You have been working for several years. Gradually you have been taking your next steps in your career. You now have a good salary. Maybe even you are in the position you’ve always dreamed about. You have also good perspectives for your professional future.
Sometimes when you find some free time in your life a feeling of discomfort appears: everything looks fine but something is missing. You don’t feel anymore this level of energy that has been driving you up to this point. No joy. No feeling of fulfilment. A question appears in your head: should I change my job? Will the new one change anything? After all: it is not so bad here. They appreciate what you do, you have good relationships, they count on you. So, you decide to stay and change nothing.
Perhaps you are just tired? If you take some holiday everything will come back to normal. But your energy quickly diminishes after coming back from your holiday. This feeling of longing comes back even if you don’t really know what it is that you are missing. You perceive yourself as a successful person, who knows what he/she wants and is good at doing it. There is no space for such feelings. So you fill your time even more with other activities in order to diminish it. Or you spoil yourself with another shopping spree or a big chocolate cake
Do you recognize this feeling? If not- don’t read any further. It won’t apply to you.
Sometimes this strange feeling comes back again and again. You get a promotion: an excitement, joy, pride appears, but just for a while. Every now and again this uncomfortable feeling comes back to haunt you. Or rather it stays with you the whole time, hidden, pulsating at the back of your head, manifesting itself at most unexpected moments. Like a splinter in your mind; growing when the going gets tough and disappearing when excitement is felt.
If you feel such a sensation regularly perhaps you need to ask yourself a question: Is it time for a change? Or even a time to take more drastic measures: a revolution in your professional life? But hold on for a second; think about this for a while. It’s illogical, isn’t it? It doesn’t make any sense. You have a good job, you earn good money. You can afford to live a fairly comfortable life. Why take the risk? Only because you don’t feel as happy as you used to?
On the other hand, you (probably) just have one life. Does it make sense to spend the next 15-20 years in such a mood? Will you regret it eventually? Will the feeling of emptiness grow with time? Will it go away if you work hard enough? You may think you could come back to re-think this later… But can you really?
So what can you do then?
In such a situation people usually look for what could be their option in life. They reflect and analyse, searching for clarity and confidence. If it doesn’t bring results, they make tests that are supposed to help in finding their own working identity. Or they ask for help from professional advisors.
Unfortunately the career change doesn’t usually follow this “first reflect, get clarity, design your strategy and implement it” method. Herminia Ibarra in her book “Working identity” beautifully proves that
in such a situation doing comes before reflecting and planning.
Why does it work in such a way?
You are what you do and what you repeat. This shapes you, your perception of the world, your behaviours, etc.
If you want to change the current job, what you currently do can’t help you too much. Different things you do impact your way of thinking and perceiving.
This new action is not necessarily an act of quitting your current job in the search of the new path. Sometimes it happens but seldom. There is a different approach that is more frequent and seems more effective. It is a process of experimenting. Why is it more effective? First of all because the career change is directly interlinked with the change of oneself. We go through a kind of a transformation process, which needs some amount of time and energy. This process usually is also quite confusing or even terrifying. Experimenting allows also for gradual discovery of what really brings us the feeling of satisfaction and joy. Often what really brings the feeling of happiness and fulfilment is not necessarily what we thought it could be. Or not exactly that.
How to do it? There are many options. First option is a kind of a real experiment; kind of testing in a light way “how it would be if I did that…” It is really helpful if you don’t really know what you could do in life. It is good to start with a wide range of possibilities that look potentially interesting for you. And then funnel it based on the results of your trials. You could do it in your free time, or pro bono. You could do it as a temporary job or a side project with your current employer. You could come back to school as well to learn what seems interesting.
The entire process is similar to a scientific experiment: you build hypotheses and one by one you test them, eventually rejecting or approving them. There is however one important difference. You need to use not only your mind for this analysis. You also need to be able to observe your emotional reactions, moods, energy changes that are provoked by these activities.
The capability to be aware of own emotional reactions and sensations is really important in this process.
The feeling of happiness or fulfilment doesn’t appear just because you want it to.
Your feelings of happiness, joy, satisfaction are integral parts of yourself. The capability to become aware of your reactions is the key success measure in this case.
You don’t have too much experience in it? I can presume you don’t- judging by the fact that you found yourself in such a situation. Many people don’t have it. It is not surprising: our culture, education system enables it.
Come back to the balanced life. Have a courage to feel internal signals that arise in your body. Biologically they serve a purpose. Thanks to hundreds of thousands of years of evolution , we can’t feel what we can’t influence. If we can feel something, it means that it brings us information that we can use to influence something. If you don’t perceive this signal- it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. You just have to start looking for it.
Your success at work depends on many internal and external components: your IQ, knowledge, capabilities, networks, luck, etc. Our internal feeling of fulfilment depends on our internal barometer. It would be great if both come together.