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Old 02-01-04, 12:37 PM
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Post How to Tell If You Like Your Job ... And How to Start Over If You Don't

(This is a very long article but very informative, my advice is to copy and paste it to word and print it out and read it. Its alittle light on the subject but I thought it calmed any fears I had about changing careets - Kassie)

How to Tell If You Like Your Job ...
And How to Start Over If You Don't
by Martha Brockenbrough
Quick, answer these questions:

Do you dread Mondays?
Do you have big plans for your retirement?
Do you fantasize about winning the lottery so you can quit your job and live the life of your dreams?
If you answered yes to any of these questions--let alone all of them--there's a good chance you are wasting your life in the wrong job. Gasp! I know, it sounds so harsh, so final, and quite possibly, unrealistic.

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But it's true. You spend most of your waking life at work (and up until then, at school, preparing for your career). If you don't love what you do and look forward to doing it, that means you are condemning yourself to a life of discontent.

It's not that every moment at work has to be the best moment ever. As with anything, even the ideal job has its challenges and frustrations. But if you're just putting in time, waiting for retirement or some other milestone to really live your life, you're in trouble.

I should know.

Before I turned 30, I had been a high school teacher, a newspaper reporter, and a Web site producer and editor. Each successive job felt like an improvement over the last, at least in terms of pay and responsibility. Still, I always felt a bit queasy when Monday morning rolled around. And I found myself merely biding my time until I'd get to do the one thing I really wanted to do: write.

Ready for a change?
Train for what you really want to do:
• Culinary arts
• Fashion design
• Interior design
In all, although I learned a lot, I really gave up eight years doing things that were merely good, safe choices given my skills and the opportunities that appeared to be out there.

My hunch is that there are a lot of people like me--people who always felt called toward a certain type of career, but who wound up grabbing the first safety rope that appeared. You can definitely climb that rope pretty high, and even make lots of money and have an impressive-sounding job title. But it's no key to satisfaction because you can never escape what you know inside: that there's something else you'd rather be doing, if only you had the courage and the opportunity to do it.

Part 2: Why do we end up in jobs we don't like?

It's no secret that what we do for a living matters, and has in our culture for a good long time. Why else would people have last names such as Baker, or Butcher, or Smith? It's because, in many senses, our jobs define us--even though we aren't required to change our last names to Proctologist or Secretary these days.

"What do you do?" is a standard question we ask when we meet people. Work is important because it pays the bills, lends structure to our lives, and gives us identity.

Given the importance of work, it's really strange that our education system has no official way of giving us the skills we need to make good career choices.

Get that degree!
Earn the credentials you need. Compare these online programs:
• University of Phoenix Online
• AIU Online
• Cardean University
• DeVry University
In the bestseller What Should I Do with My Life?, author Po Bronson--who switched from working as a bond salesman, among other things, to pursue his own dream of writing--outlines some of the bad assumptions we tend to make about figuring out our career lives.

One false assumption is if you're smart enough and you work hard enough, you can do anything. The problem with this, he believes, is that we fail to listen to our true desires, and substitute intensity of work for actual passion for something. There's a difference between working feverishly and having a burning passion--a difference that requires soul-searching to understand.

What's more, being smart doesn't make it any easier to figure out what you want to do with your life--the key to job satisfaction is to search for something meaningful, significant, and fulfilling (as opposed to exciting, challenging, and stimulating, which can be a trap).

Ready for a change?
Train for what you really want to do:
• Culinary arts
• Fashion design
• Interior design
Some things that help, Bronson says: finding a work environment with a value system that matches yours, letting go of the urge to impress people, and most of all, allowing yourself to ask “What should I do?” in the first place.

These fundamental life skills not only help people choose their work wisely, but also help them make other good choices--whom to marry, how to live, and whether to have children.

But all too often we are trained to pursue what we are "good at" rather than what brings us happiness. Our school system often measures success with tests on separate subjects. Individual kids are pegged by their scores, and teachers and schools are evaluated by the collective scores of their students.

Parents tend to buy into this, and feel great relief when their kids are in "good" schools and racking up good grades and scores, even though those things are no guarantee of later success or happiness, or even that the child has developed the insight needed to make good life decisions. It's not that the scores are useless, but rather, they're at best incomplete and at worst, misleading.

Just because a kid gets good math scores, for example, doesn't mean she should do something related to math. The score-focus encourages adults to steer kids toward safe, secure careers that may map to academic strengths--but not necessarily their passions.

