There's a lot to contend with when you're climbing the career ladder these days. No longer is it a case of head down, work hard and move up (as if it ever was); these days, the path to success is decidedly more zigzagged. From the trivial – being expected to use language like 'pivot' and 'triangulate' and the network-y after-work socials (no, Kevin, I don't want another drink) – to the much more serious – think sexual harassment, implicit bias and outright discrimination – it's a murky world out there. Even the type of place we work has changed; from startups with no HR department to striking out on your own as a freelancer, we aren't always blessed with the (relatively) safe net that full-time employment should provide. Chuck a pandemic into the mix and between furlough and redundancies, working from home and COVID-downplaying bosses, it's a wonder we're keeping on keeping on.
Which is why a little bit of help feels like it's due. Luckily, Cate Sevilla, writer, author and the last editor of website The Pool, who's also worked at high pressure companies like Google, has written a guide for us: How To Work Without Losing Your Mind. From surviving the manager from hell (gaslighting is real!) to avoiding burnout and learning to ditch comparison culture, the book is your manual for navigating the confusing modern world of work. And for the next few weeks, Cate's going to be answering your questions on how to deal with your specific issues.
This week: when is it too late to pack it all in and start again?
"I know this is crazy in the middle of a pandemic but I’m thinking about quitting my job and starting again. The last year has really made me think about what’s important and I feel like all the enthusiasm I once had for my job is gone. I'm 30 so I just want to check first: have I lost my mind?! I'm on good money and I'd be starting from the bottom again. I’m considering teaching or social work but how do I even know what I’d be good at? I’ve tried one of those online personality tests that tells you where your skills are applicable but I'm not sure how legit they are. I do have a bit of cash to spend – would it be worth investing in a career coach? How do I know who to choose?"
Cate says: The short answer to your question of "Have I lost my mind?" is, well, NO. Absolutely not. There are so many people around your age who hit a point in their career and go, "Wow, I’m kinda done!" There are so many reasons why we can fall out of love with our job or our current career trajectory and just want to pack it all in and start anew. This feels audacious and complicated at the very best of times but as you acknowledged, it might feel extra 'crazy' while in the middle of a pandemic. Changing jobs or career paths in a pandemic sounds daunting but it really depends on your personal situation. I think the bigger question here has less to do with the pandemic and the timing of this change, and rather why you want this change to begin with.
My advice is to first and foremost spend some time exploring why it is you’ve lost your enthusiasm for your job. It sounds like you’ve definitely started exploring what your next move could be but I’d challenge you to also look at why you’re feeling this way to begin with. Does your current role no longer align with your values? Do you feel your personal purpose has shifted? Are you bored? If any of the above sounds familiar, I’d ask if your job needs to be the thing that helps you express those values or sense of purpose (or fight against feelings of boredom)? Or could you feel satisfied exploring a new hobby, volunteering or even starting some kind of side project?
I think asking yourself these sorts of questions will be more revealing than an online personality test. It’s wonderful that you have a bit of savings to invest in this – perhaps in a career coach if that’s something you’re interested in. But it also might be useful for some form of training or a course you might need to go on if you did ultimately want to switch careers. The exciting thing about change is that there’s no way of knowing if we’ll be 'good at something' before we try it. But we can minimise the risk (both financial and emotional) if we really tap into our own desires and motivations first, before making any big decisions.