This is the second part of a three-part series on changing careers as an executive or high-stakes professional. Access Part 1 here.
Our last post helped you evaluate the external factors associated with changing careers, including salary, workload/schedule, location, and timing. This kind of analysis is key to making a practical decision, but it can’t tell you which career will be most fulfilling. If you still don’t know how to make a career decision, we recommend you direct your exploration inward.
This post will show you how to incorporate internal factors into your career decision-making process. By investigating your emotions and exploring your values, you can better understand who you are and want to be. If you’re questioning how to know when it’s time to change careers, internal insights like these can help you make a more balanced career decision.
Exploring your values can help you overcome analysis paralysis
As executive coaches, we’ve worked with many doctors, lawyers, executives, and other busy professionals. People in these roles often live picture-perfect lives with high salaries, gorgeous vacation homes, and prestigious job titles. Nevertheless, many are deeply unhappy.
How is this possible? In some cases, conventionally successful people pursued careers aligned with cultural values such as wealth, possessions, or social standing. By adopting these values, they abandoned their own preferences and needs.
If you feel unhappy or directionless at work, your career may be misaligned with your values. The first step to remedying this is to revisit your core values. Jot down as many values as you can think of, then circle the most important ones. For example, your most essential values may be creativity, helping others, and learning new things.
If nothing immediately comes to mind, you may need to dig deeper. Think about satisfying professional tasks, hobbies you enjoy, or activities you participated in during childhood. Do your favorite activities have anything in common? You can also search online for lists of core values and write down those values that resonate with you.
Your emotions are trying to tell you something
Paying attention to your emotions can teach you a lot about who you are and what you value, which can help you figure out when to change careers. Below, we’ve listed common emotions among executives who are considering changing careers. We’re also included potential interpretations of those emotions.
As you read, keep in mind that the meaning of your own emotions will depend on your situation and background. If you’re not sure what your emotions mean, an executive coach can help you interpret them:
Changing careers is scary; it’s normal to fear the unknown. However, focusing too much on uncertainty could prevent you from making a positive career change. For a more balanced perspective, we recommend shifting some of your focus to the fears and anxieties caused by your current career.
Do you dread going to work? Are you afraid you’ll eventually burn out? Have you been experiencing unexplained tension, fatigue, or stomach problems? Are you afraid you’ll still be doing the same thing in ten years? Why does that thought scare you? The answer may teach you something important about what career you’d be best suited for.
Here are a few signs that you may have career-driven depression: You don’t have the same enthusiasm for your work that you once did. You rarely recommend new initiatives, vie for a promotion, or develop creative solutions to problems. Every day feels the same. You sleep a lot, but you still feel fatigued. It’s hard to find the motivation to work, let alone enjoy personal hobbies.
Depression is a complicated condition, and multiple factors usually contribute to it. It may stem from non-work-related areas of your life, but it’s worth considering whether your career may also be blamed.
Do you get more excited when you think about your current career or a new one? If you’re not particularly enthusiastic about work-related things, consider your personal life. Which ideals, causes, or activities get your blood pumping? Even if they’re not work-related, you can still learn something from them.
For example, perhaps you really enjoy traveling and being active—something you rarely do in your current job. If so, you might consider a lateral move that allows you to travel more. Alternatively, a new career as an executive travel agent or resort activities director might be a better fit.
What do you look forward to, either at work or during your personal time? Are there any activities that cause you to go into a flow state and lose track of time? Those things that light a fire in you are valuable clues to which career paths could be fulfilling.
Be careful when creating professional goals based on jealousy. For example, if you’re envious of your friend’s acting career, you might be hyper-focusing on the fun parts of their job. You might indeed enjoy the prestige of being in the spotlight, but do you think you could tolerate the fierce competition and feast-or-famine income?
As long as you carefully research a potential career path, jealousy can be a helpful tool when considering changing careers. If FOMO strikes when you think about a different career, ask yourself what you find so appealing about it. Is it the ability to work closely with a passionate team? The novelty? The chance to further a cause? Whatever it is, it may point toward a more satisfying career.
Don’t limit your exploration to the emotions listed above. Whatever you’re feeling, try to name it and figure out where it’s coming from. For example, if you feel resentful at work, your current career may be demanding too much of you. If you feel guilty about being away from family, you might consider a career path with fewer responsibilities. If you feel shame when telling other people what you do for work, changing careers could help you find a job you’re proud of.
Making a balanced decision
We hope this exercise has helped you connect the dots between your values and a more fulfilling career path. Just remember: your emotions and values could lead you astray if you don’t also respect your practical needs. For example, a career as a travel blogger might align well with the value of having new experiences, but the income might be insufficient to support a family. The goal is to balance your passions with more practical considerations.
If you’re still unsure whether it is worth changing careers, it might help to talk with an executive coach. We know that changing careers can be scary. With our support, we can help you manage the overwhelming feelings and make an informed decision that’s best for you. Send us a message to see how we can help or book a free 20 minute consultation call with Dr. Lee or Dr. Barajas.