Career Change

Dear Alistair,

I have worked in my current job for almost two decades. I am about 10 years away from possible retirement, but I don’t think I can last this long. Apart from an awful manager, I no longer have much interest in my job. I am thinking of resigning and looking for a new job or starting my own business. I don’t know what to do and need some advice… please!

If you were 30 or 40 years old, your story would be a surprisingly common one, and you would most likely resign with a view to following your passions. You are much closer to retirement, however, and so there are a number of questions you need to answer before you make a decision.

Firstly, the current economy could present a bit of a stumbling block to leaving your existing place of employment. Giving up a secure job when one cannot be certain of when (and if) one will find a new job in a new field can be a risk. On the other hand your job may not be so secure during this rocky financial climate. If retrenchment is a real possibility and you may be in the ‘firing’ line then it might actually be less risky to follow your passion, either with a new company or as your own boss.

If you do decide to resign and start your own business you will need to be pragmatic and engage in some extremely careful planning. It is often a very good idea to start doing a bit of part time work in the new career you seek before leaving your job, thus testing the water. Also, make sure that you have support, especially from people who can offer advice. And the internet provides one with relatively easy access to individuals who will share your goals and interests. Don’t be too proud to ask for their advice and support!

If, on the other hand, you decide to stay in your current job then you will need to focus on the good aspects. This will help you feel as though you have more control of the situation. In addition, it is crucial to think of ways you can bring what interests you about your desired new career into your current position. Perhaps you could initiate and manage a new project within your company.

Remember that career satisfaction is linked to obtaining work that offers scope for autonomy, a sense of impact and mastery, and creativity. If you can create opportunities for these within your current position you will likely find satisfaction again.

The truth is that people often want to change careers to get out of their current job before stopping to think about whether there might be something they can do to improve their current role. Retraining for a new career can be about avoidance. But, then again, a new career may also allow you to better express who you are.