Work is a major section of your life, taking up 40-60 hours a week, and for decades. It’s important, and you need to think through it objectively and make those decades produce something meaningful for you. But it’s sometimes difficult to know when it’s time to pull the trigger and make the transition from a job to a career.
A job matters in that it’s a way to pay the bills. It provides some security for you. However, a career not only provides the compensation, but also serves as a way to take your passions, develop them to a high level, produce a meaningful product or service, and develop yourself on a growth track along with way.
Fewer people are sticking with one successful career these days; there are too many opportunities to learn and grow in different areas. So be ready and agile for that possibility.
I am often asked the question of “how do I know when it’s time to quit my job and go for the career?” Here are the answers I provide, which are customized to different people’s situations:
Determine your passion. There is a percentage of people who unfortunately have to do things they are not interested in, to make a living. Don’t assume that you are in that group. Instead, go ahead and do a “passion search” to feel what you need to feel about your career: enthusiastic, curious, energized, losing time. The quickest way to do that is to search MyMajors.com for lots of areas and specific roles in which you might be interested. Beyond that, you’ll probably want to hire a career coach, who will have assessments and so much more information that you do. Very much worth it.
When you have researched where you want to go. Some people quit their job and then figure out the next step. I have seen it work from time to time, but not regularly. I recommend taking nights and weekends during your job weeks, and doing R&D on your desired career: read about it, talk to people, take courses, go to conferences. You may find that it’s not a good fit for you. Or you may find that you know a lot more about it and are ready to go.
When you know the players, and there is a position or a good chance of one. Jobs come and go. But you need steady people who are impressed with you and want to keep you around. I call these people “advocates”, and they will put energy into you getting the right position. Talk with them, meet anyone they want you to meet. They are feeding you opportunities.
When you can afford the move. It can be a scary time to go from an unsatisfying position which does provide a steady paycheck, to a gap where you’re not sure of anything. You’re letting go of one trapeze, and don’t see the next one! So have funds saved up to have a minimal existence for a few months, so you can survive and concentrate on the career. I recommend 90 days of survival living that will keep you alive and motivated.
The longitudinal research about the end of life studies the regrets people have when life is almost over. The conclusion is that 15% of us regret what we did, those bad decisions. And 85% of us regret what we didn’t do, taking that chance.
Best to you,
John Townsend, Ph.D.