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The Stress of Choosing the Wrong Career Path – What Now?

Not happy in your job? You are hardly alone. A poll by the international workplace standards company Investors in People found that almost one in three people don’t like their current job.

And a major reason for workplace dissatisfaction is feeling you are on the wrong career path.

What are the risks of staying in a wrong career? How can you be sure that it really is your career path that is the problem? And what can you do next if it is?

Signs that can mean you are on the wrong career path

Stress, even if you manage to internalise it and appear unstressed to others, compromises the immune system. And going against your true desires and personality every day by working the wrong job for you is indeed stressful. So you might experience physical symptoms such as sleep problems, general aches and pains, digestive issues, or regular colds.

But it’s also mental health that’s impacted.

Mental Health Symptoms of Being Stuck in the Wrong Job

Mental health signs that you might be unhappy in your career can include:

How to Know If You are In the Wrong Career

It is important to understand if your dissatisfaction with your career is just a passing phase, or if it’s truly time to change careers.

Start by pinpointing just what led you down this career path can help. Do any of the following five wrong reasons for choosing a career sound close to home?

1.Choosing a Career When Too Young.

Choosing a career when you’re very young can mean you may not have experienced life in the way that meant you made a fully informed decision.

2. Parental involvement. 

Sometimes we don’t even realise we chose a career because of our parents. We have mistaken their personal values for our own for so long we need help seeing the difference. Of course some parents very deliberately divert their children from their own ideas, believing they know best. But you are the only person who truly knows what is best for you.

3.Lack of self-awareness. 

Again, we need to know ourselves fairly well to choose the right career (perhaps accounting for why most people experience at least a few career changes in life). If you do not understand your own values, perspectives, and beliefs, you are more likely to choose the wrong career.

4. Personal growth. 

Of course we all change as we mature, and have more experience as well as go through life change. Personal growth leads to different beliefs, meaning you need to also grow and change your career.

5. Cultural beliefs. 

Cultural beliefs can  mean you feel influenced to follow a career that is held in high regard within your culture. Of course you may later realise it clashes with what you truly want deep down.

Questions to Ask Yourself If You Worry You Need a New Career

  • Did I choose this career path to please someone else?
  • Am I simply following in my parents’ footsteps?
  • Was this career the easy option at school?
  • Have I had to compromise my personal values and beliefs to do my job?
  • Was money the main driver?
  • Could this dissatisfaction simply be a phase?
  • What else is happening in my life that could be the root cause of these issues?

What can you do if you are in the wrong career?

It’s important to take time to find real clarity.  Quitting your job impulsively or based on emotions is never a good idea. Even if it is the wrong job for you, you might be able to be promoted within the company itself to a job that suits you better. Or you might need a reference in the future. So take time to be sure that it is indeed the job that is the problem first (read our article, “Should You Quit Your Job?” for the right questions to ask.).

When you do know that it’s the wrong career track, identify exactly what is not working for you. Is it the hours? The role? Company values? Too much/too little social interaction? This will help you choose a better career track next.

Personal values represent what is important to you, and they guide your actions in life. Determining and constantly re-evaluating your values will help you find a career to which you feel more connected, and that gives you a sense of purpose.

Paying attention to what inspires you is one way to get closer to your personal values. What do you find motivating? Engaging?

Do you need career counselling?

Seeing ourselves clearly can be hard. So one of the smartest ways to get clarity on your career and future is to reach out for support. 

Many workplace insurances provide enough coverage for several sessions of work and career counselling. Career counselling helps you see your situation clearly, and helps you realise what it is you truly want from your career. This means the next job you take will be one you feel good about.

Harley Therapy puts you in touch with workplace and career counselling in several central London locations. Or try our new platform which connects you with Skype therapists across the UK. 

Do you have an insight about choosing the wrong career path that you want to share with others readers? Use the comment box below. 



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    Dr. Sheri Jacobson


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