Finding My Life’s Work….Again

Dear J.T. & Dale: I’ve been employed as a technical writer since 1980. Previously, I enjoyed my job, but that is no longer true. I’m burned out. I need to work 10-15 more years. I have taken career assessments, read career-change books and researched job trends. But I feel stuck. Every career that sounds interesting would require that I go back to school, and might end up being no less stressful or more secure than my current job. — LeeAnn

J.T.: First, I want to congratulate you. It’s always good to hear from someone who worked hard and found professional satisfaction for a nice stretch.

Dale: Ah, I see where you’re going. We still talk about “finding our life’s work,” but the truth is that we’re lucky to find a decade’s work … which makes LeeAnn’s problem trickier, not easier.

J.T.: She’s already taken all the steps needed to leverage her experience and shorten her next journey. All that’s left is to start. Here’s what I’d like you to do, LeeAnn: inventory your “must-haves” in a career, striving to keep the list short and flexible. Then, pick the top five careers, based on their ability to satisfy your “must-haves.” Whichever one wins is the one you start to pursue. You need to let go of the fear of not choosing wisely. There is no bad choice here. The sooner you engage in a choice, the sooner you’ll have new experiences to help you make course corrections.

Dale: What she’s fearing is going back to school and starting over, depleting her savings along the way, only to find out that she doesn’t like the new career any better than the old one. That’s the danger of starting over. What I hope you’ll do instead, LeeAnn, is take those top five career possibilities and choose the one you can most readily evolve into. Say, for instance, one career option on your list is to become a fundraiser for a nonprofit. So you’d get a job as a writer/editor for a university’s alumni magazine. Now you are working in a nonprofit and can take classes for free, and you’ve set yourself up to make a logical step into fundraising. It’s faster and cheaper than quitting your old job and starting over.

J.T.: Perhaps that approach will give you the freedom to explore something that truly excites you. You already have a “fallback” career that you can return to. Now is the time to step out of your comfort zone and follow your curiosity.

One Response

  1. Alvin Says:

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