And woe is the kid who might not be a math or English star, but excels at art, gym, or music--three programs that don't count in test scores and routinely get cut when school budgets wear thin. The assumption that you can't make a living in these three areas is false, but it continues to get repeated by well-meaning people who simply don't know anyone who has found success this way.

If I ruled the world (my true dream career), I would ensure that schools focused on the issue of "What should I do with my life?" at least as much as when the Battle of Hastings occurred. In my experience, all a person needs to know to be happy is 1) how to find meaningful work, 2) how to get along with others, and 3) how to persevere when things get tough (which implies both optimism and ongoing learning

Part 3: How can you tell if you really like your job?

So, how can you tell if you're passionate about something, or just working yourself into a sweat? The three questions I asked earlier--do you dread Mondays, do you dream of retirement, are you hoping for a lottery ticket bailout--are definite indications something is amiss.

But there are other ways of knowing. Ask yourself questions like these:

What have I done in my life that meant the most to me?
When have I felt the most natural, at ease, and confident?
What would I do every day if I could?
Notice that I don't even mention money here. If you're good at something, the money will follow, especially if you're creative and flexible about it. Remember, while some haircuts cost $6.95, others cost $600. This is true for so many careers.

My friend June, who has been a bartender, a Web surfer, a VP at a high-tech company, and is now an author, suggested another way of knowing. "Ask your friends if you like your job. Mine always knew when I was unhappy."

And think about what you always wanted to do. Our careers don't necessarily take the fantasy shape they did when we were children, but even as children, we have the capacity to know what effort delights us most.

Part 4: Can you really do it? Pointers and case studies.

If you've identified that you don't love your job and don't want to waste the rest of your life feeling unfulfilled at it, good for you. The next step is to let go of your fear and get ready to make a change.

Notice that I did not say the next step is quitting.

The key to switching careers, as the case studies below demonstrate, is to have some sort of plan. Even if you have to change suddenly, as one of my case studies did, it's not realistic to expect a new career to rise from the ashes of the bridges you've burned.

It took me two years and the birth of one child to figure out how to quit my day job, and that I even wanted to. One of the hardest parts was giving myself permission to consider doing something that I wanted to do, as opposed to doing something that was respectable, stable, and parent-approved.

I started by finding freelance writing assignments through contacts I'd made in my old job (which I really liked, mind you; it was just never more than a job).

This works great when your current career and your dream career are somewhat related. Still, you have to brace yourself for extra work. It left me with little relaxation time. I typically started my extracurricular work at 6:30 every day until I had to go to my regular job, and I also worked every Saturday morning. The good news here is, the extra work was what I really wanted to do. So it was fun.

If your day job and your dream job are totally different from each other, then you need to start by generating contacts who can mentor you or give you opportunities.

Learn More
• How online classes work.
• Tips on paying for online education.
• Online degree programs you can compare.
• Career-specific advice: How to become a writer.
You might also need to seek out a more formal education--which you can do at the library through books, in the classroom, or on the Internet if formal training is in your budget. Unless you've come into an inheritance and can afford to live off your savings, a return to school might have to happen while you're working your day job.

Speaking of money, you also need to figure out how much you can realistically make following your dream, and how you will cover those pesky little things like health insurance. If your dream job is with a company that provides such things, great. If you want to be self-employed, you have to figure out how much money you need to live on, after taxes--which are higher for self-employed people--as well as health insurance and the like. There are lots of books with helpful insight in this area. The key here is to value yourself and your skills, and have faith that people will pay you for them.

Another key is to give yourself time. This is separate from giving yourself deadlines--those help keep you on track, but there is no formula for how long it will take to rebuild your life the way you want it to be. It could take several years. But that time will pass no matter what you do. It's better that you spend it reaching toward a goal than gritting your teeth until retirement, and wondering what could have been.

And finally, you have to give yourself permission. No matter how much you've spent on your education or how much time you've invested in your career, what matters in the end is that you're doing something that fills your life with meaning. You deserve no less.

How three great people changed their careers
Sometimes, people change careers to follow a dream. Other times, circumstances--such as illness or layoff--force people to make a change.

What follows are the stories of three people who completely remade their lives, how long it took them, and what advice they'd offer to people who find themselves in similar situations.

Meet Greg Gallagher, high school social studies teacher.

His former job: senior vice president in accounting services for a direct marketing company.

Why he switched: "I was sick of the corporate rat race of sales and I wanted to do something that was worthwhile and made a difference in other people's lives."

How he did it: I talked to people in the field to see what I needed to do in order to obtain a teaching license. I visited four high schools to make sure I really wanted to do it. Just walking around an urban high school is an eye-opening experience. Once the decision was made, I went to graduate school full time for a year and obtained a master's of education degree and my professional teaching license. This was very important as it brought my academic credentials up to date and put me back in the classroom as a student which was equally important.

