Making the Change: Should I stay or should I go?

Image via Ian Freimuth's Flickr photostream

Some days can be so draining. No matter how much you love your job, there often comes a time when work becomes disheartening. Soul destroying even. Years of telling yourself that it’s OK to work to live, rather than live to work, can all of a sudden be met with a strong desire to ‘find your calling’. Or perhaps you’ve been doing what you’ve always wanted to but are now approaching burnout and are desperate for a change. You may look to leave, seeking a new challenge – a fresh start – but jumping from one role to another can mean we don’t take a moment to reflect. Even a small amount of time devoted to reflection can be useful, so here are my top three tips.

Image via Olaf's Flickr photostream1) Make two lists
This will be a bit like pros and cons, only you’ll just be focusing on the positives. One list will be all the reasons why you should stay where you are, and the other will be all the benefits of leaving. Think of the things that inspire you about your current job and place of work – all the ways you feel supported and all the hidden joys. Perhaps it’s the camaraderie in the office or unofficial flexitime that bring a smile to your days. Maybe it’s your route to work and the view from the office window. It could be that, because you’ve been there so long, you get to pick and choose your projects. Then start to list the reasons why leaving would be a joy. Nothing is too big or small to be included if it makes you happy.

2) Think about your goals
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have trouble setting goals. I like to live in the moment and make sure my ‘now’ or ‘next six months’ are enjoyable. That can make it very difficult to look beyond the upcoming year and make plans for further into the future. Some good advice is to evaluate your career every 18 months, as that’s about how long it takes for a person to master a job. Think about what you want (from your life as well as your job) and how you can take steps to get there. Make a Plan A, but also a Plan B and an ‘in case of emergency’ plan so that failure is not a disappointment but merely a change of tack.

3) What brings you joy?
Think about what it is that you actually love. If that’s having enough money to pay the bills and enough spare time to spend with your friends and family, then a reasonably well paid 9-5 may be ideal even if it doesn’t stretch you. However, if you absolutely love making things with your hands but spend 8 hours a day at a screen and keyboard, it may be time to look for a career change. A desk job can be fulfilling if your personal ethics and beliefs match those of your employer, but it’ll never make you happy if what you want is to do something physical. Do you love being sociable, or prefer being left along to get on with a complicated task? Think about the environment, tasks and level of responsibility that you enjoy.

That’s my quick ‘n’ easy starter but, if you want to be somewhat more methodical about all this, I’d recommend checking out the 80,000 Hours career guide. It’s a free online resource for people who want to find a fulfilling career that does good, but there are a few of the 12 sections that are helpful for evaluating the role you’re currently in. Whatever you end up doing, good luck with it!

Images via Olaf and Ian Freimuth‘s Flickr photostreams.

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