Career Crossroads

It has been months since I’ve written at length about my decision to leave my full-time, decently well-paying job. I left my job after my sick benefits ran out after our 4th miscarriage in May. After months of recommendations from my counsellor and family doctor Mr. MPB and I finally decided I needed to leave a very high stress job in which I was working 70+ hours a week. Combining our recurrent pregnancy loss with my job, I was burning out. I need to focus on my physical and emotional recovery from our 4 miscarriages. I needed to focus on providing the best chance possible for our next pregnancy.

We are in a very fortunate position in that we can afford for me to not be working. We made the decision to buy a house that we could afford on one income, and further e have both worked very hard for a number of years and have saving that made this an option for us.

But, here’s the thing, I never intended to be a stay-at-home mom, let alone my current state a stay-at-home dog mommy and wife.

There have been many things about this break that I have enjoyed, one of my favourites has been that I’m not waking up at 3am in a cold sweat due to some imminent work problem. I’ve been learning to sleep again. I have also been taking the time to search for meaningful moments of happiness. Truthfully though, I think my husband has probably enjoyed me not working the most – he has not stepped inside a grocery store in months, he has not been spending time loading and unloading the dishwasher, and he has not been cooking nearly as much. I have been cooking the vast majority of our meals, and some days in addition to making supper, I even make him breakfast and lunch!

While I have done a bit of private consulting in the last month, it has been sporadic at best and now as we transition from trying for one more healthy pregnancy to fully focusing on adoption, I feel as though I should be returning to some sort of more regular employment.

The problem is that I have no idea what I want to do! All I know right now, is that I spent 6 years in university achieving multiple degrees and 8 years working in a profession that I want out of! Shit.

So, what do I do?! How do I figure this out? It has taken me months to write on the topic of my professional challenges because I’m finding the entire topic very anxiety provoking – just thinking about this puts me into a state of slight panic, I can literally feel my heart rate increasing as I type this.

20141111 - Career CrossroadsI am afraid that I am going to end up going back to what I’ve been doing because it’s easy and I’m good at it, even though the work doesn’t excite me and the industry is slowly killing my spirit. And what if I cannot get a job I want in a different industry – it’s not particularly easy to change from one professional industry to another.  Then I’ll be forced back into the industry.

I’ve thought a lot about going back to school. But, I am afraid if I go back to school to get another master degree or even a PhD, I will be doing it simply to delay making a real decision about my professional future.

Honestly, I feel almost paralyzed by my fear. Fear that I’m going to take the wrong job, or fear that I’m going to make a big change and still not like what I am doing.

So, being a classic type-a personality who needs to control everything, months ago I decided if I’m going to do this, I need to do it right. So, I hired a career counsellor. I was told I should stay in my current profession because I’m good at it – yup, that was a waste of $1500. Okay, that was a little harsh. Truthfully, career counselling was able to help me articulate why I did not like my job and my profession. Which means I can now articulate what I am unwilling to do:

  1. I will not travel more than 2 nights a month. I used to travel 3-4 days a week, and I will not accept a job that requires this type of travel.
  2. I will not work for a company that does not share my moral compass and ethical values. I need a company that stands by its nicely written corporate philosophies in practice, not just as a marketing practice.
  3. I will not work more than 32 hours a week on a regular basis. I do not want a full time job, and more importantly I will not work 70+ hours a week on a regular basis. I understand that during intense short-term crunch times I may need to work more, and I’m okay with that.
  4. I will not work overtime without fair compensation. I expect to be compensated fairly for my time.
  5. Who I work with matters more then what I actually work on.

The career counsellor also helped me identify what skills I currently use that I really enjoy and what I need to be successful in my next adventure:

I am skilled at group facilitation and public engagement, and enjoy the challenges of ensuring respectful dialogue on controversial topics. I am also skilled at leading team and motivating individuals to achieve project goals and objectives. I am skilled at and enjoy strategic project management, and I thrive when there is variation in the projects as I like the excitement of new experiences and knowledge. When I find myself in uncharted territory, I like to research alternative case studies, trends and best practices to help determine the best course of action. When immersed in a project, my actions are well thought out and deliberate. I need space and time to develop the strategic approach to solve problems.

