Am I in the Wrong Career or Going Through a Rough Patch?

19 August 2021

Whether it’s your first or six hundredth day on the job, there will always be speed bumps and hurdles that will undoubtedly pop up. But what happens when these bumps turn into mountains? For some of us, there comes a time where we begin to question our professional identity. So, how do you tell whether you’re in the wrong career entirely or just going through a rough patch?

Read on for some tips and hints that will help you figure out whether it’s time to change jobs completely, or if you need to hold on and weather the storm.

What’s a career rough patch?

First off, it’s time to figure out if those feelings you’ve been feeling are a work slump or if they’re morphing into something bigger. Rough patches can happen for several reasons, whether that be adjusting to a new job, transitioning to a manager role, and trying to ‘find your groove’, miscommunication with a colleague, and even just general workplace anxiety. Going through rough patches is a normal part of life, as it helps differentiate the good from the bad. Career Coach, Eliana Goldstein highlights some common feelings you  might associate with having a rough time at work:

  • You’re starting to experience regular ‘Sunday scaries and Monday dread’. Overall, your anxiety about work is just really growing.
  • You feel like you’ve plateaued, and you don’t see what a potential next step at your current job could be.
  • You no longer feel connected to the company mission or values.
  • You’re experiencing signs of burnout.

If you’re starting to experience some of these feelings, you might be in a bit of a career slump. ‘Usually, we’re in a slump because we feel unhappy but have no idea what to do instead’ says Eliana. ‘I recommend working on creating a vision of where you would love to be in your career in a perfect world (imagine it’s one year from now and everything’s going great). A clear vision will start getting you motivated.’

Some other ways you can work your way out of a rough patch include:

  • Make new friends at work – Socialising is a big part of work, so too is making friends. If you’re in a bit of a rough patch, try making a new friend at work or even strengthening an existing bond with a colleague.
  • Try something new – Sometimes, our slump can be because we’re in a routine and are bored with what we’re doing. Branch out and try something new and exciting that makes you look forward to going to work every day. Find something that relights that flame.
  • Leave your work at work – Something that’s gotten harder to do during the pandemic is leaving our work at work. With so many of us working from home, the line between work and home is heavily blurred. If you are working from home, try to clock off when you ‘clock off’. Turn all your email notifications on your phone off. Better yet – don’t ever get your work emails on your phone.
  • Talk to someone – Whether it’s a partner, friend, family member or colleague, have a chat with someone. Let them know you’re going through a bit of a rough patch and see if you can get some advice. If you need further help, you can reach out to free services like Beyond Blue or Lifeline for support.

What if these feelings aren’t going away?

If your rough patch at work doesn’t seem to be going away, there’s a chance you may be in the wrong career. Eliana says some signs you could be in the wrong career include:

  • You don’t feel connected to the company and its values, and you’re having a hard time working for them and promoting their mission.
  • You don’t enjoy most of the work, tasks, and projects you’re doing and feel like you’re constantly forcing yourself to do your work.
  • You don’t feel challenged or feel like you have an opportunity to grow or further your skills.

Realising you’re in the wrong career can be a daunting thing – especially if you’ve been in the workforce for years. The thought of sacrificing a steady income and stable hours to pursue another avenue may feel overwhelming, but it might just be the best thing you ever do. If you know you’re in the wrong industry, there’s no need to quit your current job until you land your dream gig. ‘Focus on networking and connecting with individuals in the companies/fields you’re interested in, exploring new opportunities and waiting until you truly find the right fit’ says Eliana.

Some other things you can do if you know you’re in the wrong career are:

  • Really think about it – Are you truly in the wrong career or do you just clash with your boss or team? It’s easy to think we’re in the wrong career if we’re having negative experiences every day with the people we work with. Try to visualise doing the same job you’re doing but with a group of close friends. Are you still feeling these emotions, or would you feel content doing the job?
  • Consider your transferrable skills – What skills do you possess from your current job that you could take with you to another industry? Are there certain customer service skills, admin skills or program knowledge you could bring to a new field?
  • Do lots of talk and research – Before leaving your job, it’s important to do research – and a lot of it! Especially if you’ve been in your current position for a lengthy period, it’s crucial that you’re researching the industry you would like to go into in-depth. Is it something you could really see yourself doing, or does it just look nice on paper? Talking to people in the industry as well as career counsellors can help you to find your path.
  • Accept that you will be starting over – Know and truly accept that if you’re having a dramatic career change, you may have to start right back down at the bottom and work your way up. This might involve taking a large pay cut – especially if you’re high up in your current industry. Depending on the career you want to move into, there may be an element of study involved, so be prepared to head back to school.

Whether you’re in the wrong career, or just going through a rough patch, it’s important to differentiate between the two so you know what you need to do to address the situation. Lean on your support network and reach out to a career counsellor if you find yourself struggling.

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