Lamar’s Situation: I’m in a job that I can deal with but don’t love. It’s a sweet gig environmentally; I’m happy with my pay, the hours are reasonable, and I get along really well with my coworkers and my boss. I’m well aware that this is exactly the kind of job my grandparents would have wanted, and they worked to provide this type of opportunity for future generations. I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I really struggle with finding parts of my job that I enjoy, which affects my motivation. I also don’t feel connected to any sort of meaning in the work I do. I’m wondering what constitutes good reasons to stick it out in this job that I don’t find fulfilling or good reasons to try something else.
Lamar’s Question: When it comes to thinking about career change, where’s the line between a bold idea and a dumb one? Am I crazy to be thinking about leaving my cushy job?
Alison’s Answer: Thanks for the question Lamar! Before I dig into my response, I want to be clear that there is not one right answer to this question. One of the things that makes my team and I unique is that we don’t sell ‘one size fits all’ solutions. We really aim to customize our work to the individual in front of us. It drives me slightly crazy when I see responses to these types of questions that take a definitive stance (‘yes, stick it out at all costs’ or ‘no, go for your dreams no matter what’) vs. providing a framework that will help an individual come to their own conclusions.
I followed up with Lamar to have a quick chat with him based on his question. Here’s the framework I offered him, along with the solutions that we identified as the right fit for him.
“So there are three main areas where our career decisions have a big impact on our lives. These are our financial health, our level of fulfillment, and our personal time and well being. I visualize these three areas as a venn diagram, with three overlapping circles. The big picture driver of career changes is a misalignment between what a career path is providing you with and what you’re most wanting. With me so far?” I asked.
“Yes,” Lamar replied.
“So let’s check in. Clearly your job is coming through for you in terms of supporting your financial health and your personal well-being. The piece that isn’t as present in this job is fulfillment. If you had to rank those three areas, what would be most important to you?” I inquired.
Lamar responded pretty quickly, “The financial piece is definitely the most important element to me.”
“Great, that’s really good to know. So in your case your job and priorities are matching up nicely,” I reflected back.
“They are,” Lamar agreed. “In fact, I was just talking about this with a friend over the weekend, and one of the ideas we came to was to try to get more fulfillment outside of work.”
“That’s a wonderful idea!” I replied. “Work doesn’t have to provide us with everything. There are other parts of life that can add meaning and fulfillment for us.”
I mentioned to Lamar an example of a woman I’d spoken with recently who had a high level of interest in being a sculptor, along with a big desire to choose a financially stable career path. Her family history had included being on shaky financial ground, and that was important to her to avoid in her own adult life. This woman and I talked about how it wasn’t a black or white decision. She could honor her drive for financial security with her job and honor her artistic nature as a hobby. Again, this option made sense in this case based on the woman’s personal priorities.
Lamar had the time and interest to participate in extracurriculars, probably meaningful volunteer work, to boost his overall engagement with his life. I noted that as a participant in the Step by Step Career Change E-Course, he’d be guided in making a career hypothesis. But in his case, I advised him to use the process to make an extracurricular hypothesis.
Before we wrapped up, we briefly discussed increasing his engagement with the end users of his work. The funny thing about Lamar’s case was that he actually worked in a service oriented organization that he believed in! But his day to day work was many steps removed from the end benefactor, which made it hard to appreciate the impact he was having. By proactively attempting to engage with the people who were ultimately served by his work, he could hopefully address his issue with motivation at work as well.
These solutions made sense for Lamar. If he’d had different priorities, we’d have had a different conversation.
Could you relate to this story? Is work, extracurricular activities, or your family the main source of your fulfillment? Remember, there’s not one right answer here. I’d love to hear from you!
Each month I’m tackling a career question from someone in our community. If you’re at a crossroads with your career and would like to pose a question, just sign up for the Step-By-Step Career Change E-Course! There’s a link to a quick survey in the early emails of the course where you can leave me a question. I might just write a blog post for you!