I’ve recently shared that I went through a career switch last year so I wanted to dedicate this blog post to go through the things that led up to that decision.
Let me just say, I know that everyone’s situation is different and understand that some people can’t really just outright quit and leave their jobs. This is just my personal story on what went down and some tips I want to share if you’re going through something similar. (And no shade to the company I worked for as it was and still is a great company to work for 😄)
First, some background because I feel like it’s important to know for the rest of the post:
I have my bachelor’s degree in computer science and for more than a decade of my life I’ve been obsessed with all things tech. My first and only job out of college was working as a DevOps Engineer on a contract at one of America’s tech giants, Microsoft, which then landed me a full-time position as a Software Engineer. I worked really really hard to get to where I was both in college and landing the job. Once I finally had my foot in the door, I worked tirelessly to prove I belonged there (imposter syndrome, anyone?). But, I loved everything about it. The culture, the corporate grind, my coworkers, coding, everything. And I was extremely proud of myself for getting to that place in my life and thought that’s what I was meant to be doing with my life.
How do you know when it’s time?
Everyone has bad days in their career. The first thing you need to determine is if the feeling you’re feeling is a result of a bad day/ week/month or if you truly have no interest in your work at all.
For me, when COVID happened it essentially stripped down the job to its core since we were all working from home. I didn’t get to get ready for the day, drive to the office, and see my coworkers everyday. Soon enough, I started to dread Mondays and the thought of logging on for the day brought major anxiety. The resentment started to build up because when the day was done (usually past 5pm) I would have the worst headache and I thought to myself, “Where did the day go? What did I even do today?”. Eventually I realized that the job brought me no fulfillment at all and I started to get extremely selfish with my time because I felt like it was taken away by something that had no interest in.
Forget about the company, benefits, the coworkers you love so much and boil down the job to its core, do you still find joy in the work at the end of the day? Be real with yourself. If the answer is a no or a maybe, then that should be your first sign.
How to navigate this feeling
1. Forget about how you “should” feel and focus on what you’re actually feeling.
Remember in the beginning when I said I worked really hard to get to where I was and that I loved everything about my job? I was holding onto that feeling I had before COVID and tried to talk myself out of how I was feeling in the present.
Forget about how you should feel: I started thinking all of these things: “You shouldn’t feel this way”, “You should feel grateful for having a great job with security, benefits, etc.”, “You worked so hard to get to where you are now, you can’t just throw it all away”, “You shouldn’t feel like this because a lot of people would love this job”.
Focus on what you’re actually feeling: For me, I was absolutely miserable. I had the worst Sunday scaries. I tried whatever I could to avoid logging on for the day, I was absolutely checked out in meetings and didn’t give any F’s to anything at all. Not to be dramatic, but I cried many times because I lost touch with who I was as a person because no matter what I felt like, I kept going back to how I should feel and felt a huge amount of guilt and disappointment in myself for feeling this way when not too long ago I loved it.
But my energy constantly gravitated towards creating content and being creative. It felt so natural to me and I actually enjoyed doing it, even though it would sometimes also take up most of my day.
Always follow what feels right to you and don’t let the guilt of how you should be feeling stop you when deep down you’re just not happy. It’s okay to change.
How to make the switch
1. You will never be truly ready to make the leap.
I was nowhere near where I wanted to be financially before I quit my job to pursue something in social media. I wanted to have all my ducks in a row first: I wanted to have X amount in savings, I wanted to buy my first home, I needed to make X amount consistently a month, etc.
Nothing in this life is permanent. If it really doesn’t work out in the end, then there’s always another job you can apply for or move in with your parents or any family member while you figure it out. You’ll never be truly ready and it’s not worth jeopardizing your mental health for it.
2. But really though, have a plan
Although you will never be 100% ready, I feel like you do need to have some sort of plan. It doesn’t have to be so thought out in detail, but have an idea of what your goals are. In the next year, how will you be closer to that goal and how sustainable is this new venture? Financials wise, I added up all my bills for the month (rent, phone, gas, etc.) and I made to sure I had at least 4-6 months worth saved just in case things go south.
Ultimately, with every reward comes risk. For me, the thought of working another year at my corporate job was unbearable. Life’s too short to work your life away, being miserable while doing it. So, I suggest figuring out what’s most important to you (mental health, stability, etc.) and coming up with a plan to get where you want to be. While you may not be ready to make the switch right away, what is one thing you can do today that will get you closer to where you want to be? Having some kind of plan and taking small actions will make you feel better about the future, rather than dreading each and every day.
I hope this was helpful and encouraging. If I can make the switch, then I know you can too! Just know that sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side – you just have to take a leap of faith. Wishing you the best of luck – you totally go this!