My strongest interests are people, writing, learning and perusing new adventures. I want to lead and contribute to teams and conversations where I learn as much as I teach and that are respectful of the unique perspectives of all participants. I need to feel that I am contributing to the greater good and making a positive contribution to the world.  

As a very social person, I need to work with collaborative teams, yet have a quiet workspace available for concentrated and focused activities. To further optimize my performance and be a good team member, I need a workspace that has natural light, is flexible in respect to my work hours and location and has a short daily commute. I require recognition in the form of time-in-lieu and quiet praise from those I work with.

Most importantly to be successful and healthy, I must hold true to my personal integrity and ethical convictions.

But, here’s the problem, while I have taken this break and met with a career counsellor, I still cannot identify what I actually want to do when I grow up! I am used to being able to sort through information and make an educated decision on what the best course of action is. Instead, I’m honestly lost and overwhelmed by it. It’s a strange feeling for me and I don’t know what to do about it.

Has anyone else been through a career crises? How did you figure out what to do?

Does anyone have any suggestions about possible industries I should look into? (note that i have intentionally not said what I currently do because I don’t want to constrain any possible ideas).

If you like this post, please feel free to share it and please return to myperfectbreakdown.com to follow my journey.

62 Comments on “Career Crossroads

  1. Without knowing what you actually do – what about teaching part time at a college? I have gone through a complete career change in the last 5 years. I was previously a family law attorney and now I’m an analyst for a big company. I didn’t wake up one day and want to be an analyst. I woke up one day and couldn’t practice family law for one more second so I took the first opportunity I found to get me out and figured I would go from there. It has worked itself out since then.

    I wish you luck!

    Like

    • Thanks for sharing your experience! Did you just start applying to anything, and that’s how you found your new career as an analyst?
      Teaching at a college could be an interesting thing to do. I think I’ll think more about that one for sure. 🙂

      Like

  2. Oh man, you take the words right out of my mouth on this topic. If I ever go back to work, I have no idea what I’ll do… I just know I don’t want to do what I was doing (project management). The big problem for me is my old salary – I was paid a lot to do what I did, and going to do something that pays less seems dumb. But happiness is not dumb. Oh, the conundrum!

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    • Funny enough, focusing on project management, (outside of my current profession) is one of the top things I’m considering doing! I’ve done a lot of PM work, and I usually enjoy it, so it could be worth focusing on.
      I absolutely agree about the salary. I’m used to a decent wage, so I kinda want to keep earning the same kind of money. I absolutely know money cannot be the deciding factor, but I do know that I want to make a decent income.
      Thanks for sharing your experience!

      Like

  3. I don’t have any suggestions, but I do understand your feeling of being stuck. Other than working as a waitress and in a grocery store in high school, pretty much all I’ve ever done is child care. There are days I am burned out and feel the constraints of my job and how it alters life decisions (like foster care and adoption). I will pray for direction for you and peace in whatever decision you make. Good Luck!!

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    • Thank you so much for sharing your experience of being stuck and facing burn out. It’s just so hard to change to a different industry when all of our experience is in a specific field. And of course add in adoption and it seems to add an entirely new layer of complexity – our agency has suggested that it we would be more attractive adoptive parents if I do not return to full time employment.
      Anyways, thank you. And best wishes to you as well!

      Like

  4. Oh man can I ever relate to this! I have been working for my company, climbing the ladder in my department for 14 years and now that I have reached the top of the ladder, I HATE IT. It is slowly sucking the life out of me. I had an offer to go do something completely different for slightly less money, but a MUCH better environment, but I couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger because it was a completely different line of work and I had no clue whether I’d even like it. Now I feel pretty stuck–for a while, anyway. I hope you find some answers. Have you been reading job postings at all just to see if anything jumps out at you?

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    • I am so sorry you understand this – it just sucks being in a job where you are miserable. And facing all the IF/RPL stuff just makes it so much harder to handle going to a crappy job everyday.
      I’ve been reading job postings for months, and every time I kind of panic about the idea of taking another job that I hate. I know, at some point I’m going to just have to get over it and jump into something, but until I have a strong attraction to something I’m not going to jump.
      Anyways, thank you so much for your support!

