The course of adulting has shown me that many of us share similar experiences in our work places – we aren’t enjoying what we do. Exchanging our time and energy for money is difficult when we aren’t truly passionate about what we are doing. Feelings of nonfulfillment, fatigue, exhaustion, disinterest, and burnout to name a few, are very familiar to us. These feelings manifest in our work and in our bodies eventually. The solution seems simple to some, ‘just quit, duh’. But often, the solution is very layered and complex.
There isn’t a one-size fits all approach to navigating an unfulfilling job or career. Everyone’s live’s and needs are different and must be factored into decision-making. Not everyone can just immediately quit their job to pursue their true passions; this is a reality for numerous reasons. Financial burden like debt, low funds, crisis, and bills largely contribute to why we find ourselves staying in places we don’t align with. Our relationships, whether it be responsibility for others or lack of support, are also reasons we stay. If personal finances or relationships aren’t relevant factors, fear is likely the reason why we don’t leave our careers and jobs when we know they no longer serve us. The barriers can get pretty deep. However, this doesn’t mean there is no way we can help ourselves. There is always a way.
Post undergrad when I began my first “real adult job”, I had the opportunity to learn about what I wanted and needed from my work environment. I also learned more about my passions in the process, which helped me gain clarity on the direction I needed to move forward in. I thought I knew what I wanted to do in college but beginning my career in my field showed me there was room for refinement. There came a time in my work where I knew I needed to move on; my emotional, mental, and physical state showed me this. I wasn’t my best self because I wasn’t happy. But, quitting straight away was not an option for me. I had to come to peace with this ‘meantime’ I was in. For a while I was honestly miserable and felt all I could do was keep maintaining. Eventually though, I got tired of being tired and came up with ways to help myself.
Being in a burdensome work situation isn’t easy. Sometimes we have the freedom to just leave and not look back, other times we don’t. But there are ways to lighten the load in our ‘meantime’ as well as our transition out. This is what worked for me:
Self-Care: I know I use this term a lot but it has truly helped me get back to myself. Make time to take care of yourself and make it a priority. Incorporating self-care outside and within your work is the game changer. At work, this can look like setting boundaries, a walk for lunch, moments to breathe deeply, utilizing aromatherapy, etc. It also looks like utilizing your time off to recharge and relax. Self-care outside of work is more expansive but ultimately should be what ever nurtures our well being (physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, spiritually).
Discovery Outside of Work: SO important! What are your hobbies? What are your interests? Find ways outside of work to put effort into what you’re passionate about. It’s super refreshing to have an activity to look forward to that you actually enjoy. Find your thing(s)! This uplifts your spirits in a way that helps balance the weight of work. It could be something you’ve always loved or something brand new. Don’t get sucked into the habit of being so drained from work you come home with no energy to put back into yourself.
The Search: Who said having a job means you can’t be looking for a new one? Exactly. Get back on that job search. Don’t be afraid to submit applications during your ‘meantime’. You never know what opportunity can come from just putting yourself back out there. But search for new work with intention. Take note of what your current experience is, what changes you’re seeking, and let that guide you. The beauty of this is that you can be picky because you are currently employed. Spend time really asking yourself what you want. The search also boosts morale because it reminds you that your job isn’t the only opportunity available.
Pros + Cons: Okay so sometimes we need to take a step back before we move forward too quickly. Weighing out the pros and cons of a job experience can physically show you what is going on in your head. It puts things into perspective. You might find there are more pros than you thought or more cons than you thought. Seeing the facts distinguished plainly provides insight for what your next move should be.
Create a Plan: For my folks who know without a doubt ‘this aint it’, I feel you. Let’s create a plan first though. Writing out how you can transition from your job to a new chapter in life makes it more real. It shows you it’s possible. Come up with a timeline for yourself. How soon do you want/need to exit? Is it realistic? Is it sustainable? Come up with financial plan. How are you budgeting to reach your goal(s)? What are you investing in? How much money do you want to have saved before leaving? What are your financial needs if you were without work for 3-6 months? Come up with a vision for what’s next. Is it a new career venture? Is it an opportunity out of state? Going back to school? Traveling for a bit? It’s your world.
Burn out from work can really overflow into so many other areas of our lives. Acknowledging discomfort is a crucial step in moving forward. When we know our feelings and limitations we can determine what we need to move forward and move through. We must do what is in our best interest, always. If your health, in any aspect, is deteriorating, it’s time to reevaluate. I want the best for all of us. Those five steps are small but they are steps of progress.