How to find out why you’re unhappy with your career
The first step to finding the right career path (whether it's a completely new career or an adjacent role) is to determine why you are unhappy with your current role. The answer might be easy for you, or it might take some self-reflection and investigation. Let a week pass at your current job and write down the things that have made you unhappy. You can use this as a starting point for your new career search. Here are some examples that you may find yourself writing down:
“I am unhappy when I have to do reports.” This means you should look for a role with fewer administrative duties.
“I am unhappy when dealing with management.” Feeling upset with management is a common workplace struggle. While you might never be able to shake that all together, you can look for a role with more independence that works outside of an office.
“I don’t care about my job.” This is a sign that you are in the wrong career field entirely!
“I don’t like being in an office.” Remote work is easier now than ever, and you have many more options to leave the office.
Once you have your list of things that have made you unhappy, you can use that to compare to new career fields and job postings. Keep that close at hand as you begin your new career search journey.
Try this career scenario example!
Lily is unhappy with her career. She has been working as an administrative assistant for a corporation for a handful of years. It is what she knows how to do, and she is afraid to change. However, she wants to find a role she is passionate about and put herself first! She is asking herself “What career is right for me?”
Lily spends a week writing down aspects of her job she doesn’t like. At the end of the week, she has identified that she doesn’t like working with numbers, she doesn’t like talking to clients, and she doesn’t like going to an office. Lily will use this information to help her in her search.
How to start looking for a new career
If you have no idea where to begin looking for a new career, the process can seem quite daunting. There are so many career fields to explore! Healthcare, accounting, art design, entertainment, technology, and on and on. Even if you are able to identify a field you like, choosing a specific one is another challenge to overcome. For example, you might decide you want to get into healthcare. But in what capacity? Do you wish to work in an administrative role or a patient-centric role? Are you willing to get the certifications required for a position? Fortunately, there are many ways to make this daunting task easier.
One route is to take a career assessment online. There are many different tests and it is easy to find one for free. Career assessment and aptitude tests help to determine where your skill sets are, and what you are passionate about. They then use this data to give you actionable results.
One very popular career aptitude test is the 123 Career Aptitude Test. This test has you choose from four pictures depicting different types of work. You choose one you would really like to do, and one you really would not. At the end of 15 questions, you get a profile depicting your “career personality” and get position recommendations. This test goes a step further and even gives you links to search for open positions within those fields. This test takes about five minutes.
Another option to turn to is Career OneStop Interest Assessment. The test asks 30 questions about what you like to do, and you rank each from “Strongly Dislike” to “Strongly Like”. It only takes about five minutes, and after it gives you a list of positions, including average salary and educational requirements.
Career OneStop also has a work values assessment. This visually fun test has you choose from 20 cards that have values on them such as “I prefer to work alone” and you sort them from least to most important. It then gives you results based on your values, and you can explore career options based on your education level. This test can take five to ten minutes.
It is in your interest to take multiple of these types of assessments. Record the job suggestions given to you, and see where they all overlap. From this, you can compile a list of your top ten job positions of interest.
Try this career scenario example!
Lily has taken the three assessments above. Her results from the 123 Career Aptitude Test told her she should look into artistic roles. Job suggestions included landscape architect, artist, animator, writing editor, and designer. Her results from the Career OneStop Interest Assessment included roles such as actor, art therapist or teacher, designer, and artist. Her results from the work values assessment showed that she values achievement and independence. Some jobs suggested included designers, singers, publishers, animal trainers, and analysts.
From these results, Lily determines something within the artistic field will suit her well. She writes down her own top ten positions of interest that fall on all three lists.
Do you need training when starting a new career?
When asking yourself “What career is right for me?”, one important question to consider is if you’ll need training. When you transition from one career to another, that might involve extra steps in preparing yourself for this role. The biggest question is what you are eager and willing to do for this job move.
You might not mind taking more classes or getting certifications for your next role. The plus side of that is it opens up many more career opportunities for you. The downside is that it takes time, effort, and money to get the documents you need. If you have those resources available, taking classes can be a very eye-opening experience to determine what specific job you like the best.
If you can’t or don’t want to spend those resources, look for jobs that are entry-level, that build off the skills you already have, or that simply don’t require a degree. The plus side of this is that you can make your career move much quicker. The downside is that you will be more limited in what positions are available to you.
The best option is to research the roles from your top ten list and makes notes of their requirements. You can even look at associated jobs. For example, you might not have the certification needed to be an administrator, but an administrative support role is easier to get into.
Try this career scenario example!
Lily has a family to care for, and it is not easy for her to go back to college for a new degree. She sees that some of the jobs on her list, like the architect and design roles, require a degree. She turns her focus to the artistic and editor roles. She sees there are many different types of positions at all levels of skill and experience, and believes that is the option that will make her the happiest.
Trying new roles before making a career change
It is very wise to test positions before committing yourself fully to them. This will give you a taste of what that typical role is like, and if it’s something you truly want to pursue. You may be able to quit your current job to try this out, or you might look for something you can do simultaneously. Luckily, there are many routes to explore based on what works for your life and schedule.
Freelance Work – A benefit of the digital world is that there are many temporary, freelance positions to be found that allow you to set your own pace. Try looking for something on a very small scale to dip your toes into this career.
Job Shadowing – Some jobs may be willing to let you shadow an employee for one day to see what the job is actually like. A benefit to this is that you can ask plenty of questions about the role to see if it is a good fit. You can connect to places that allow you to job shadow through a college alumni program, a career counselor, your professional network, or even simply by reaching out to a corporation personally.
Volunteering – If you connect with the community and non-profit organizations in your area, you might find opportunities for the position you want to try out. Some do require training and a volunteer with experience, but you may be able to help support their efforts and learn more about these types of roles.
Try this career scenario example!
Lily wants to try out artistic and editor roles before making a career change. She is not ready to leave her job, and so wants to do these concurrently on evenings and weekends.
Lily enjoys drawing in her free time. So she creates an online profile of her art. She tries out freelance art by offering to do commissions and responding to freelance job postings. Through this, she is able to find out if she likes to draw for other people and if it’s something she wants to do full-time.
Lily is a very good editor because of her attention to detail. She has no experience editing, however. She reaches out to her local newspaper business. While she is nervous to have the conversation, she decides to ask if she can job shadow one of their editors. She gets permission, sits beside an editor, and learns about the role and career of an editor.
Getting professional advice to make the right career choices
If you are worried about making the wrong decision for your career path, speaking to a professional can be very beneficial. There are career counselors that are happy to put their expertise and network to use to help you. Using a career counselor does require paying them for their time, but it can be beneficial in jump-starting your career move. It is easy to find career counselors that are available online. These professionals will guide you through the assessment processes and will be able to hook you up with opportunities and training.
Key takeaways for a career change
Here’s a short summary of things to consider when changing careers or starting a new stage of your current career:
Analyze why exactly you’re unhappy with your current career. It’s as simple as sitting down and brainstorming a list of any idea that comes to mind… and then selecting the most likely reasons!
Try taking some career aptitude tests, and exploring career path planners (these are highly useful to map out career journeys and possible roles or promotions).
Evaluate the market for job openings and salary statistics on professional resources.
Consider whether you need additional training, courses, or certifications for new possible career paths.
Try new roles if you have room to maneuver. It’s important to broaden your horizons before making life-altering decisions.
Get advice from professional career experts or use career planning and support tools. This can save you from costly mistakes with far-reaching effects. It pays to be informed!
Finding the right career for yourself can be very daunting, but it is worth it when you can do what you love every day!