Long term motivation towards a career change?
February 27, 2007 7:48 PM   Subscribe

How do I stay focused on a career change when my life is just so darn easy the way it is?

I have a long term career goal (clinical psychology) that is completely outside of my current career (IT). Reaching the goal involves a lot of schooling and a lot of personal development. I'm only 21 but I've been working in IT in some capacity for the past 5 or so years. Because I'm so comfortable in my current position (easy, good money, lots of responsibility) I find it difficult to get motivated towards doing the things necessary to reach what I really want to do. What steps can I take to keep myself on track in the longer term to reach my goal?
posted by saraswati to Grab Bag (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This may just be life's most common dilemma ever. I don't say that to demean your confusion, but to let you know you're not alone in having difficulty here.

This is where the phrase "shit or get off the pot" comes from.

Unfortunately, the only real advice here is that you have to force yourself to just go ahead and do the things you need to do. You'll find that once you've thrown yourself into whatever it is you want to do - the change is invigorating and exciting and you end up adapting just fine.

Learning to step outside of your comfort level and take risks is one of the most common but important life lessons if you want to be successful. Unfortunately, nothing anyone tells you is going to be the magic bullet that motivates you. You have to want it yourself, and you have to get off your keester and do it.

Best of luck to you...
posted by twiggy at 7:56 PM on February 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

Picture still being in your same IT job in 20 years. Is that what you want? If not, keeping that unwanted image in your head might help you focus on change.
posted by davy at 8:04 PM on February 27, 2007

You are a sysadmin now? The job is going to change a lot in the next 10 years. If you want to be responsible for larger and larger numbers of systems and more and more users, then stick with it and make sure you advance your skill set. If you expect the job in 10 years to be pretty similar to what it now, there might be a place for you, but the money won't be as good, and the responsibility will shrink.
posted by Good Brain at 9:23 PM on February 27, 2007

Ultimately the answer is to kick your own ass out of the comfort zone and put yourself on track to a new career. But there are a few things you can be doing right now to make this process easier.

Be clear - you need to unplug yourself from the world of IT *outside* work. Don't let being a sysadmin define your existence out of the office. Don't waste time geeking around and spending hours online after hours trying out bleeding edge linux builds or scripting for pleasure. View this job for what you've already decided it is - a means to an end. It's easier to keep the status quo... but screw that. As another poster suggested, the only way to be successful is to make your way into unsure territory.

So, segue into the world of psychology to make your personal development goals easier to tackle. There are a few ways you could do this. Seek out role models, develop contacts with university lecturers (who love giving free advice over email). Mix with people who are active in the arena, attend local talks, read read read. Volunteer at a homeless charity giving counselling (it won't hurt your CV either). Read read read. Arm yourself with points of view on the subject. Start a blog on clinical psychology and how it relates to the world around us (or even on helping sysadmins deal with the stresses of the workplace / a sysadmin agony uncle). Read read read. Contribute to forums. You can do all of these things without ever having attended a college lecture.

I don't think it's helpful to view IT and psychology as discrete career paths, either. IT straddles everything we do, and will play a part in your career no matter what. Your 5-year IT career wasn't wasted time, it was a valuable investment in your personal development that raised your market value and introduced you to the world of work. So you're good at it, and have found how to generate money with it. That point is proven. Now bring on the next challenge and get your teeth into it.

Last point - never be afraid to look back. You may find out that clinical psychology isn't right for you. So what? You may need some retraining, you'll take a financial hit and you'll have to start further down the ladder from where you left it, but you can always restart your IT career if things don't work out. Our globalised, multiskilled world allows for career mis-steps. Despite what many people believe, you're not closing any doors by following what you feel is right for you. Go for it.
posted by scrm at 7:40 AM on February 28, 2007

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