We all have the right to earn a living while doing things that inspire us. You don’t have to spend the rest of your life in a career that no longer serves you.
Why? Well, because life’s too short to be stuck in the wrong job.
Although it can feel terrifying and overwhelming, hope waits on the other side. I’m here to tell you this:
Career reinvention is not only possible, but it’s possible for you.
Continue reading to discover what to do when you hate your job and how to pursue a new direction that brings gratification, helps you find your purpose in life, and aligns with who you are.
First of all: You’re not alone, and you’re not crazy
If you’ve considered changing your line of work and pursuing your dream job, you’re not alone, and you’re not crazy. 20% to 40% of people report hating their job.
So why don’t they leave?
Starting a new career can feel challenging, frightening, impossible, daunting, overwhelming — all of these emotions fit.
I understand, in my own way, those fears, the overwhelming feelings, and the self-doubt. I’ve worked in jobs where every day takes a piece of my soul.
Life’s too short to be stuck at a job you hate.
“Staying in a job you don’t like is disrespectful to yourself, and your loved ones,” – Suze Orman
Staying in a toxic work environment like that can cost you a lot:
- Staying stuck at a job you hate causes chronic stress — and stress-related health consequences.
- A job you don’t like affects mental health, leading to depression and anxiety.
- A job you hate kills confidence and self-esteem.
- Studies link unhappiness at work with unhappiness at home.
- While stuck at a job you hate, you hold yourself back from doing what you really want to do.
The good news? If you feel stuck at a job you hate, it’s never too late to define what success means to you in a brand new context.
You have the power to make a career change at any time, really. I’ve worked with people in their 40s, some in their 50s and 60s. I’ve even coached reinventors in their 70s looking for a new path in their retired years.
You’ll discover hope on the other side when you realize:
- Many people have reinvented themselves.
- There’s a way through this chaos.
And remember — changing careers isn’t the only solution when you’re unhappy at work. Particularly if the problem isn’t the career path, so much as a toxic work environment, superiors with aggressive or ineffective communication styles, or other serious issues with the workplace or the job itself.
You don’t have to expect your work to deliver you with something you’re passionate about. Your work can also be a means to an outstanding, passion-filled personal life.
“Don’t look for a job you are passionate about, instead find a job that gives you the freedom to do what you love.”Jon Nastor
Reasons people get stuck in a job (and why you don’t have to remain that way)
We all want something that has meaning, something that we can do well, something that meets a need and compensates sufficiently.
But much of conventional thought and opinion leads people to make decisions against their judgment. You stay stuck at a job you hate, unable to pinpoint which direction to go, asking yourself:
“What will people say?!”
The thoughts and opinions of those closest to you may prevent you from pursuing a new path. Spouses, parents, and roommates have some sort of vested interest in what you do for a living. It scares them to think that you might change: Maybe you’ll leave them. Maybe a career change will influence the amount of cash flow coming into the home.
Plus, change is a very frightening thing.
Some of the opposing thoughts will come from people who wish they had the courage to pursue their dream jobs: those who throw water on your flame. They may not do this intentionally but as a human response to resist something that scares them.
“How will I sustain my income and lifestyle?”
This stands out as one of the most common myths I come across in coaching. After working with reinventors, I’ve seen, and experienced personally, a few ways that this plays out:
- Switching to a new career actually increases your annual salary.
- Switching to a new career, you earn close to the same amount.
- When shifting careers, you can choose to downsize your lifestyle, requiring less cash flow while you figure it out.
- Some people decide to stay with their 9 to 5 and find meaning outside of how they earn a living through a hobby they love.
“What about all the time and money spent on my education?”
Myth: Your Major = Your Career
Just because you switch to a new field, doesn’t mean your studies go to waste. Personally, I have worn many different hats:
I earned a Bachelor of Arts that put me on a path to become an elementary school teacher. After 15 years of teaching, it felt like the right moment to reinvent myself. When I left, I thought that degree would go to the wayside.
Instead, I found my background in teaching cultivated skills that I carry throughout my many career reinventions. I developed leadership qualities while teaching, which I put to use as a project manager, coach, consultant, and founder of SoulSalt. I learned to speak in front of groups, which I apply when giving speeches for TEDx Talks or when mentoring.
Higher learning expands your horizons to new ways of thinking, preparing you for many professions. Your experiences never leave you. They enrich you and follow you as you grow into new endeavors.
Life’s too short to be stuck in the wrong job, and your major does not need to equal your career path.
Life is not linear
In our younger years, life seems laid out before us in a sequence of steps: finish school, start a career, climb up the corporate ladder. How many of you saw your life unfolding this way?
We tend to think of life in a linear way, but many of you probably realize that it doesn’t work like that. The road to life winds through all kinds of unexpected twists, turns, and roundabouts.
