Is changing careers a luxury? There’s a good case to make that we should actively shape our careers in such a way that it will not negatively affect other areas of our lives, including our physical and mental health, family, and other relationships.
Changing careers is seen as a luxury by many people. That may be because in today’s economy people are happy if they have a job at all or anything that resembles a career.
“How can I possibly afford to change careers”, is a common question. The process of transitioning to a new career requires time and sometimes monetary loss.
I would like to ask the opposite: How can you afford not to make a career change if it is necessary?
In some or even many cases, changing careers can be a necessity.
Changing your career ‘just’ because you’re bored with your current job or career is a less strong reason. Once you change careers, it’s like you’ll encounter similar problems.
But there are cases where you cannot afford not to change careers, e.g. if you have a strong aversion, a strong dislike toward your profession or the industry you’re working in, to the point that it takes a toll on your mental health.
Let’s say you work a nine-to-five job. That means you’re working eight to nine hours a day. Sometimes you have to work overtime till six or seven, and sometimes even on the weekends. Add to that the time that you need to get to work and get back home as well as the time that you need until you calm down and relax after a long stressful day at work.
In the day there are 24 hours – eight hours that you should ideally spend sleeping. That leaves us with 16 hours. So now the question is:
Why would you spend nine or ten hours out of those 16 hours every day doing something that you hate?
Nine or ten hours is probably on the lower side. If you have a very demanding job then you are likely to spend ten to twelve hours every day on it.
The thing is that your job or your career is not isolated from the rest of your life.
There are so many ways in which your experience in your career affects other areas of your life. Including your health, your relationships and personal well-being.
Here I’m not talking about minor discomforts at works such as having trivial issues with some people you work with. Or maybe not being excited about a particular project that you are working on at the moment.
I’m talking about a profound gap between what you are doing on a daily basis in your career versus what activities bring you joy.
It’s important to identify what skills you love to apply and what brings meaning to your life. Of course, we can also bring meaning to any job. But given the choice, why wouldn’t we choose one with the best fit?
Identify how big this gap is.
If the gap is very small then there are ways to work around it. You can stick to your career and fill the gap of unhappiness by spending more time engaging in hobbies or in things that bring you meaning and purpose.
And for some people that might mean more shopping, more drinking or binging Netflix. Is this the way you want to spend most of your life?
You have to be very realistic in assessing that gap. If the gap between what you’re doing now and what you would ideally like to do is too huge, then there is nothing that can compensate for that.
So how big is this gap? How pressing is it to change your career?
No one can answer this question but you.
And even you will only be able to answer this question if you know yourself well enough.
The decision of whether or not to change your career might take some time.
Before I changed careers, I went through something that I call an immersion process.
An immersion process is a process during which you find out what your ideal career would be and what activities you like to spend most of your time on.
Which skills do you like to employ your skills? In which areas of life do you want to contribute something?
The answer is seldom found through soul searching and reading tons of self-help books alone.
The most effective way to answer this question is to try out the activities and skills you’re interested in. Dabble a bit in the career that you see yourself working in. Also, talk to people that have experienced it.
Going back to the question: Can you afford not to change your career if the gap between what you are currently doing in your career and what you would ideally like to do is too big?
I would say, no.
Sooner or later, such a situation will produce externalities. Except if you’re a saint, and you can endure any situation without protest.
The existence of this gap will have negative impacts on the other areas of your life that may be irreversible.
This includes your health. If in the long term you are very unhappy with a particular situation and you don’t do anything about it, it can cause you an enormous amount of stress.
Right now you may not be aware of it, but you will feel the negative effect in the long term. Even our physical body can tell and will absorb our mental stress, and express is in the form of illness.
Apart from affecting your health and stress level, this gap will also affect your relationships.
It’s very difficult to be happy with other people or contribute to a happy atmosphere if you are unhappy.
Let’s not even think about making other people happy, because chances are that you are actively making them unhappy.
Of course, everyone is responsible for their happiness. But your unhappiness, your bad mood, and your negativity will spread and affect other people around you.
If you’ve ever met a super grumpy person who’s acting like everyone is his enemy, then you know what I mean.
This situation if not dealt with, will have a domino effect.
If we believe that our health, our family, and our relationships are among the most important things in our lives, and we know that our careers is negatively affecting them, then how can we afford not to change careers?
Wouldn’t it be worth changing careers?
If we look at it this way then changing careers is not a luxury at all. On the contrary, it’s even our responsibility to actively shape our careers in such a way that it will not produce those externalities.
It’s not going to be easy. It will take a long time and it will be very difficult, especially in the beginning.
But if it’s truly necessary to change your career, and if at least you’ve given yourself the chance to try, then you’ll ensure that you will have less regret in the future.