In recent years, work has undergone a major shift. What was once viewed as a means to an end or a way to support our families, has shifted into something greater. Today, more than ever, we seek jobs that align with our values and give us purpose. The focus on finding a personally fulfilling career is a relatively new phenomenon—it’s certainly something our parents and grandparents didn’t emphasize nearly as strongly as we do now.
But what happens when we’re at a job that no longer gives us meaning? We now face a dilemma of choosing to stay on our current path, risk switching to a new job (which may not fulfill us any more than our current one does) or go back to school for something completely different.
It all comes down values
Certainly, the work that we do in our day-to-day lives is an important part of who we are, and it can have a tremendous impact (positive or negative) on our level of happiness, personal fulfillment, sense of self, and overall quality of life. Unfortunately, there’s no right or wrong answer to the question of staying in a career or going back to school. Ultimately, it comes down to personal values and the weight that is placed on them.
As a person ages, and has more financial commitments or is looking to take steps forward in other aspects of their life, like marriage or children, making a career shift becomes a more and more challenging decision to make.
6 things to consider before making a switch
Here are some things to consider whether or not to change careers or go back to school:
1. Is age a primary barrier?
If so, five words: You. Are. Still. Very. Young! Research tells us that the average person entering the workforce now will make up to seven distinct shifts in their career throughout their lifetime. A number of factors (enhanced life expectancy, changing nature of society and work, financial demands) are leading people to work years longer than their predecessors did, with the average age of retirement now closer to 70.
2. Ask yourself if you could truly and sincerely see yourself in your current career for the rest of your life?
If that thought evokes considerable distress, you have your answer.
3. Consider how imminent other future changes are.
It is certainly responsible to be planning for your future, but do you have immediate plans to make significant changes in your life? You are doing an injustice to yourself if you delay making a career transition because of future unknowns that may or may not happen as you have planned.
4. Maintenance of your current lifestyle (and financial obligations) is a very real consideration.
Are there ways to be creative in working around this as a barrier? For example, consider getting a roommate to help with the mortgage or other bills while you go back to school. Starting a part-time program of study that allows you to continue to work and earn a salary may be a nice balance that fits with maintaining your current lifestyle, while continuing to pursue alternate career aspirations.
5. Modern technology now allows for a range of learning environments
This includes virtual and online, which allows much more flexibility in terms of options to learn and upgrade skills. Consider doing some online searches to see what programs and certificates may align. Many online training opportunities have a lot of flexibility in terms of scheduling and allowing extended time windows for course completion.
6. Meet with a career counsellor at a local college or university.
This may help provide you with a range of creative options: For example, obtaining a specialized certificate or upgrading in a particular area may be enough to open other career doors, without having to start from scratch.
Remember that career shifts are common and it is never too late to make a change if done so thoughtfully.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published as part of a Globe and Mail “Ask the Psychologist” column authored by Dr. Samra, and has been edited and updated.
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