How long it took: The process of talking to people in the field, visiting the high schools, applying and going to graduate school took over two years. I obtained my first teaching position exactly two years after I started the process.

What he learned: The first thing I learned was how little teachers make and how different high school students are since I graduated from high school so many years ago. There weren't any big surprises in making the change. I had a plan and found lots of people to help me along the way. I have absolutely no regrets. I thoroughly enjoyed graduate school and sitting in a college classroom. September 11th confirmed, like nothing else, that I had made the right decision. I've been teaching for more than a year now and I've never enjoyed what I do for work as much as I do teaching. It's making a difference, day after day, in the lives of over 150 students. The work is very rewarding in so many ways, but clearly it's not for everyone. I see some teachers who belong in sales and not in a classroom with students.

His advice: Make sure you explore all the reasons you want to leave your current profession and enter the other career. It can cost you in more ways than one if you find out that you really hate your new career. Also, financial planning is key to any change of career, especially if you're going from one income bracket to another.



Meet Bill Gruber, author of Letting Go: A Memoir.

His former job: orthopedic surgeon.

Why he switched: A medical disability forced him to switch. But more so, he wasn't finding the fulfillment he wanted from achieving his career goals and meeting everyone's expectations. "The dreams that once propelled me had been fulfilled, but as a result, life felt empty."

How he did it: I looked at my previous priorities, decided they weren't taking me where I wanted to go and realized that I was the only one who could change them. So I did. I had always managed my financial affairs so that I was not in debt and had the flexibility to respond to unplanned life events. I also fought for disability insurance coverage in order to stay financially independent and retain the freedom to choose what I wanted to do next. And I tried to open myself to new experiences. I read outside my field, tried new hobbies or outside activities, met new friends, traveled and followed nudges to wherever they might take me.

How long it took: Six months to work through insurance issues. At least ten years to find the time for balance and other lifestyle changes, such as diet. Two years to write my book. And I consider the process of changing my life a never-ending effort.

What he learned: Change is a pro-active, conscious choice. It will not happen on its own, and no one else can do it for you. Usually because of other demands on time, this process has to be initiated in small steps and expanded gradually. Unplanned life events may interrupt, but this requires persistence. I also had no idea how much stress I was carrying until I freed myself from it.

His advice: Read insurance, employment, severance, and retirement contracts very carefully.

Bill Gruber's book, Letting Go: A Memoir.




Meet Mary Neuschwanger: Buyer and creative force for three stores specializing in top-of-the-line packaging supplies, such as boxes, bags, and ribbons.

Her former job: Elementary school teacher for 14 years.

Why she switched: I needed more challenges. I was longing for more, and I couldn't work that way anymore. I had examined all the possibilities in the school district. I didn't want to be a reading specialist or psychologist, and at the time, the job of principal was too hands-off for me. The only thing I really wanted to be was a librarian, and I started taking classes at the university. But I found I would probably be 75 by the time I got a library degree.

How she did it: I asked for an unpaid sabbatical, but the school district said no. When they sent me a letter of intent in January, I just resigned, which meant I was no longer employed as of June 15. I did some soul-searching and realized if I could sell multiplication tables to third graders, I could sell anything. And, after teaching and kids, I knew I liked pretty things. I thought I could sell something like that--not cars or insurance. I started putting the word out in any store that I shopped in and I loved. At one of them, they said a guy who sold bags was looking for a salesperson. I thought it only sounded okay, but I followed through anyway. Then I walked into the store and saw what he had and thought, "I can do this!"

What she learned: The learning curve was pure misery. I would come home and bawl. It was very humbling. The fear factor really hampered my ability to grasp some things that were so simple. As soon as I got over that and realized that my customers needed me, and as soon as I got into a creative role where I could bring something to them, then it became so much fun.

How long it took: About three to four months of selling before it clicked. Then, after 14 years of selling, I realized I was burning out and moved into the buying and sourcing role.

Her advice: It takes soul-searching. You have to know who you are and what your skills are. Also, I always had a plan. I didn't necessarily know what the next step would be, but I knew myself well enough to know I had to give it some time.

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Old 02-07-04, 01:24 PM
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You know Keppig, I went through just such a process. For me, the discontent suprised me rather suddenly though. The military tends to be rather ADD friendly until a certain level of authority is reached and then you can, quite suddenly, find yourself in a very alien and unfriendly environment. It can upend, quite literally, your whole life.

So, now I do this. Your timing is good, I could have posted this myself. :-)
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