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  5. Ugh, completely understand. I got sucked into my current industry by a choice mixture of timing and luck and now I am entirely too good at it, but I also hate it. While I’m stuck in this field of work for the time being, what has helped has been taking an honest look at my passions, what I’m good at, and removing the money question from the equation – much like what you’ve already done. Some volunteer work while I was last employed also helped me figure out more what I would like to do for my day job. Especially if you don’t have to worry about money for the time being, I would definitely consider interning/volunteering with places that you find reflect your values, at which point you can dazzle them with your amazing skills and work ethic. Non-profits might be too stressful, but I know there are definitely for-profits with actual ethics out there.

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    • Thanks for sharing your experience. I too sort of fell into my master degree and therefore profession. Once i got in, it just seemed like the obvious choice at the time. Unfortunately, I didn’t spend any time evaluating if I would actually enjoy it in the long run – although, truthfully I am not sure i could have done it at 21 when I was finishing my undergrad and choosing my master program
      I often volunteer, just not at places I would want to work – things like meal services for homeless. But, I do like the idea of looking into other volunteer options and seeing what interests me, and then possibly have something come out of a volunteer position. Great idea!

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  6. This is such a hard place to be mentally! My advice to you is to find something you love. Your advantage in this situation is that money is not key…so in my opinion, if you look around and find something that you THINK you may like and be good at, try it out. If you end up hating it, just leave. I know it’s not the best to jump around at jobs, but if you have the financially ability to do that, it may be the best option.
    A couple ideas off the top of my head, with what you’ve said, is maybe something like a life coach or professional organizer? You’d be dealing with people and helping them figure things out, would be constant new projects, you’d be able to be creative, and also may be able to work your own schedule. Just a thought!

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    • I love your suggestion! And you are right, a jumpy resume is not a great idea, but I am in a unique/fortunate place where I can afford to leave a bad job.
      How does one actually become a life coach or a professional organizer? Both of these seem like great ideas!! I’m absolutely going to be reading a lot about both of these ideas. THANK YOU!!

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      • I actually have no idea!! I do know though that I love to organize things, and I’ve thought about becoming a professional organizer fleetingly many times. Maybe when I burn out of my current career, I’ll look into that! If you find out any good info on that one, let me know lol! Good luck, and glad I could help!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t blame you for wanting to quit that job that you had. I always admire people for knowing what they’re good at and being able to articulate their talents and skills so eloquently. Knowing what you’re good at is a very good first step. I don’t have any advice but just want to say that I love your set of skills! It makes me want to explore what skills I have. Good luck with finding something that you love to do.

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    • Thanks so much for your thoughts and encouragement! I do agree, it’s pretty neat to actually determine what your individual skills are, but right now I feel like that’s not enough because I don’t know how to repackage them into a new profession. I know it can be done, I just haven’t figured out that next step. 🙂
      Thanks again!

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  8. I know all this too well. I specialize in career crises. 😉 I’ve made at least 2 career transitions so far– and I suspect there will be many more down the line.

    From your list of skills, I honestly don’t think you’ll have a problem pivoting to a different industry. You have what folks like to call “marketable skills.” So the question is, where do you want to work? Start narrowing down companies or other industries you want to work for. Understand what their needs are, and then formulate a story on how your skills address that need.

    Break down the process into smaller chunks. It can be overwhelming when you’re trying to make a big shift, that you get sorta stuck. And remember, this next job is not forever. Focus on finding a position that helps you learn something– even if you learn that you don’t want to do that kind of work again!

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    • I really like your approach of identifying industries and companies first, and the seeing how I can fit my skills into their company. I think that is such a great way to do it, and it’s an approach I had not thought of, so I love it!
      Thank you for all your suggestions!!

      Like

  9. The common ostrich had a great suggestion. I’d consider figuring who you want to work for and then see what roles you may fit within those organizations. Its kind of backwards but you never know what you may find!

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  10. I just found your blog – thanks for liking my most recent post 🙂 I don’t have any profound advice for you, but I feel your pain. I landed in the job I’m currently in, and while the work is challenging, I don’t love it, I don’t have a passion for it, and I don’t know how long I can do this. The thing keeping me in this job is the fact that my boss is so flexible and supports me no matter what. That is nice, and for now its great, but how long will that last? I work from home most of the time, I can come and go when I need to for doctors appointments or when I have to let the dog out….so I have it good, but if you don’t love what you do, is it worth it? I don’t have the ability to leave my position to figure it all out, I’m happy to see that you do. I hope you get a sign soon or figure it out. I’ll be following your journey to see 🙂 Good luck to you!

