What To Do If You Hate Your Career- Afolabi Akindele

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Quit!

This sounds like the most logical option. After all, why should you get stuck doing what you hate? If many, in this position, would take this option, I believe there would be less career haters and possibly more career lovers, provided after quitting, they get engaged in something they love doing.

It takes a lot of guts to quit the career one hates. One of the first major considerations before embarking on this choice is often the thought of how the domestic bills will be settled. Children’s school fees, rent, mortgage etc are the first to carry placards in protest against quitting. If this thought is holding you back, then my questions for you are;

  1. Should your career just be a means of paying the bills?
  2. Must you trade meaning for money?
  3. Why should we commit about two third of our time to doing something we do not care about?
  4. Is it a crime to get paid for being happy?

Secondly, our careers give us identity, and because this identity often defines us we are usually afraid of losing it. To some, losing that identity is like being naked and no one is ever comfortable being naked except it is orchestrated by mental or deliberate madness. Others derive self-esteem from the professional adjectives that are used to qualify them. For instance, being called a banker, lawyer, accountant and so on gives a sense of accomplishment of which quitting might just bring emptiness.

Another reason why people don’t have the guts to quit the career they hate is the dreadful thought of ‘What next?’ I believe this is a genuine concern but not without a solution that requires principally asking the right questions and being committed to a discipline of planning and execution.

Additionally, people get stuck and unable to escape from a career path for the lack of opportunities usually caused by limited educational qualification and skills. I am however questioning this consideration. The people of this generation have far more career opportunities than if they were living about a century ago; it is whether people take time to renew or develop their skills to be able to provide quality services or chose to rot away in their current career path that seems to be sucking life out of them.

Am I advocating that you should quit your career if you hate it? Not precisely, but I started on that note to let you know that if push comes to shove, you should be able to take the leap, albeit with some guidance. The essence of life is to continue to become a better version of yourself as stated by Matthew Kelly and if your career, which constitutes a major part of your life, is not helping you achieve this goal, then you should be able to call it off and find something more meaningful to do.

Quitting is one of the options available to you if you hate your career and as a career consultant, I do not always encourage it as a first step. My experience dealing with clients show that there are usually underlying issues to the career hatred but most times, such clients deal with the pressing surface issues. It is always better to unravel some of the underlying issues so that changing career will not end up being fruitless.

To know what to do if you hate your career, we might need to look at it from the angle of how to find the career you love. I believe finding that career you love is far more rewarding than trying to love your career.

There are two approaches to thinking about the possibility of finding the career you love.

The first is what Roman Krznaric called the “Grin and Bear it” approach. The assumptions are that work is a necessary evil to be endured and that the story of work has been that of hardship and drudgery. It therefore submits that people should accept the unavoidable nuances of work and put up with it for as long as the financial needs are being met and they have some time to pursue their ‘real life’ outside work. Since work and career are closely tied together, if your approach to career is ‘grin and bear it’, your solution lies first in doubting these assumptions about work. You need to flush out this mind-set before you can get any help otherwise it will end up being a trip in circles finding the career you love.

The second approach assumes that it is possible to have a life-enhancing career that makes us feel more human. I am going to base my recommendation on this premise that having a loving career is a possibility.

Without sounding prescriptive, there are three steps that you can take to find the career you love.

The first step is to understand the sources of the confusions and fears about leaving the old career and embracing a new one. My recommendation is that you do not focus on the surface issues alone but dig deeper into the underlying issues. You are more likely to nip in the bud the career distortion and you will find the information gathered helpful when you start considering your next career options.

The second step is to dismiss the myth that there is a single perfect career to discover. Rather, identify your possible selves and seek a range of potential career options that may match the different possible selves. That you have always been a human resource practitioner does not mean you cannot do other things outside of HR. You probably got into HR at age range 25 – 30, but you are not going to be the same person at age 40

You must jettison the age long concept of ‘test n tell’ to seeking career options where the report of a psychometric test is used to determine your career options. Experiment with your possible selves based on your values, motivation and interest because they tend to change overtime and do some scenario planning on what could possibly be. You may have found yourself in a career that was probably chosen for you by your significant others or you just got into it because it was the only thing available to do (perhaps, this explains the hatred), you do not have to get stuck in it.

The third step is that you must deliberately rethink your approach to your career development. Experiment with the options you have, act first on your possible selves and reflect later. Self-discovery is a continuous process and the real discovery is made as you apply yourself to the options you have. Take it that nothing is cast in stone but that as you embark on experimenting with your possible selves and options you will find that which you really love.

Taking these three steps is real work but it’s nothing compared to the happiness you have working in a career that you truly love.

Akindele Afolabi is a Career Management Consultant with Career Edge Limited. He helps organisations and individuals to take ownership of their career management initiatives.

 

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