How Do You Know When It’s Time To Make A Career Change?

work & career Jul 23, 2021

I’m guessing that when you were a teenager, at school maybe, you received careers guidance. Maybe you had to fill in a questionnaire. Or had an interview with a careers counsellor. 

All this when you were what? 15 years old? 16? And then I’m guessing that you were probably left to figure it out after that.

Maybe you said you wanted to go into medicine so you were advised to study maths and the sciences. Or you said you liked the idea of journalism so you went off to study English at university.

But since then you’ve had little to no advice on what to do in your career.

No one to help you when your dream job turned out to be the stuff of nightmares.

No help when you realised you wanted to do a complete U-Turn.

Which means most of us don’t end up changing. We end up staying with whatever job our school careers counsellor told us to do when we were a spotty teenager.

The recent pandemic and changes to the way we work have really shone a light on what we want out of life, and how much job satisfaction we are getting.

When you consider how many waking hours you spend at work that’s a huge percentage of time to be miserable if your job isn't ticking your happy box.

One of the most common complaints I get from clients and from my community is that they’re unhappy in their jobs and in their careers, and they want advice on whether it’s time to change.

What do I know about making a career change?

Before you take advice from anyone you should always ask what experience they have in the area you want help with.

So here’s a bit of background on me.

I’m 45 years old and I started working when I was 13 (delivering newspapers and babysitting). Between the age of 13 and 22, which is when I graduated and got my first “serious” job, I stuffed sandwiches and envelopes, I answered phones in call centres and made cold calls, I worked in shops, bars and restaurants. I cleaned schools, offices, bars and toilets. I did data entry, I typed letters, I sent faxes (remember them?!), I took dictations and more.

Since entering the real world of work, following my degree in French and Spanish, I have been a language teacher (teaching English and French as foreign languages to people of all ages and walks of life), a bilingual and trilingual PA, I have worked in Marketing and PR, I have run 5 of my own businesses and been an employee in France and in the UK. I have run a travel agency, managed a team in a digital marketing agency, been a childminder and worked as a writer, author, blogger and public speaker. (The pic above is from the days when I ran a travel agency - my first business and my first really big career change.)

My husband, Ben, tells people that the only job I haven’t done is prostitution. Which isn't true.

I mean, I’m sure there are other jobs I’ve not done!

I have never hesitated to retrain, to educate myself and to start all over again (including in a different country) when I’ve felt unhappy or unfulfilled in a job or career.

So how do YOU know when it’s time to make a career change?

You need to answer a few questions:

  1. Do you always dread Sunday evenings? Do you count down the years until you retire when the alarm goes off in the morning? And not just because it's a busy time of year or because you've got a presentation to give in the morning, but every single day and week.
  2. Do you ever feel sick at work or at the thought of being at work?
  3. Do you find yourself daydreaming about having a simpler job where you clock in at 9am, do manual work all day and clock out at 5pm?
  4. Do you envy colleagues when they announce they are leaving the company? And even more so if they are leaving the industry to do something different?
  5. Have you idly googled “retraining to be a…” or “information on becoming a mature student”?
  6. Do you secretly stalk nomads who live all over the world and work from beaches, wondering how you could do the same?
  7. Do you ever regret the career path you took and look at others’ lives and jobs in envy?

If you answered yes to at least one of the above questions then you need to look very carefully at where you’re at, and whether you need to start exploring all your options.

Now let’s not confuse this with “I’m having a bad patch because my best friend has just left to shack up with her new husband in a house by the beach and I’m crazily jealous” or “I hate winter and wish I could stay at home and have duvet days every day”.

There’s a big difference between not feeling like working but being mostly ok when you’re there, and hating your job and spending every second there wishing you weren’t.

If you ever feel that:

  • your work is taking over your life
  • you’re miserable because of your job
  • you’re counting down the days, weeks and months until you can have a baby and take some time off / retire and give up work for good
  • you’re bored, angry, frustrated, sad, upset frequently due to your job
  • you must win the lottery so you can quit your job and finally be happy

Then it’s time to think seriously about what isn’t right.

What exactly is it that you don’t like or that isn’t working?

Is it one particular colleague?

Or one particular client?

Is it your boss?

Is the commute too long?

Is it too easy or too difficult?

Are the hours just too long?

Is the pay just too bad?

Is there no future?

Is it simply not your dream?

Are you bored?

Maybe you are working for a big business and you don’t agree with their (lack of) morals so want to do something to give back to your local community, or to people in general.

You wouldn’t believe the number of people I know personally and online who have turned their backs on big business / big bucks jobs to retrain in some kind of “personal” industry.

People who have ended huge careers as important managers in international businesses to set up a local shop, or to practise reflexology or retrain as a primary school teacher or to create and sell their own products.

And guess what?

In general they are so much happier now.

Even when things are hard.

Yes, the money is often less. But so is the stress and pressure. The hours might be the same or more, but if you’re doing what you love they fly by.

Retraining as an adult is hard and losing the kudos of being “Vice-President of Purchasing” can be tough but getting to participate in and live your life is pretty bloody amazing, don’t you think?

When our youngest daughter, Clémence, was born I was all set to return to my job in London, working as Account Director in a Digital Marketing Agency. I started to look into childcare to cover the 11 hours a day that I would be absent from home.

And then I realised something.

I was aiming to go back to work when she was 6 months old. To be out of the house from 8am until 7pm every day, 4 or 5 days a week.

I looked at myself in the mirror and said “You’re crazy!”.

So I started to investigate my other options. I wanted to DO something but I also wanted to be around for my kids. At least in the early days.

That’s when I decided to retrain as a childminder. 

It was hard to be snubbed - one person asked me “isn’t it just awful wiping snotty noses and pooey bums every day?!”

Before becoming a childminder I had a “proper” job. I went off to work in an office every day with the mass of commuters on London’s underground. I had respect from others, men and women alike.

I had a team who reported to me.

I was important. I had worth.

When I became a childminder I was just “hired help”.

But I didn’t care what those people thought. That job worked perfectly at that time in my life while my youngest was still little.

I loved collecting my eldest from school and hearing all about her day. Picking up my still sleepy baby from her cot after her lunchtime nap never grew old.

So yes it will be incredibly hard. Often harder than staying.

You’ll doubt yourself and you’ll have to be strong when others doubt you. But if you’re not happy, not fulfilled, miserable or are counting down the hours until the end of the day, the days until the weekends and the years until retirement then it’s time to get out. Now.

Life is incredibly short and fragile, don’t waste yours being unhappy.

And all you need to do now is figure out what you really want to do, and then get that ball rolling. Enjoy :-)

Big love,
Sophie xx

P.S. if you’re struggling to make the right decision with regards to your job and your career, the following might help:

  1. My FREE decision-making guide
  2. My FREE "get clear on your purpose" lesson
  3. My life-changing online programme - Life Reboot Camp, with its module on Work & Career and its module on Decision-Making and Facing your Fears

I have already helped so many people work through tough decisions and come out the other end and live their dreams, is it your time now?


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