Stuck in an Unrewarding Career?

                                        Find the Way Out with These Four Ideas

                                             By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC



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Going through your workday with a sense of disappointment is tiring. At the beginning of your career, you may have felt that you were on track. You had a career and everyone was happy for you. You liked being able to pay your bills and feel competent at work.  Or, maybe you picked the practical path or the career that your parents wanted for you or something that would impress others.  Whatever the reason, you now find yourself in a career that you realize you don’t actually like.


If your current career is unrewarding, it doesn’t have to be the one you stay in for the rest of your life. People are living longer and longer so the time to change is now. You can definitely break away from where you are today and move on to something more fulfilling. It will take time, effort, self-reflection and research but you’re more than capable of doing it and it is a wonderful investment of time and energy. Imagine waking up every day and feeling happy to go to work. Instead of feeling drained, you feel energized. Doesn’t that sound amazing? So, how can you get there? Why not start off with these 4 steps and take it from there.



1.      Do some soul-searching. Soul-searching allows you to identify reasons why your current career is unrewarding and identify which career options might truly make you happy.

·         Sometimes, temporary inconveniences at work can be misleading. They can convince you that it's time to move on when you really just need to work through the problems.  Once you're convinced that's not the case, and that there are underlying issues or reoccurring tasks that you don’t like and that are the majority of your job, you can start looking at more suitable careers.

·         It's important to avoid tying material gain to career choices because that will only give you short term and short-lived happiness. If you are right handed, imagined being forced to write with your left hand all day. How does that feel? Awkward? Tiring? More difficult than it should be? This is what happens when you pick a job that goes against how you are naturally wired.  Ideally, you probably want a career that gives a deep sense of fulfillment which will happen when you feel a sense of purpose. When your job brings out your hidden talents and/or develops ones that you love using that too can add to your satisfaction.

2.      Align your choices with your passion. The things you're passionate about usually make the most rewarding careers.

·         Going the passionate route means that you'll be doing things that cater to your inner happiness. Align your options with the things that bring you true joy. What are tasks that you could do all day long and feel energized? What are the tasks that you find draining? How can you do more of what you love and less of what you don’t like?

·         Many people think they aren’t working hard enough if they enjoy their job. Is this your philosophy about work? If so, challenge that stereotype. Here in the U.S., we have many shows and movies that reinforce this negative view of work such as Horrible Bosses 1 &2, Office Space, Dilbert, and The Office, just to name a few.


·         What if you saw these examples through the lens of: the people who work in those jobs, are not well suited for the work? They don’t like it, they don’t enjoy and, instead of researching and evaluating their options, they have remained in toxic workplaces with tasks they find boring and soul crushing. The only thing we can control is ourselves. Investing in learning about yourself is an investment in a happy future.


·         Regardless of the job, there will be times when you will be faced with problems. The difference is, when you work in a career that you're passionate about, you're more likely to preserve through the tough times and come out on the other side with more skills and clarity about who you are as an employee. Difficult times can bring out hidden skills and talents that you wouldn’t have seen without these experiences.

3.      Find part-time opportunities. Once you've identified a career that appeals to you, take a cautious step into it. Adding a part-time job or volunteering will allow you to test the waters while still earning a full-time income in your current career.


·         It's unwise to completely give up your current career because even if you don’t have a job, you probably still have bills. Exercise some patience while you assess the new career choice part-time. Give yourself time to evaluate your options. You don’t want to jump into something new without doing some research.

·         Part-time work allows you to gain the experience necessary to apply for a full-time job. Although classroom knowledge is valuable, employers do like to see hands-on experience. Hands-on experience is important for you too. Sometimes the thought of a job can be very different than actually doing the job. You want to make sure you really like doing the work rather than basing your decision on what you think it will be like.  

4.      Break the change into small steps. When you feel you've gotten enough experience in your new field, take steps to pull out of your current career.

·         One important step is revising your resume to show valid experience. Once that is done, send it out to potential employers. Join professional organizations that are related to your new career path. This can be a great way to balance your job search with both networking and online applications.

·         Once you have accepted your new job offer, have a heart to heart discussion with your current employer about your desire to move on. Ensure you offer enough notice, so they’re still willing to give you a good recommendation.

·         Ensure your last few months in your current field are productive. Before moving on, leave your mark as someone who works diligently, regardless of your personal feeling about the field.  

With your natural skills and abilities, there's very little that's beyond your scope. Your drive is enough to get you to where you want to go.


Use this process to get you into your dream career. Keep pushing through, even if it gets difficult along the way. Pretty soon, you'll be out of that unrewarding career and in one that gives you complete satisfaction!


Additional Resources

Live the Life You Love by Barbara Sher

Pathfinder by Nicholas Lore

The 2 Hour Job Searchby Steve Dalton

6 Simple Steps to Discover Your Ideal Career

Advance Your Career by Making an Internal Transfer 

At a Professional Crossroads? 

Career Assessment Tests

What Should I Do with My Life? 

Changing Careers in Midlife

Contemplating a Career Change

Examples of Successful Career Goals

Finding Meaningful Work

How to Plan a Career Change

How to Reinvent Your Career

Finding Your "Why"

The Top 10 Ways to Light a Fire Under Your Career

6 Things You Need to Know About Change