There. You Did It. Are You Happy Now? (Career Satisfaction Question Inside)
November 16, 2009 12:48 PM   Subscribe

I've been contemplating a huge career change for the better part of a year now and am almost ready to take the plunge into something completely different. But one of the nagging questions I'm still constantly asking myself is whether I'm doing this because I'm fed up with absence of personal satisfaction in my current job (divorce lawyer) or whether that feeling is something else that would, given enough time, just follow me on to the new career. So the question is:

If, after long consideration, analysis, and thought about what your true passions in life are, you actually did make that leap from Career A to Career B, did your change to Career B bring you any of the fulfillment and "happiness" you thought it would after all?

For the purposes of this question, assume:

Career A: What you went to school for, trained for, fell into, spent years doing, or otherwise defaulted into, etc...

Career B: The career/job that, after long consideration, thinking, and maybe even therapy, you thought would be awesome because it would bring you personal satisfaction, related to one of your passions in life, and that you actually ended up doing (or at least something semi-directly related).

NOTE: I'm not asking about the job change where you couldn't decide between the NYC job and the one in Wasilla because you could have a dog in Wasilla but not real bagels. Not the one where you couldn't decide whether to go back to school at age 22 after a year in Europe. Not the one where you couldn't decide whether to change jobs to move from San Antonio to be with your partner in Gainesville. But the one where you spent lots of time thinking about and identifying your true "passions" in life (per many helpful previous AskMe's), how to change careers to be doing something related to that passion, and where you actually made that change a la Po Bronson, What Color is Your Parachute, The Artist's Way, etc. and all the other very helpful resources that answers to prior AskMe's point (and they're great, BTW).

So, after all that mental knashing and deliberation, did you find that happiness or life-satisfaction increased for you after changing to Career B? If so, why do you think it worked for you? If not, why not? What would you tell someone who's getting ready to make that leap?
posted by webhund to Work & Money (8 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Yes. I did a huge career change about 12 years ago and it was one of the smartest things I've ever done in my life. I moved from an academic field with very little flexibility in career options to a technical field with lots of opportunity. There are aspects of career A I miss, but career B was a better fit and (for me at least) that translates to greater satisfaction.

Coming to that conclusion was extremely difficult at the time. Looking back on it, it seems like it should have been obvious.

Also, I should add that absence of personal satisfaction in your current job is a GREAT reason for a career change.
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:25 PM on November 16, 2009

My true passions in life do not revolve around my career. I made a career change after 30 years, but it wasn't by choice, it was out of necessity. My new career is a means to pay the bills, and what it does is enable me to pursue my passions when away from work. I found that when I was wound up about career and ladder-climbing, I was stressed and generally unhappy. Since I no longer care about advancement or keeping up, I am much more at ease and carefree. Frankly, I have never been happier. That happiness makes passion possible.
posted by netbros at 1:41 PM on November 16, 2009

I have never regretted doing anything that involved pursuing my passions even if it did not turn out the way I expected. Not ever. That included switching the focus on my career, taking time off to go to grad school, moving to new states etc.

On the other hand, I have often regretted not doing things based on fear (of change, the unknown, lack of security, whatever) and try to avoid that particular motivation whenever I can.
posted by Kimberly at 2:12 PM on November 16, 2009

The only thing I miss from career A is the higher paycheck. I'm much happier with career B.
posted by kbuxton at 2:21 PM on November 16, 2009

I found a new set of unexpected problems with career changes. I have done careers A, B and C.

From career A to B I took a substantial cut in paycheck, lifestyle, and flexibility and went to a career that I was passionate about. From Carer B to C, I took an increase in pay, improved my lifestyle, and found passion in work more inline with career A.

I still miss B every day even though:
I had no healthcare with career B.
I had no disposable cash with career B.
I couldn't have what I consider a balanced family life with career B.
I couldn't afford a new car with career B.
I wouldn't know how to ever retire with career B.

From my experience with career B, if I pursued it, I would have been stellar at career B. I achieved a great deal with the limited time I spent doing career B.

Career B involved a lack of comprimise, total devotion, and the ultimate persuit of a personal passion and perfection. I miss it every day, but knowing what it takes to be where I was both capable of and would require of myself and moreso my family means that it is unlikely that I would ever consider returning to career B.

Career C involves a bit of the fun stuff from career A, but very little of career B. It does offer me security for Family members D and E, as well as dog F and G. I also have the ability to spend time with family members D and E something career B would have only reluctantly let me do...
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:51 PM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

The way I read your question, you're wondering if the same personal dissatisfaction you've encountered in career A will creep in and erode the pleasure of career B. The best place to look may be in changes you've experienced in other areas of your life - moves, previous careers, changes in social circles. Did you tend to develop the same problems with each of them, even after a "reset"? Certain problems are so intrinsic to you that they will follow you, and only fixing yourself will ameliorate the situation. Others are situational and can be escaped.

I have been very happy moving from career A to B. Some demons have followed me; for example, I have come to terms with the fact that no matter what I do, I'll always see my shortcomings looming over my successes. I continue to work on that while recognizing that I use that sensation to spur myself toward constant improvement. Other problems from pervious careers have not manifested themselves; I find my temperament fits the kind of work I do now, and I relate better to the other people around me. It was a significant career change but it was definitely the right move.
posted by itstheclamsname at 3:10 PM on November 16, 2009

I made a big career change 4 years ago. I love my job, but I still have the occasional horrendous day where I think I don't get paid enough to put up with (fill in the blank). Doing something you love doesn't mean you're not going to get stressed, have bad days, and question yourself. But for me, it makes such a difference knowing that I picked this career and that I'm doing something that really matters to me. Good luck!
posted by CuriousGeorge at 4:08 PM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Like anything, a major life change like this is a matter of perspective. For 2.5 years, I had a job that, to certain people, sounded like The Life: Running scoreboards and entertainment for a major league baseball team in a sun state. It was amazing. I was happy. I felt like that was exactly the place I needed to be at that time in my life.

But like any job, I got frustrated on certain days. There was drama, office politics, and bad decision-making. Sometimes I wondered what I was doing: Who cares what the fan-centric game between the 2nd and 3rd inning is?

But I am now of the opinion, having lived in five different states and trying out four different careers in the last seven years, that any major change like the one you're considering is one you'll look back on with fondness. Moments will occur when you say to yourself "what am I doing?" But ultimately, both in the present and the future, you'll find the good will outweigh the bad and you'll wonder why you ever pondered the decision. Good luck.
posted by st starseed at 8:14 PM on November 16, 2009

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