The job you find yourself doing is very often not the one you dreamt of as a child, but perhaps life has taken you down a different path, away from the one you imagined you would follow. The decisions you take and the events that impact your life may affect the opportunities you have, and financial considerations, especially when you have family responsibilities, can make the need to earn money any way you can, even more important than pursuing a career. Then you reach a point where you wonder what you are doing with your life and whether there is any prospect of moving on from the job you have to a more rewarding career. Maybe you are on the other side of this dilemma and have dedicated your life to the career you wanted, but for whatever reason, it’s either failing to satisfy you any more, or you feel the urge to explore alternate possibilities. Either way, to help you decide what to do next it can be helpful to review what you are good at and see where your passions lie.
The sunk cost fallacy and risk aversion
If you don’t love your job but don’t do anything about changing your life, you will have only yourself to blame when you get to retirement age and regret all the years you spent not being happy. It does often feel hard to make changes, for several reasons. There are the security and familiarity of a job you are used to doing and that you know will pay the bills, weighed against the risks of changing jobs or becoming self-employed. You may be worried about letting other people down, for example, if your parents invested all their savings so you could train to be a doctor, you may feel too indebted to them to admit you have changed your mind and would much rather be a chef. Closely related to this is the sunk cost fallacy, whereby you feel that as you have already spent seven years of your life training and qualifying to be a doctor, those seven years would be wasted if you left to train as a chef. The fallacy aspect of this kind of logic is that if you stay in a job you don’t really want to be doing, you will have wasted your whole life, not just a few years. Not that any time you spend training or getting experience in a job can be considered a waste. All jobs have transferable skills, and you will learn valuable life and career lessons in every job you do.
Taking a risk and realizing sunk cost is a fallacy
The bottom line is that you have the power to change your life. If you are waiting for a fairy godmother to appear and magically whisk you away from your dreary existence to the land of milk and honey, you will still be watching for her from your deathbed. Only you can take the actions that will lead to fulfillment; some of them may seem scary, but is it scarier to try and change your life now, while you can, or play it safe and be filled with regret when you look back over your life? If you’d like to make changes but are worried about failing or upsetting the equilibrium, take a look at what exactly could be at risk if things don’t work out. A technique used in cognitive behavioral therapy can be very helpful with this process. Imagine the worst possible thing that could happen as a result of an action you take. Now imagine the best possible thing that could happen. You have two very different outcomes, but which is more likely to come to pass? When you can analyze all your fears and see what outcomes are the most likely to result from the decisions you make, you’ll be able to assess far more logically whether these are risks you are prepared to take. You can also assess how you would cope if things didn’t go to plan, how you would manage your financial obligations, and ways in which you could limit the effects of any problems you may face. You may decide that you want to make the change gradually by studying while still working at your present job, or taking up a casual or voluntary position to get a taste for the new career you have in mind before committing to it full time.
Taking the leap….
It’s probably best to not just leap into the unknown, so before you decide on a plan to change your life, make a list of all your passions, interests and hobbies, then another list of all the skills you have acquired over the years. Include everything you like doing, however unrelated to possible careers it seems, for example, if you collect Beach Boys memorabilia, or have a fascination for rock pooling, add them to the list too until you have a comprehensive summary of everything you enjoy in life. On your skills list include everything you’ve learned through work and training, plus anything you can do that you are really good at. So if you have a photographic memory when it comes to makes and models of cars, or if you are a whizz at remembering long sequences of numbers, add them to the list too, until you have a comprehensive summary of everything you know and are talented at.
…. and making a safe landing
Having compiled your lists, the fun can begin. Looking at them both, note down any areas that intersect or connect with each other. For example, you have a passion for freshly ground coffee and you enjoy baking cakes, plus you have a diploma in business skills. Match the two together and do you see yourself running or even owning your own coffee shop? Or if you love kids and enjoy spending time with them, reading, playing games and keeping them entertained, and people have often remarked that you’re a natural with children, there’s a good chance you would find a job as a kindergarten assistant highly rewarding.
Choosing jobs that match your skills and interests
When it comes to looking for a new job, don’t be blinkered by what you consider are your limitations. If you restrict yourself to roles that you have done before or that anyone could do, you will move out of the rut you are in straight into a new one. Broaden your horizons and look in detail at specific jobs in different sectors. If you love looking after children and caring for them when they are sick and have plenty of experience with kids, you could be perfect in a pediatric nurse’s role. You may not have the qualifications you need right now, but if you are determined enough, you can attend courses while working to obtain the right qualifications. You can find out more about the varied roles available in healthcare at a comprehensive website like www.ultimatemedical.edu/healthcare-career-guide/. There are always openings for people with caring natures who enjoy looking after people, both in hospitals and clinics and in care homes. On the domestic front, the worldwide popularity of shows like MasterChef illustrates how common it is for people to be in well-paid, high profile careers and still have a longing to cook for a living. If you have a talent for cooking or baking, you have a good chance of finding a placement in a restaurant and working your way up through the ranks until you achieve a chef’s post.
Working for yourself
A bigger leap than just changing jobs, as you will have the extra burden of responsibility for creating your own income. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, this could well appeal to you, but don’t think you have to be the world’s greatest salesperson to be successful. If you have artistic talent, you will be able to make or design your own products and set up your own online store. If you excel at spotting mistakes in written documents, put your talent to good use by taking a proof-reading and copy-editing course so you can find work as a freelancer. It takes a lot of grit and determination to set up a business, but it needn’t be too expensive running your own online store, and if you have a talent for marketing and a head for numbers, you will be well-equipped to run a profitable business. Having a talent for arts and crafts can be an excellent basis for starting your own business, and with dedicated platforms such as Etsy available to sell your products on, you have an instant marketplace available to you.
You may not be following the path you envisaged, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be new and fulfilling roads to explore in the future. Making the decision to change what you’re doing in life takes courage. Like most things that are worth having, it won’t be easy to achieve but will be immensely satisfying when you accomplish your goals.