That means you need to stop applying linear thinking to your career. What once made sense for your profession in your 20s may change as you get older. And that’s okay! Everyone goes through the same process of redefining themselves and their career throughout different stages of life.
What to do when you hate your job
Many people think that starting over with your career simply means deciding what to do next, making a plan, and executing that plan. But that’s not how life usually works, is it?
Reality tends to fly in the face of the logic. You can’t predict what comes after each planned step. You may try something and come to find you don’t like that direction. Then what?
I call this way of approaching career reinvention as the “thinking” aspect. While the “thinking” component certainly plays a role in implementing career change, it only forms one part of the big picture.
ExperiMentor: Let experience become your mentor
Don’t just think about it. Experiment with It.
The bulk of reinvention, if you want to do it well and feel satisfied, involves experimenting. That means trying things out, seeing how they work, and adapting based on results. Let the experiments mentor you, nudge you, nurture you, and inform you of:
- What you enjoy
- What works for you
- What you value
- Where you are valued
You can start with baby steps by giving different fields a try. You could take a bridge job and test something short term. It can also mean taking a class or volunteering. Experimenting with new things will reveal your strengths, passions, and areas of interest — and rule out things that you just don’t enjoy.
Remember: Experimenting doesn’t just boil down to cooking spaghetti noodles, throwing one against the wall, and seeing if it sticks. You’ll need to take some time to see what works for you and what doesn’t.
Have some patience with yourself, believe in yourself, and trust the process.
Your best life begins outside of your comfort zone
What emotions do you most frequently experience when facing career reinvention?
Below you can find some answers I’ve heard in the past:
- “Fear and confusion.”
- “Uncertainty about how to move forward.”
- “I don’t love what I do now, but I don’t know what I would love to do. Do I actually have a passion buried somewhere?”
- “Feeling of inadequacy.”
Do any of these answers sound familiar?
The William Bridges’ Transition Model demonstrates how those feelings of confusion, uncertainty, and excitement naturally arise as you come to terms with a new situation.
Before embarking on career reinvention, you may feel the “ending” emotions of pain, denial, confusion, resistance, or even excitement. This is a natural part of leaving your old work identity behind.
As you persist through the transition, those unstable emotions evolve into settled feelings of accomplishment, energy, and relief.
Navigating the transition model
The following strategies will help as you navigate the transition from ending a job you hate to transitioning to a new career.
If you feel unsure, keep learning through books, classes, and people who are a few steps ahead of you on the journey. Whatever you need to know will flow to you through that “Learning IV.”
Sometimes people try to reinvent too soon. Trust the timing of your life. Persist and allow things to take their course, whether it means a year, two years, or five years. You can find ways to keep earning while you learn, even if that means staying part-time in your old position.
Reinvention can involve a lot of stress which makes self-care critical. Don’t forget to nurture yourself with proper sleep, food, water, and breaks.
You can’t achieve your dreams by playing it safe. Have the courage to stick your neck out a little and take risks. You never know — if you ask for what you want, you just might get it!
Creative pursuits make you happier, healthier, and smarter. Find a creative outlet, whether drawing, writing in a journal, or making music to keep your mind sharp and discover or cultivate passions.
Have a Mentor or Coach
During an unsure situation like a career reinvention, every now and then you need guidance from someone other than yourself to keep you from getting stuck.
Discover vs. Know
Discovering is different than knowing — it means accepting uncertainty. Be willing to explore. If you have to be sure of the outcome, you’ll stay stuck. When prepared to discover as you grow and experiment, eventually you will find the right path.
Continuing your reinvention journey
Who said work is not supposed to be enjoyable? Today we have more abundance and more freedom than ever. That will only continue as technology develops. The expectation in the future will change from “What is your job?” to “What do you do with your time and energy?”
Work will become more of a sacred calling and less of a duty.
If you’re willing to dig down to the bedrock of what you’re made of, you’ll find an intersection. Between your talents, experiences, and passions — and a need you can fulfill. Somebody needs you and the configuration you can create.
Start thinking of yourself as many possible “selves” and do some excavation.
What are you now?
I encourage you to take at least one step based on what you’ve read. Think about how you would describe the difference between where you are today and where you want to be.
Journaling can provide a great tool to assess these questions and give perspective so you can see when you get closer to actualizing those goals.
What are you going to do about career reinvention next?
Life’s too short to be stuck in the wrong job. Having a mentor, coach, and community by your side will support you to stay motivated throughout the process of ending a job you hate and accomplishing career reinvention.
At SoulSalt, we help guide you through the next steps, even if you feel unsure of where to go from here, or how to get there from where you are right now. Here’s how we can help:
- Stay updated by keeping an eye out for emails and upcoming reinvention tips, resources, and events.
- Take yourself to the next level with our self-guided DIY reinvention download.
- Go big by scheduling one-on-one coaching with me and find out if you’re ready for your reinvention.