CHANGE do you good?
It depends on whether it’s your job or your career that needs
by Kate Kellogg
The need for balance in your life
worked hard to get this job and keep it. Yet your daydreams take you
outdoors to a landscaping job or behind the counter of that boutique
you’ve always wanted to open. Something is out of sync. Could the time
be ripe for a career change?
"Probably 95 percent of us see our jobs as an extension of our
lives," says James Danielski, president of Career Planning Specialists
of Plymouth, Michigan. "We define ourselves socially and professionally
by the work we do.
"When you realize you’re just driving to work every
day and can’t articulate any purpose for what you’re doing, it’s time to
do some soul searching."
• You are unhappy with the basic nature of your work.
• You aren’t using your main abilities and skills.
• You have limited opportunities in your current field.
• You didn’t want to enter this field in the first place, and only
did so because of circumstance.
Phyllis Perry, founder of the Ann Arbor, Michigan New
Options Counseling for Women, equates career satisfaction with lifestyle
satisfaction. Unless the two are harmoniously balanced, one won’t achieve
satisfaction either on the job or at home, she maintains.
"If you feel burned out, stressed, and unfulfilled, that
balance isn’t there," she says. "You need to do a personal inventory and ask
some key questions about who you are and where you want to go." Work-related
questions might include:
Are your job activities no longer challenging but boring and routine? Have you learned all there is to know or that you care to know about your line of work?
Is your work schedule compatible with your personal
schedule and family life?
Have you hit a glass ceiling in terms of both financial
rewards and personal fulfillment from your job?
If your whole life is TGIF, then it’s time to make a change ASAP!
"In other words, if your whole life is TGIF, then it’s time to make a change ASAP," Perry says. "But first you need to establish that you are unhappy with your current career and not just the job. If you’re just having conflicts with superiors or trouble with office politics, we may be talking about just a job change."
Job crisis or career crisis?
Career counselors Diane Holloway and Nancy Bishop emphasize the importance of distinguishing between deep career uncertainties and dissatisfaction
with basic job conditions. In their book,
Before You Say ‘I Quit!’,
suggest considering a career change if
the following is true:
What’s keeping you?
Today, workers have
little reason to remain
in such an unsatisfying
situation. Just in
the last two decades,
the American workforce
has trended more and more toward
multiple jobs and careers.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that
job tenure for men aged 35 and over has
decreased since 1983 and that women can
now expect to change jobs an average of
nine times over a lifetime. The average 32-
year-old in America has already worked
for nine different firms, according to the
U.S. edition of The Economist (Jan. 29,
While people often change jobs to increase
income, studies have shown that they most
often change careers to find more meaningful
and creative work, note Holloway and
For example, 32-year-old John Sweeny had
gone into corporate real estate right out of
college only to find out later that comedy was
his true forte, according to a Forbes profile
(March 9, 1998). He is now much happier
running his comedy workshop, despite his
income drop – from $100,000 per year to
about $10,000 per year.
Fortunately, few people
experience such a draconian
salary cut as they pursue
their ideal careers. What
holds most people back from
change is fear of risk.
Fighting fear with information
"Yet life is full of risks we take for granted,"
says Danielski. "We base our lives on
the white line down the middle of the
road, on a piece of colored glass at the
intersection. So why not take a risk on a
To overcome such fears, arm yourself with
information, ask yourself still more questions,
create a plan, and then take the necessary
"The toughest question I ask is ‘What did
you do today to accomplish your goal?,’ "
says the action-oriented Danielski. "Have
you contacted any prospective employers
yet or talked with people who work in
your field of interest?
"One of my clients who wants to be a documentary
producer talked to everyone he
could find about the good, bad, and ugly
aspects of that field. He put together a strategy
and is now working on it in California."
Perry would ask a woman who wants to go
into art marketing if she would be willing to
go to New York and take a 16-month course
from Sotheby’s Institute of Art on historic
preservation and connoisseurship. Perry
might steer a person interested in behind the-
scene aspects of theater toward a university-
level arts management program.
"The opportunities are out there to get the
knowledge you need to build new careers,"
she says. "But you have to be motivated
enough to do the research, take creative
risks and follow your intuition."
Getting a mid-life education
Even financial obstacles are surmountable.
Many colleges and universities offer scholarships
and experiential programs for people
changing careers in midlife.
Those who choose to upgrade their skills
and develop new ones through continuing
education will not be alone. Money (Dec.
1997) reports that an estimated 45 percent
of today’s college students are 25 or older
compared to only 28 percent in 1970.
You may already possess the skills for
your new career and need only to learn to
apply them differently. You may even find
that you would enjoy the work you are
doing right now in a different context.
"Many people are doing the right thing in
the wrong place," says Danielski. "The
electrical engineer who hates his job in
the auto industry may find his heart is
really in the medical industry, where he
could apply all his existing skills."
Want to explore your career options?
Oakland County Community College’s Career Centers, located
on each campus, offer counseling to registered students as
as to Oakland County residents. A special computer software
program allows individuals to complete a self-assessment of
their strengths, talents, interests and personalities, to
potential career matches, and discover information about job
responsibilities and salaries. For more information, contact
OCC at 248-341-2346