Quite recently I turned to my partner and said, “I’m sorry for all those years I was a misery.” Less than 3 years ago I was stuck in a job I hated. The work felt meaningless and I was unfulfilled. I was exhausted and binge eating to cope with the stress. Naturally my weight fluctuated (mainly up) and I had terrible acne that I just couldn’t get rid of.
If you have a similar story, I’m not surprised and we’re definitely not alone. Being unhappy or unfulfilled at work is a worrying trend that can spill over into all other aspects of your life. That seems pretty obvious since work is where we spend most of our time.
Gallup polled 25 million people over a number of years and the statistics make for some shocking reading:
63% of people aren’t engaged and feel unfulfilled at work. Another 24% of people actively hate their jobs! This leaves a mere 13% of people polled who felt engaged and happy with their current career.
In a separate study conducted by the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF), they found that a whopping 55% of Londoners felt that they had made the wrong choice of career and wanted to do something else. This number increases to 66% when looking at Millennials (18-34 year olds.) It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when people who are only a couple of years into their careers know they’ve made a huge mistake and are looking at 40 – 50 more years of feeling unhappy and unfulfilled at work!
In another study on Millennials by Ernst & Young, they found that 70% of young professionals would rather set up their own business as entrepreneurs than carry on in their current careers.
Unsurprisingly the over 55’s were the most content at work with only 19% looking to make a change. At this stage in your career you’re either happy with what you’re doing or resigned to the fact that you need to grind it out for a few more years until retirement.
With so many people unfulfilled in their careers, what exactly, is stopping them from making a change?
Unfortunately, people will generally not make a change because of a variety of fears. In the same study conducted by the LSBF, they found that:
29% don’t make a change due to the fear of a lack of financial security This is totally understandable. You have a stable monthly paycheque and a switch in career may mean taking a pay cut as you start from the beginning of your new career. If you decide to go the entrepreneurial route instead you can forget about a stable monthly paycheque when you’re starting out!
15% cite a fear of failure as the main reason for staying where they are. Another way of putting this is that they have a fear of the unknown. They know they can accomplish or perform the tasks their current job asks of them and they know how much they will be paid to perform those tasks. To pack it all in for a career that you might not be able to perform in is a very scary prospect indeed!
20% simply don’t know what they want to do. My personal opinion is that it’s ridiculous to ask a 16 or 17 year old who is still learning about themselves and slowly becoming an adult to decide what to do with the 50 years of their lives. That, however, is an article for another time.
So, what’s the solution for all those people stuck in unfulfilling careers? Well, the steps outlined below are the ones I took when I first started my journey from being corporate employee number to a successful entrepreneur and they’re equally relevant for those who are looking to switch careers instead.
- ASK YOURSELF THE QUESTION: “WHAT DO I LOVE / WANT TO BE DOING?”
If you asked the 66% of people who wanted to change careers, what exactly it is that they want to be doing instead, chances are, only a small number of them would actually have an answer. They only know that they don’t want to be doing whatever it is they’re currently doing! This is an important first step in creating a plan to do what you love.
- GET GOAL SETTING + USE YOUR CURRENT JOB AS THE ULTIMATE STEPPING STONE
Once I had decided to make a change I set a financial goal that I was comfortable with before leaving my career. Each paycheque I received brought me one step closer to being able to quit and go out on my own.
- BE READY TO TAKE ACTION
I can’t sugar coat this one for you, you’re going to have to work quite a bit to get things moving. One of the things I help my clients identify is their unique gifts and what their true purpose is. I believe we all have a destiny. Once we are connected to our mission and have clarity on our path, the work should be something exciting and you look forward to doing. Whether it’s putting in the hours learning a new career to catch up to your peers or starting your business while still in your 9-5 like I did, it’s going to mean weekends and evenings spent working. You’ll need to ask yourself whether working like that and making short term sacrifices is worth being happy for the rest of your career? The answer isn’t always going to be “yes.”
- GET SUPPORT
If you’re switching careers, try and speak to others who’ve also made the change as well as successful people in your dream career. Find out about pitfalls you should avoid and the things you should be concentrating on. If you’re becoming an entrepreneur enlist the help of someone who’s also made the change. They could help compress your timeline, avoid mistakes and be the difference between success and failure.
Vanessa Hallick is CEO of vanessahallick.com and a Mindset and Business coach who helps entrepreneurs fulfil their calling and eclipse their old corporate income by doing work they love.