Career Changing / The Great Resignation

Cheryl Lim, LMHC December 6, 2021

Many, many people are changing jobs and careers right now. But how do you know when the time is right? Here are a few things to think about before you quit your job.

Close your eyes and think about your job. What comes to mind? What are you noticing? 

If you feel warmth, calm, and fulfillment, and if you believe the work that you’re doing is meaningful, you are happy where you’re working. If you notice a sense of anxiety or dread, picturing yourself juggling infinite tasks while the phone rings, you might want to examine whether this is the job for you.

As people transitioned to working from home almost two years ago, many realized their work-life balance was not where they wanted it. For some, the extended period of unemployment during the pandemic provided an opportunity to rethink career choices. 

But if you don’t feel valued, challenged, and stimulated by your job, there are many things you can do to improve your mental health and sense of fulfillment in your work. Whether you are considering making improvements in the way you work or changing your career path altogether, you’ll want to stick around to hear about the reasons people consider career shifts!

Things to Think About Before Quitting Your Job

Are you bored and depressed at work? Stuck in an unfulfilling career? You may already be thinking, “I need a new job.” Before you quit, think about the career path you truly want. Ask yourself, “Why are you looking for a new job exactly?” The following themes are concepts to consider when assessing your work and its impact on your mental wellness.

Little or No Support

People tend to struggle more at work when they have a negative experience with the social aspects of the job. A sign that you may be experiencing this is if you feel left out and unable to fit in with others at your job. 

Whether it’s due to office or workplace politics, conflicts with specific colleagues, not having enough interaction with colleagues, or feeling unsupported in your role, it can affect your work performance if you feel a general lack of support. 

Those who feel unsupported by management often report that they seem held back from advancing in their careers. They feel unmotivated, and some even feel they have a more challenging time completing tasks when they cannot get feedback or help. Not having any interactions with colleagues can also lead to feelings of isolation, low confidence, and potentially lead to poor work performance. 

If you can relate to feeling unsupported at work but love all other aspects of your job, consider communicating to your colleagues and management to express your sentiments and reach out for support. So, when should you leave? If all your efforts go ignored or your needs remain unmet, it may be time to consider a shift. 

Burnout

Burnout is the result of prolonged stress. Signs of work-related burnout can often manifest as a lack of motivation, feeling easily overwhelmed, fatigued, and an overall struggle to perform at work. According to the World Health Organization, burnout is caused by “high job demands, low control, and effort–reward imbalance.” It leads to decreased work performance and a general decrease in happiness. 

Often, work stress can cause difficulties in your personal life and get in the way of you taking care of yourself, in addition to stunting career growth and personal development. If you notice you are feeling burnt out consistently, it may be time to change the way you work or consider a career shift if the demands show no sign of waning.

Unmet Needs

A major reason people consider a career shift is unmet needs, which leads to a bad fit. Whether the unmet needs are financial or emotional, this causes employees to become unmotivated and disengaged, leading to underperformance and an inevitable exit. 

Unmet needs (outside of emotional needs) can include not having enough work hours/having too many work hours, low pay, insufficient benefits, not having childcare options, career growth or development opportunities, and feeling inadequately equipped to do the work expected of you. 

It’s important to be honest with yourself about your abilities and assess if you can realistically meet your employer’s needs. If you find upon reflection that you are a poor fit, it might be time to move on.

Tips for Changing Careers

Before starting a new job, shift your mindset. If you’re still feeling unfulfilled at work, there are things you can do to transition to a new job in a healthy way. 

Practice Self-compassion at Work

One of the more challenging things to do when you’re having difficulties at work and going through a career shift is practicing self-compassion. It’s crucial to be able to learn from mistakes and forgive yourself when they happen. 

Self-compassion at work allows you to be kind to yourself despite what your job may throw at you. When we practice self-compassion, we allow ourselves to be understanding and caring instead of judgmental or self-pitying. Learning to accept shortcomings or inadequacies will enable us to learn from them and grow. Take your time to process your feelings before moving on to later steps in your career shift.