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    • I’m glad you found my blog, and that you have such wonderful insight! Thank you!
      As you describe your own circumstances, I think you point out something really valuable – flexibility in your role. I would absolutely love to have flexibility to come and go when I need/want to. This will be critical to my long term happiness in any position.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I haven’t read all the comments, so forgive me if this is repetitive, but what about taking a function of your past job that you liked, but wasn’t your main function, and then focus on turning that into a career? For example, say that you worked in the marketing department as a project manager. Most of your job might’ve be coordinating, but you probably also did some writing, too. So then you could take that writing skill you learned there and get a job where your main function is writing. You might have to start closer to the bottom of the totem pole that way, but what does it matter if you love what you’re doing?

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    • Thank you so much for such an insightful suggestion!! I think you are absolutely right about finding something that I have experience in, that I enjoy, but is not the primary function of my past jobs that I do not enjoy. I think figuring that out, will ultimately be critical to making a successful career change.
      Thank you again!

      Like

  12. I have the opposite problem. Being a musician I love what I do but don’t make much money doing it. Maybe you could just take some kind of Administrative Assistant job for awhile until you decide. Just keep things low stress, and play a supporting roll? Good luck.

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    • Oh, I wish I had something I was so passionate about that I would want to do it even if I wasn’t making any money. Funny, how the grass is always greener on the other side, eh?
      Thank you for your kind suggestion! I really appreciate it.

      Like

  13. You seem like a writer by nature, like so many bloggers. You think you could be a writer? You think you have something kicking around in there that is waiting to get on paper?

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  14. I just found ur blog today….aaahhhh and its exactly how i feel too. I too left my job almost a yr ago to straighten my head after 4 miscarriages. So far its going grt. But like u i too wonder what i wud do once I decide to get back to work. Even my previous job all fell by chance and i seemed to be good at it…so I am hoping my next phase wud fall in place as well. I am seriously considering getting my Masters done as well in hopes that it wud help me make a fresh start. Sorry i cudnt suggest anything to u….but hold on tight…things usually tend to play themselves out quite amazingly 🙂

    Like

    • Thank you for such taking the time to read and share your experience trying to balance working and RPL.
      I would so desperately love to have my next career move just fall into place, but so far that doesn’t seem to be happening and I realize it may be time to take some action to figure it out.
      Wishing you the best as you work to figure out your next steps as well! I look forward to following your journey as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Funny, as a teacher who knows teachers who struggled with infertility, many of them left the field because it was too much to manage both the job and the crisis. It makes sense that you walked away (from the sound of it) and good for you for having the courage to do it! I feel like I’m pulling out my hair trying to keep my stress in check and still meet all the demands that don’t just go away because I’m going through something. I like your methodical process, but, alas, I have nothing to offer. Good luck with the journey!

    Like

    • I am continually amazed at the number of women who end up leaving there careers once face with IF. I had no idea, but now I absolutely understand it!
      Thank you so much for your compassion and understanding! I so appreciate it! 🙂

      Like

  16. Changing careers is a truly humbling feat that takes a lot of courage. I did it a few years ago myself. I used to be a chiropractor- 9 years of post-secondary and 3 years practicing and teaching at the university level. It was weird going back to school to get my B.Ed, being in classes with people almost 10 years younger than me, but I enjoyed it a lot. It was so nice being back in school (I would’ve loved to be one of those “professional students” who just take class after class, fulfilling personal interests). Luckily, I got hired as a teacher immediately after finishing, and have really enjoyed it (aside from this particular school). I made the right choice, even though people were shocked and really bothered by the fact that I would leave being a doctor for dealing with (often badly behaving) teenagers. Good luck. I haven’t the slightest piece of advice for you, but just reassurance that the journey will be very enjoyable.

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    • Wow, changing from chiropractor to teaching – that is a big shift! I’m so impressed that you did, and even more so that you are enjoying it now (with the obvious exception of your current school). How did you know that teaching is what you actually wanted to do?

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      • I was teaching a course at a university, and absolutely loved it. Honestly, I was glowing and charismatic, and just so amped everytime I was teaching, and the students were amazing. It made me loathe going back to running my practice and doing medical assessments for sleazy insurance companies. I loved caring for patients, but it broke my heart when there were people who couldn’t afford it. So in a way, it’s that whole moral compass thing to mentioned too.

