Author: Emily Manley, Career & Interview Coach

Many of our career change clients have studied, trained and worked often for years, or even decades, in positions and industries that require a significant amount of knowledge, expertise and specialist skills. These include scientists, lawyers, doctors, dentists, designers and psychologists. These positions of ‘occupational prestige’ are not easily acquired or earned, and often become a fundamental part of a person’s identity. When these individuals come to the realization that they are highly dissatisfied with their work and their role in society, they often find it difficult to reconcile.  Some of the questions they ask themselves include:

“why am I unhappy, I have the greatest job in the world according to everyone else?”

“why am I being so ungrateful, people would kill to be in my position!”

“how can I simply throw away all those years of study and training?”

“what will my (partner/wife/husband/mother/father) think if I chuck the towel in now?”

Due to this high level of cognitive dissonance, these individuals tend to stay in their careers for much longer than they probably should. Often this is at the expense of their health, wellbeing and relationships – sometimes even their lives.

It is true that we can’t all work in our passions –  for one thing, many ‘passions’ have no potential to make a viable salary and we all have bills to pay. However, if you have the distinct feeling that you are in a position that is not aligned with your true values, this is a recipe for long term disillusionment and unhappiness. It has to change.

Why is ‘following your heart’ so important in career change

‘Follow your heart’ sounds a bit fluffy and cliché, but when it comes to making a career change, the heart plays a vital role.  Who you are as a person, and what your true values are, should inform every decision you make. Whether it is around how you conduct yourself at work, what type of friend you are, how you treat strangers – it all comes down to your values. This is no different when we talk about careers.

Many people in roles of occupational prestige have gone down the path for reasons other than it being a true interest or calling. It may have been because they got high grades, there may have been a family expectation, or they just didn’t know what else they wanted to do.

How can a career coach help you decide

When we meet with clients who are in these positions and have found themselves feeling this way, we work closely with them to identify their personal values. What are the things in their life that really light them up? When do they feel totally ‘in flow’?  When do they find it hard to stop talking in a conversation because they are so energised by the topic? If they could do absolutely anything for a job, what would it be? If they had a week to themselves totally free, what would they choose to do?

These questions help our clients to get to the heart of what is important to them and what they truly value.  When we list these out and check them against their current positions, more often than not the position does not reflect who they are at their core.

If you feel conflicted over the status of your job versus what your heart is telling you, then contact Leah, Emily or Clare at Relaunch Me to uncover your values and narrow down some careers that will be more aligned to who you really are.