How to Know When to Change Careers

Dear Career Coach,

I work in higher education. I taught chemistry for 8 years at a community college. From there, I moved to a 4-year university to become a professional academic advisor.  I spent 8 years there as well. My first 6 years there as an advisor and the last 2 years as the director of the advising unit. I was feeling it was time for a move.  I left that university in 2016 to become an Advising Director at another 4-year university.

When I left my previous university, I was feeling burnt out on what I thought was that particular place. After being at my current position for 14 months, I am thinking it’s the work I’m burnt out on and not the location.

There are many issues at my current university and similar issues I dealt with at my previous university. I worked hard at my previous university to fix those issues but at this current university, I know I could be an agent of change.  I am not sure I want to be that agent. I’m tired of that fight. I know all places have their issues. I saved my advising unit at my last job and I feel I was brought in at my current job to do the same.  I’ve done that work and know I can do it but I’m exhausted with that level of working. I’m not sure I have that level of energy anymore.

While I love advising students and helping them to attain their academic goals, I dislike the way schools are increasingly viewing students as numbers rather than individuals. I am not sure what to do. I really have thought about a career change but I’ve been an academic for almost 18 years.  I know I have transferable skills but I am not sure what to do. I’m just exhausted with my work and the direction in which higher ed is headed.

“Feeling Lost”

Career Change Higher Ed

Photo credit: rainesUMD on Pixabay – CC0 Creative Commons

Dear “Feeling Lost,”

I think one key question is this, “Are you still interested in solving problems in higher education?” If the answer is, “Yes,” then there might still be gold left to mine in your current career path. If the answer is, “No,” then it is possible that a career change would result in a happier outcome for you than continuing on your current career path.

To explore the question of a career change more deeply, I asked some career development colleagues what they advise people who are exploring whether to change career paths. They said:

It is time to change careers…
– When you dread waking up in the morning to head into work.
– When you are living for the weekend.
– When you are only in it for the health insurance (or insert something else practical here).
– When you’ve lost sight of the mission.
– When you’re not surrounded by your tribe.
– When you don’t align with the organizational values.
– When you’re not using your innate talents and strengths.
– When your physical health is negatively impacted.
– When life feels uninspired.
Dr. Lynn Chang, Career Zen

It is probably time to change careers when you are bored, dread going to work, feel like things are mechanic, or just don’t get any satisfaction at work. If you find yourself complaining frequently to your friends and family about your job but nothing ever really changes, it’s time to consider a new career.
Kristen Fife, Senior Recruiter

There are two sources of change that may prompt someone to make a career change: external and internal. External changes are when your industry is dying due to lack of market share or resources. Maybe there is a lack of opportunity or advancement. If you hit a ceiling in one career, you may need to change careers or add tools to your career toolbox in the form of new knowledge, skills, and experiences to make a strategic move. Internal changes are when the job satisfaction or passion are gone from a job and the pay and benefits are not enough to compensate for the misery. When this happens, career dissatisfaction can spill into your personal life in a way that is truly unhealthy. I believe the work you do should make the life you want possible. If the current career isn’t working, take steps to change it.
DeAnne Pearson, Deliberate Careers

Once you make a decision that you want to change careers, the next steps are to identify what you want to do next and to implement a career change. Here’s an article with career advice about how to change careers from higher ed.

Janet Scarborough Civitelli

Please share this article with anyone you know who might benefit from career advice about careeer change.

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