Life is too short to stay in a situation that makes you unhappy.
Many have heard the phrase and may agree with the principle, but how practical is it in reality, and how do you approach change?
Change can be hard, scary, uncomfortable, especially if you have been in a situation (whether that is work, a relationship or anything else) for some time.
I have recently made a big step in terms of the day job. I have stepped out of what was a fairly comfortable (and well paid position) into something new (but an industry that I knew reasonably well from a previous job). It was a job and company closer to my personal values and as such, something that is more likely to make me happy/content in work (and would positively impact home life as I would be less grumpy!).
So in short, moving from a stable job which made me unhappy into the unknown. And taking a pay cut to do so.
How do you go about a career change though?
Here is some practical advice from my own experience:
- Look around – it’s a big world out there. So many people remain in one organisation or industry for a very long time, and if you are happy that’s great, but if you are unhappy it really isn’t. There are so many options out there regardless of your age, gender, qualifications or experience. Sure you may need to start at a lower level, or take a hit on pay, but you need to weigh up the emotional and physical impact to you and your family – a small impact on pay may be nothing in comparison to how it may change your work/life balance. Get yourself onto something like indeed.com which searches a number of job boards at once.
- Work on the long game. The latest news showed that retirement age has gone up to 68, and by the time I retire I would expect that to be closer to 70. That is over 50 years of working for the vast majority of the population who are able to work. If you would like to move into an industry that really gets your spark ignited but it may take three years working your way up to get the role you want, then do it – three years is nothing in the long game.
- You have transferable skills, even if you don’t think you do. Break down the tasks that you do at work and you would be surprised – you can adapt your experience and sell your skills to a potential new employer. Customer interaction is a huge benefit to any employer, so even if you think your Saturday retail job added no value, then you would be wrong. Also think about what you do at home/as a hobby – if social media is your thing then how could you demonstrate those skills to a potential employer?
- Follow your passion. Wherever possible follow whatever your passion may be, and all of a sudden it won’t feel like work. You won’t always get to work in the exact role that floats your boat, but if you can work in the same industry then it will certainly help, or if not then maybe you can free up some capacity in your spare time to build your skills (voluntarily or in your own venture) and knowledge in a new area during that time.
- Personal values. We all have intrinsic values that make us who we are and shape how we react. These are based on our experiences, upbringing and lots of other factors. If you can tap into what these drivers are for you, it will help you to identify a job or business that may suit.
- Take some time wherever possible to think. Mindfulness is a great technique and there are lots of free apps if you are unfamiliar with it. If that isn’t something that works for you then just take time doing whatever you like to do. If you have kids or other dependents then try to have some time just for you to think about the future; not right now, not Love Island, the future.
As humans we default to look at risk to identify what the worst that can happen is, and that has helped us to develop as a species for God (other deities are available) knows how long. But to embrace change you need to flip this into what the best that can happen is, if you are thinking of making a change then list the three best things that could happen to you, go on do it right now.
Here are some practical steps to embracing change:
- Maintain or rebuild a routine outside of the change – life is about choices, but when you are making a big change that is outside of your comfort zone then familiarity is good at times. So reduce choice where possible, get up at the same time each day, eat the same breakfast, prep the same lunch, the less you need to make decisions on (at least for the first few weeks of a new role) the better.
- Don’t kid yourself – you have bills to pay. I’m not naive enough to think that people can magic themselves into a new role without doing the maths on the take home salary, but you should consider some other factors too:
– How would the new salary affect the tax/NI that you pay? You may not see much of a change in take home pay when you take into account the tax difference.
– Are there benefits in the new role that reduce some of your current expenditure? Many jobs in many industries will give you big discounts (or even free services) on products that you pay for at the moment (from free broadband to a company car) – take this into account when calculating the above.
– What would your outgoings look like in a new job? As well as the above you need to think about commuting costs, and any benefits you lose in your current job.
Some change is enforced, usually through redundancy, relocation or similar. Even a small company restructuring could impact individuals in a big way. Most will go through something known as the Change Curve. This is a proven set of reactions typically worked through.
It is totally natural and useful to know where you are in the change curve, or where your staff are if you are in a leadership position. See the below chart:
Sometimes you need to take a little leap of faith, risks pay off, bad times don’t last but bad guys do and all that jazz.
Sure being brave and facing a change isn’t for everyone, but I know that I would rather be doing something that makes me happy. If you aren’t in that space then take some time for yourself to re-evaluate, get off the hamster wheel and think – life is too short not to.