If you are not sure what to do next and how to change career, chances are you are talking to a few friends and family members, maybe even a mentor, or a teacher. Some people are awesome at giving you advice, while others will send you deeper into negative thinking and insecurity. Here’s how to distinguish the two. Let’s start with the bad advice:
- They call you names: you are irresponsible, can’t make up your mind, you are terrible with money, and so on. This can be incredibly damaging stuff to hear, especially if you are suffering from depression, or a bout of low self esteem. And it is not productive advice. Since you are reading this blog, I’ll go on a limb and assume you do want to change your situation: dump anyone talking to you like this, and seek better people to confide in. Often we feel we cannot decide, or get a job, or ask for money because we are experiencing low self worth, depression, lack of self esteem, or other internal dialogue that disempowers us. Hearing that we are somehow to blame will most likely send us into an even worse spiral of negative self talk.
- They believe you cannot do something you like and be happy. While it is true that you might have to adjust your financial expectations based on what you like to do, or you might choose to leave a career because of changes in the field (e.g. what is happening in academia), you are not condemned to being miserable at work. There is something you can do that you will enjoy – it might not look like what you thought you were going to do when you grew up, but you’ll be able to make a living and feel fulfilled. Often, when people tell you you have to choose between making money and doing what you love it’s because they themselves got stuck making that choice and don’t believe a different way is possible.
- They push you to take any job, even if you strongly dislike it. Play with fire at your own risk: if you get a job you hate, the best case scenario is that you won’t like it for a while and get a new job later. Most likely, you will be terrible at it, and might get fired, not get recommendations, or find yourself even more insecure about your ability to get a job that makes you happy. If you have a history of family trauma, are prone to depression, or already had a bad work experience or two, do not put yourself at risk. Wait a little longer, and avoid endangering your mental well being for short term financial gains.
- They push you into a specific profession because that is what pays. While there is a variety of careers available to any of us, we each have some innate predispositions that make it impossible for us to enjoy certain professions. Get to know yourself very well, and then only pick a profession that fits your own personality. I wrote here about being a big picture thinker vs a detail oriented worker, this is just one of the many variables to consider. If you are not sure where to start from, take the Myers Briggs test, it might provide some extra insights.
- They get upset at or avoid you for being down. Look, I get it. We all dislike being around someone who is down, frustrated, or pessimistic. BUT…it is normal to be negative, frustrated, angry, not in a great space when faced with adversity. Manage your well-being, and work through your feelings of disempowerement, anger, and sadness, but also understand that a really good friend will stick around. We all go through dark times, and it’s never pretty.
Alright, let’s talk about something more cheerful, good advice! Here’s what it looks like when your friends are supportive:
- They listen as you express your feelings, only giving advice if you want it. Sometimes we just want to share and it’s good to have someone around who can listen with a compassionate ear.
- They inspire you to move from victim mode, to empowered action. They remind you that the future has not been written yet, and everything is possible. They remind you of all the times in the past you were out of luck, and you made it through. They share the story of someone they know who made it through similar circumstances.
- They remind you that you are awesome no matter what, even if broke, depressed, angry, and unemployed. Because you are always you, and the same wonderful person they love. No matter what.
- They help you in a practical manner if possible: they give you a ride to your interview, come over for a job search, introduce you to someone who can help, buy you lunch. In other words, they show they care. Note: don’t be upset if they don’t – they might not be able to.
- They remind you of your vision and commitments. They help you remember what you want when you are ready to give up, encourage you to reconnect to your passion for your profession or industry, and believe in the best you can be.
- Above all your friends know they don’t have the answers, you do. And they help you get to it by being patient, kind, and a good listener.
It is difficult to make a career change by yourself: lean into your supportive friends, make new ones, and don’t spend too much time around people who make you feel worse. It’s hard to believe change is possible, until it happens. You might not know what your career will look like, but you can believe that if you work hard and smart enough, you will find a profession or new position that’s right for you.