17: When Should I Change Careers?


There are times where we start feeling like we’re at a crossroads with our career. Should I stay or should I go? If I go, where to next? If this is you, you’re going to want to listen carefully to today’s episode.


Of all the questions that I get, the most frequent ones I get are about changing careers. I know this can be a tough one to think through. You’ve got family concerns, fear of the unknown and a worry about rocking the boat. If you’ve got a pretty good life, why take the risk? When I chose my first career, I chose it based on a desire for certainty and stability. I was in business school and I heard about this major called “Logistics, Transportation and Supply Chain Management”. I knew several people getting jobs in this field in my business fraternity so I thought, “well this sounds like I’ll get a job”, “this sounds safe”, “this makes sense” – and off I went. After I graduated from undergrad, I went into a supply chain management development program. It was a 2 year rotational development program where I would work in 4 different roles in headquarters as well as wherever the business needed me. Fast forward several years later and I realized that while I got some great real world experiences working in both the corporate headquarters as well as in a distribution center managing 1st and 2nd shift operations, work wasn’t really exciting me. I had returned to a corporate role and it was there I realized that I didn’t want just a safe job anymore, I wanted a job that had some status and made a lot more money. This is when I decided I was going to have to play at another level. I studied for and took my GMATs, I applied to MBA programs and got into Columbia which was my top choice because I also wanted to move back to New York and be closer to my family. I got a job at McKinsey and all these moves satisfied my need at the time for significance. For recognition, rewards, and a desire to be successful. 


Then a series of events occurred that got me changing it all again. My father died suddenly, we had our first child, and I experienced first hand the death of a team member’s partner. It was so utterly devastating, so earth shattering, so unexpected and real that I couldn’t go back to the way things were. I knew right then right there that life could never be the same. I witnessed how short life truly was. I knew now how unexpected and quick death can come and I had an insane sense of urgency to make a difference with the time I had left. I wanted to make a difference in the world. I wanted to have an impact. I wanted to serve people. I wanted to use grow and live life differently. This is when my basic needs of wanting certainty and significance in my life started being surpassed by two spiritual needs, growth and contribution.


If you listened to my podcast #9 on “What Do I Really Want to Do In Life”, you can see how a job satisfies that initial desire to be certain and have stability, how a career then satisfies that need to be significant and have recognition, but a vocation comes when you have a desire to grow and give back. This becomes then a spiritual pursuit. One that’s coming from the heart. And when you’ve hit a place where you’re asking what to do next with your job or career, it’s usually because your needs are starting to change.


When is the right time to make your move? It’s when you decide. Whether you make that decision today or a year from now isn’t really the point, but you do need to decide. In this process, you will recognize within yourself if you’re more of a logical decision maker, or an emotional decision maker. If you’re a logical decision maker like I’ve been, I feel the pull in my heart to make a move but I use logic to override it until I can no longer bear it. Those that make more logical decisions often regret or think that they’ve stayed too long in a career, relationship, or situation. They miss opportunities and wish they made their move sooner. But, those that are emotional decision makers will rush into things and often realize that they may have bit off more than they can chew or that they’ve made a rash decision.


Here’s a process you can use if you’re an emotional decision maker and want to refrain from making a hasty decision. Use a filter. Will this decision of changing my career bring more meaning into my life? Will this decision bring more emotional energy into my life in terms of excitement, passion, satisfaction or joy? Does this make sense for me to do right now?

If you’re a logical decision maker and want to keep from staying in another thing too long, ask yourself these same questions and if the answer is yes, it’s time to decide. Will this decision of changing my career bring more meaning into my life? Will this decision bring more emotional energy into my life in terms of excitement, passion, satisfaction or joy? Does this make sense for me to do right now?


Progress is made only by taking action.

It’s only when you take action that a dream becomes real. Don’t be held back because you don’t know HOW it will happen because if you know the WHAT and the WHY, you can figure out the HOW. The decision you’re thinking through right now may just be if you actually want to make a change. You have to make that decision first before you think through the next decision. That next decision is what. Then the next decision is when. It’s always a good time to change careers if it make sense right now for you in your circumstance. There are so many ways to change careers that feel safe if you’re not wanting to take risks. There are also ways to change careers that are exponential if that’s what you want. The question will always be, what do you want? 


If you think that your happiness is going to come from your next career, think again.

Happiness and satisfaction can come from your career but what your happiness and satisfaction will really come from is your ability to grow, to progress, to take action and move forward in the direction of your goals. YOU are the “it” factor, not the career or the job. When you take yourself seriously as the “it” factor, you realize that you are your most important work. It’s your job to really understand how to harness your potential by understanding who you are and what you want.

The average person changes their career 3-5 times in their lives. Not jobs, careers. Think about what life will be like a year from now if you’re still in the same place you’re at. How would you feel? Whether you want it to or not, the time will pass anyways. That saying is what made me realize that even if I already spent years building up expertise and I wanted to pivot, that time was an illusion. Time is a construction of my mind, similar to an emotion. I could decide how I want to feel about time. I either had all the time in the world or it was too late. I chose the former. And it has made all the difference. It’s time for you to decide for yourself. Is it it time?

If you want help in this area, I offer 1:1 coaching and am currently offering a free 30 minute life design coaching where we will work on what you want next so that you can take action to get you there. Progress changes the quality of your life. Instead of spending your time just making a living, let’s take the time to design your life. You can go to www.mayempson.com/contact to schedule a complimentary session.

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