Ever feel stuck in your job? Wishing you’d followed a long-lost career dream?
You’re not alone. An estimated 70 percent of employees don’t feel satisfied with their career choices.
But rather than succumb to a job you hate, you can take active steps to improve your experience at work — or switch careers entirely.
To figure out how to make that change, Inverse spoke with Helen Horyza, a consultant who has coached thousands of people through this challenging process.
“For most of us, on one side of the coin, the path is fear,” Horyza says. And it’s fair to say that changing your career will likely be anxiety-producing, she adds.
“On the other side of that coin is how much courage it takes to live up to your potential. We don't talk about courage or fear enough when it comes to living or having a great career.”
This week, Inverse explores how to make a change at the right time to create a professional life you love. I’m Ali Pattillo and this is Strategy, a newsletter packed with actionable tips to help you make the most out of your life, career, and finances.
Getting unstuck — Job choices are linked to complex factors that often make a switch feel terrifying. Financial pressures, levels of stability, senses of identity, and accomplishments -- achieved or desired -- all go into career decisions, Horyza explains.
"People stay in jobs, sometimes that they don't like, because the anxiety that goes along with making the change can be just paralyzing," Horyza says. "The consequences of making a mistake are really serious."
In Horyza’s book, Elevate Your Career: Live a Life You’re Truly Proud Of, she outlines the steps everyone faces when searching for a fulfilling career.
Often, when people are stuck in a job, they feel like they are on an emotional roller coaster they can't get off of, Horyza explains. They think oh, it's not that bad and then oscillate to feeling like they can't stand the situation.
People's anxiety can be "sky high," and they may feel slightly unsettled, she says. Sometimes, people may feel guilty they are considering leaving an objectively "fine" job.
"That whole roller coaster is 100 percent predictable and recognizable," Horyza says.
All of these emotions are normal, Horyza says, and the first step is recognizing that fact. This allows people to transition to the critical stages of introspection, self-assessment, and going out and doing the homework necessary to make an effective career change.
And sometimes, it takes a life-disrupting event to shake people and inspire them to take the leap, Horyza says. Even initially negative events can lead to healthy growth.
“More times than I can count, somebody has said, ‘I'm so glad the pandemic or the horrible boss finally forced me to get out of the situation.’”
To make an effective career move and get off this roller coaster, Horyza offers three strategies.
- Reflect on your "talent package": “Once you get a handle on your anxiety, or you're ‘pissed off-ness,’ or whatever it is that you're dealing with, you have to do a really thorough self-assessment,” Horyza says. That means reflecting on your values, skills that you enjoy, career interests, and temperament. “So often people think, ‘Well, it doesn't matter that I'm into the chemistry of food, or it doesn't matter that I'm over the moon about yellow Labradors. It matters. You have to take a look at your quirky little self and say, ‘What am I interested in?’” If you dial into who you really are, you lower the likelihood that you’ll make the wrong decision.
- Take your time (but not too much): One of the biggest mistakes people make is rebooting their career at the wrong time. “On one end there’s impulsivity and just jumping the gun,” Horyza says. It can be hard to tolerate your anger and anxiety until it’s strategically smart to leave. On the other end of the spectrum are people who realize they should have made a certain choice years ago. There’s a balance between doing your due diligence before taking a risk and overthinking a choice so much that it paralyzes you.
- Follow your gut, not others’ advice: “Letting other people dictate your choices is a big mistake,” Horyza cautions. Of course, if you are responsible for someone’s livelihood, it’s a different story. But letting others’ opinions dictate what you should or shouldn’t be doing could keep you from following your true passion. At the end of the day, no job is perfect. But it is possible to find work that aligns with your skillset, values, goals, and personality.“There are a fair number of people, and some of them are your family, who will tell you there are no good jobs out there,” Horyza cautions. “Believing that it's not possible to be happy is a huge mistake.”