Stuck in a career that makes you unhappy, because of fear
A few years ago, I found myself five years into a job that was making me ill. I was stressed, exhausted and losing weight, and as much as I'd heard the “you're lucky to even have a job”, “it’s the wrong time to be looking for a new job” etc., I couldn’t shift the unhappiness, longing and frustration that I felt. The job I once loved had become unrecognisable, and I was screaming inside.
Six months later, I finally found the courage to apply for new jobs, and was offered a post in a similar field. Momentary delight soon followed acute concern. Alarm bells crept in, and I was confused; why do I feel the same way?
My concerns were short lived as fate played a hand. Two weeks after I'd started my new role, the company went into liquidation, and I was out of a job.
After initial numbness, blaming and cursing, I was overcome with an incredible emotion that I had not experience for some time; relief. Yes relief.
'A feeling of reassurance and relaxation following release from anxiety or distress.'
For the first time in a long time, I felt free. The self-imposed ‘shoulds’, and the rules I’d adopted, melted away. For the first time I asked myself a question; what do I want?
I looked into courses and careers that interested me. What had I loved about my work, and what had changed to extinguish my passion?
Jumping from the frying pan into the frying pan
Since the age of 17 my career had been a series of jobs that I'd fallen into and stayed in, because they were familiar. Ultimately I suffered because I had committed myself to a sentence of experience, but not happy. I left my long-term job for an identical one. It makes sense that similar feelings resurfaced. What you want from your next job is so much more important than what you hate about the last one. What is it you want?
Fear of leaving vs the consequences of staying
Fear kept me in a job for two and a half years past its sell by date. When fear questions what might happen and ‘the devil you don’t know’, ask yourself this:
How would you feel about staying in this job for another two years? Or another five? Here’s another question: How is this job making you feel right now?
Improving how you feel while you're still there
I wholeheartedly agree with the mindset that you can improve how you feel about your current situation. That I loved to support others, helped me keep a sense purpose within a system that was working against my values and passion.
What I don't agree with, is that you have to stay in a job that you put up with and suffer in. You have the choice of doing something that you actually love, aligns with your values and feels authentic to you. Do the work that keeps the roof over your head and food on the table in the short term, while making time to look for something that excites and inspires you.
Rules versus feelings
I judged myself for feeling relieved, when I have a mortgage to pay and minimal savings. But that’s what I felt, relief, which was stronger than any fear I'd had. If we allow ourselves to get caught up in how we should feel, we can lose site of how we truly feel. The “you cant's” and the “its not the right time to's” were societies rules, not mine. Pay attention to how you are feeling authentically. Often this is the place from where you know what to do next.
And sometimes your authentic feeling is fear
I understand first hand the effect of an environment that makes you feel anxious, doubt yourself, and chip away at your confidence. Don’t get mad with yourself; the last thing you need is a fight with you. Acknowledge this part of you exists, listen to your fears, and then ask yourself what needs to happen for you to be comfortable to move on. If you need support, acknowledge this too.
And yes, occasionally one of the things you fear, happens
I was fearful of leaving my job to go into the unknown. Two weeks later I found myself unemployed. Through this life changing experience, I'd discovered the thing I dreaded the most, happened, and my world did not end. I found a temporary post a few weeks later, then a less stressful job whilst I completed my diploma, and I’m finally doing work that I love. In addition I am no longer fearful of leaving a job in which I am unfulfilled. I now value happiness far more than familiarity.
Often making one change starts a catalyst to create more, and you may find along the way that you surprise yourself.
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About Catherine Callender
I support people to discover their authentic selves; supporting them to move away from situations that have left them unhappy and exhausted, and towards a life that feels inspired and fulfilling.
I work from the premise that stripping back to the real you, are where shifts in thinking, self-view and possibilities start to happen.