to do without getting paid?

  • If I had the financial freedom to pursue anything, what would I spend my time doing?  

Then, consider your skills and strengths, and whether you’re currently in good standing to pursue a career path in your passion. You might have to go back to school, obtain a certificate, or undergo training.

A career change isn’t a panacea. Bad days are inevitable, and there will be other not-so-ideal elements – even when pursuing a career you’re passionate about. But you may find the bigger picture outweighs the negative nuances far more than in a job you’re not excited about.

2. Identify and actively prioritize what matters to you  

How critical is work-life balance to you? How about the option of working remotely? You’ll want to consider priorities like these when looking for new jobs.

“When thinking through a career change, sometimes emotions can get in the way of honestly weighing out your options,” says Julia Baum, a therapist in New York City whose specialties include career counseling and life transitions. “Writing a short-term and long-term pro/con list, in ranked order of importance, is a way to think through your options in a more organized manner than a traditional pro/con list.”

You might find that there are a higher concentration of cons in one area, for example, but perhaps they’re mostly short-term issues that you expect will quickly resolve (e.g., a longer commute, but you’re already planning to move in the next few months). This renders them of little importance in the grand scheme of your career, Baum explains.

“Without organizing this information, you may have a sense of overwhelm and take it as a sign that the job isn’t right for you when perhaps it could be a great fit after getting past a few initial challenges,” she adds.

3. Stay open to trying new things

Not every career path is linear! Keeping an open mind during your job hunt can help you explore opportunities in new fields.

While we tend to think of our career paths as more straightforward and undeviating (e.g., you take a job in one field, get promoted, and work your way up the corporate ladder), it’s more likely that we’ll adapt to new roles, switch companies, and even hop industries over the course of our careers.

Remember that as you consider job opportunities that might not seem to “fit” but could very well still propel your career in the forward direction, especially if you stay motivated. If you’re looking for a bit of guidance at any point in the process, a career counselor can help you navigate your own professional maze.

And at the end of the day? “Remember that, yes, your career is a big part of your life and affects so much more, but it will never be a measure of your worth or value as a person,” says Baum. “It's not the be-all, end-all. Having a career that you’re passionate about is the goal, but you have countless chances to get it right if things don’t work out as planned. Just keep going.”

AnnaMarie Houlis, a solo traveling freelance journalist, spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, and follow her journeys on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.