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  17. The who you work with bit is wise. I, too, prefer phenom people to phenom work. Ideally, I’d have both–but the environment really impacts me. Sounds like you’re identifying a lot of great things–most people don’t take the time to think that hard about what they want. Kudos to you.

    Like

  18. I completely relate to this post. I keep coming to work everyday because it pays well and I’m good at it, but yet the work bores me to death. With our baby due June 1st I’m beginning to wonder how I’ll ever make myself go back to work after I’ve enjoyed a few months home with a new baby. Although I certainly don’t picture myself a stay-at-home mom either. So where does that leave me? And I think I have enough degrees, but maybe another in a different field… but do I want to start all over? Oh, so much to think about. I wish you luck in your search for you, as really, I think it’s more about finding yourself than finding a job 🙂

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    • I hate that you understand – it’s so frustrating to have spent so much time in post secondary education and working, just to realize I don’t love what I do. Somehow it feels pretty horrible to be complaining about making good money, but not being fulfilled while doing it. But it is what it is.
      Anyways, I hope you can figure it out too! Hopefully moving to a new city and having your baby will help give you some perspective and open your eyes up to something new. 🙂

      Like

      • Thank you, I’m hoping for some perspective too, something to point me in the right direction. I think looking back I picked my college major by considering what jobs would be available to me. Which I guess was smart, but it disregarded my true interests. And as they say, money is just money. Even though my job pays well, it’s not making me happy 😦

        Liked by 1 person

  19. I have no good advice for this, but just wanted to let you know I was thinking about you and I hope the answer will present itself to you soon. And hey, at least you know what you don’t want. I think being true to that will lead you in the right direction. Hugs!

    Like

  20. I have absolutely had multiple career crisis, and I’m only in my early thirties. It’s definitely tough. I would only say don’t be afraid to fail. It took me a few careers to find what I am now very happy doing. It’s great that you saw a career counsellor early on, you have great insight into what you are good at, and what your transferable skills are.

    Good luck!!

    Like

      • Well, it was kind of like throwing darts in the dark at first. After I finished my undergrad (in Poli Sci), I decided to go to law school simply because that’s what you’re supposed to do with a Poli Sci degree. I lasted for one semester in law school, and decided I didn’t want to go to school anymore. So scrap that idea.

        When I came back home (I moved to England for law school), I looked around and this was the time when Enron was the “it” story, and accounting firms were collapsing, so I decided to do some accounting courses, and worked as a CGA student for a while. My uncle is an accountant too, so I thought, why not? I quickly realized I didn’t really want to do that after 6 months.

        I then went to a technology college and did some marketing courses. I always wanted to do marketing, but I’m not the creative type. So I was really lost. I did some admin/”marketing” roles, but didn’t find anything I wanted to stick with. I ended up working in transportation logistics for a few years. After I was fed up with my manager, I decided to go back to school, and got my MBA. After I finished, I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I worked at lululemon at a store for a while, then decided I wanted to be a recruiter! So I did that for an agency, and ended being fed up with how unreliable people are.

        It was honestly these last two jobs where I noticed a common thread. I always took on the responsibility of managing social media for the company for fun. I finally decided it was worth looking into. So I left my paid job for an unpaid internship. I loved my job enough that not getting paid for a few months was worth it. I’ve since moved to a better paying, more senior position, and I absolutely love it!

        One of the hardest things is worrying about how you’re going to get by. But honestly, if you can get by with making less money, then take the risk. Don’t worry about what other people think. You may be doing something that’s below what you were doing before, but money doesn’t equal happiness. For me, I will always put happiness, and sanity before money. Money will always come and go.

        Hope that helps a bit. It was kind of long winded!

        Like

  21. I have so many thought on this but wanted to ask if you’ve ever considered mediation or something similar? When I read your self assessment that jumped at me. It seems like you would be amazing at it.

    Like

    • Thanks for the idea. I actually do a lot of conflict negotiation in my current profession – like a lot. The tougher the clients and situation, the more likely I’ll be given the job or brought onto the team as I am quite good at it. The problem is, I don’t love it. So, I am not pursuing it as a primary skill moving forward. 🙂

      Like

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