Download our guide to discover your values and what you really want.

    5 things to try when you can’t change careers

    Three things to try when you re unclear about your career direction

    As a career coach, I spend a lot of time with clients helping them to work out their career direction. Some are people in senior leadership roles who feel that their lives are lacking purpose, many want to open creative businesses and others are professionals who have come through an extensive period of study only to discover that they don’t love the career they’ve chosen.

    If you met these clients, it’s very likely you’d perceive all of them as successful and high functioning. My guess is that their colleagues and acquaintances don’t even know that they’re struggling. They are intelligent, capable people who care about performing their roles well and making a difference in some way.

    They’re also practical and they know that it isn’t always possible to find a career that meets every one of their needs. In many cases, they’re locked into lifestyles and income categories that make it more difficult to create change.

    When you’re not in love with your role and you watch a clip like this one (which I love, by the way), you may end up feeling disheartened. In an ideal world, all of us would find work that we love but it’s always that simple.

    If you’re experiencing career direction frustration and it’s not possible to change roles or create a new career path right now, there are other things you can do to create change.

    1. Accept that no role will be perfect

    Living the life of an artisan or escaping to the country to live more sustainably might sound like the perfect escape from an exhausting corporate role, but it isn’t always realistic. While the role of a full-time artist might bring fulfilment in many ways, there’s nothing more draining than being under constant financial pressure and working on your own can be isolating.

    Acknowledge that every role has its downsides and aim to find fulfilment in a reasonable percentage of what you do (70% is good).

    Cultivate a sense of connection with the people around you and do your best to create more balance so you have time for other things you enjoy in life. Work to set yourself up financially to give you the option of a different career down the track.

    Remind yourself also that even the most ideal roles and idyllic sounding lifestyle choices have their downsides too.

    2. Live with purpose today

    As I wrote in this article, you don’t need to save the world to be living with purpose, but you do want to know what your purpose is and find small ways to engage in your life in more purposeful ways.

    If you’re not clear about your purpose, start by thinking about your values, identify your natural strengths (these are the things you enjoy doing and that also energise you) and consider how you’d like to impact the people around you.

    Then, regardless of what you’re doing right now, do it with more purpose. Even if it’s only in small ways for now.

    3. Look at all aspects of your role with curiosity

    One of the most common complaints from clients dissatisfied with their career direction or their current role is the lack of ‘newness’, variety or learning.

    Studies have confirmed that when we change things up in our lives we often feel more energised.

    Try creating novelty at work by altering some of your regular routines. Commute to work in a new way, work from a different workstation or location, make friends with someone from a different department, challenge yourself by developing your soft skills.

    Stay curious and open about your workplace and your colleagues, rather than falling into a fixed mindset.

    4. Find a side-project

    When you’re feeling uninspired or somewhat unsatisfied with your existing role, a side-project can energise you and boost to your confidence.

    Doing something you’re passionate about outside of your working hours can have many other benefits too, as you can read in this article.

    5. Keep exploring your career direction

    Don’t give up on finding a role that you enjoy more than the role you’re in now. If you’re really uncertain about what’s next, make a commitment to stay curious.

    • Carry a notebook around with you every day and jot down ideas that grab your attention or spark your curiosity. Make an effort to explore each of your new ideas a little further.
    • Get in touch with someone who performs a role you have an interest in and ask if you can chat with them about it.
    • Read up about emerging industries and learn more about opportunities that you might like to pursue in the future.
    • Consider how you can future-proof your career by committing to life-long learning.
    • Join Meet Up groups for startups, in the tech space or for creative entrepreneurs.

    If you need a hand working out your career direction, get in touch with Kate to organise a career coaching session.

    Posted in: Career
    Kate James

    About the author

    Kate James is an author, coach and mindfulness teacher. She works with female leaders and business owners to help them clarify their values and strengths and discover a mindset that allows them to live confident, purposeful lives.