How to Pick a New Career: Research

Finding out if a field, work setting, or specific role is a good fit is the first step in improving your odds of having a successful career while maintaining your mental wellness. 

When considering a career shift, you may want to consider what the office culture is like and what an average day in that position includes. This means doing research first. Ask around, talk to past and present employees, and get a real sense of the picture. If that's not possible, you may benefit from searching online or asking questions during the interview process. Asking specific, relevant questions during the interview is essential to discern if the company is right for you.

Check-in With Yourself

Periodically check in with yourself. Identify when your body is talking to you and how to interpret that information. 

Even if it’s scary, be honest when checking in with yourself about your current job satisfaction and abilities. Recognize where you feel confident and areas where you feel vulnerable. Think about whether you feel appropriately recognized for your worth and value. Use this information to help guide you and make better, more informed decisions according to your values and needs.

Set Boundaries

Sometimes it’s not the job; sometimes, it’s our inability to say “no” and walk away. Due to remote work, there is often no physical separation between your living space and your office. Because of this, it may be harder to mentally log out after your workday. 

Setting boundaries at work is essential to self-care and longevity, a lack of these leads to burnout. Establishing boundaries regarding space, time, and availability is vital to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. If there is a lack of boundaries, resulting in an unhealthy work-life balance, you may face the same problems even after a career shift.

Communicate Your Needs

Communication is vital in all areas of your life. Healthy and effective communication at work is a solid way to learn your strengths, weaknesses, and what you can improve (and how). Especially when you are in a new role, you may have more questions and need more guidance. Don’t be afraid to seek appropriate levels of help from your peers or management.

You may have heard the phrase “managing up” as a way of improving communication and your relationship with management. It’s also a great way to get on the same page about expectations and how your skills could best get utilized. 

Working on communication also allows you to build valuable friendships or partnerships with coworkers. A sense of team spirit and camaraderie can lead to feeling supported by peers and colleagues. The result can make your new work environment more inviting, alleviate stress, and serve as a resource when in doubt.

Boost Your Self-care

Self-care is an exceedingly popular term, but it may be difficult to determine what that means for yourself. Sometimes self-care means taking breaks, going on trips, resting, doing your favorite skincare routine, or scheduling relaxing activities after work. 

Other times self-care can be taking care of responsibilities and taking care of your physical and mental health. Self-compassion is a big part of self-care. Self-care can also mean practicing and using your coping skills or going to therapy.

Supplement Your Work Life

Whether you are new to a role and just transitioning or have been unhappy in your position for a while, you can supplement your job with meaningful things outside of work. Whether that means spending time with friends and family, following a passion, or engaging in a fun hobby, play is vital to our well-being. 

Often, people struggle with leaving a field or role that doesn’t fully meet their needs, and they feel dissatisfied or under-stimulated. Suppose that’s something you feel, but you do not want to consider a shift. In that case, it can be helpful to do extracurriculars such as community service in a field or place that matches your values and brings additional satisfaction to your sense of balance. 

Why Is It Hard to Leave a Job?

You may be wondering what to do if you now recognize these issues but don’t feel ready to leave your job.

Financial stability, risk aversion, low confidence, and not having another job direction can be reasons people stay at an unfulfilling job. It’s understandable if you find yourself afraid to make a career shift. The cost might be too high to go back to school or to start something new. You might also be fearful of taking any risks due to dependents relying on you. 

While some people in those positions have successfully made meaningful changes in their careers with proper support, it’s also possible to stay at your job if you can improve the way you work! 

Working on the things above can help you even if you are not transitioning to a new job and are just trying to improve your current one. If you can’t leave the job, you can still be fully happy by making other parts of your life fill in what you’re lacking at work. And remember, whatever you decide, your path is yours.

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