I recently published an article on LinkedIn in response to a question that frequently comes up with my clients: Do I have to change careers to be happier at work?
Over the past decade, I have met hundreds of people who feel stuck in their career. They want more from their work- more fulfillment, joy and deeper engagement.
It's not uncommon for our conversation to start like this, “I feel stuck. I need a new job.”
But the surprising truth is that most of my clients don't end up changing their careers. Some do, but for the vast majority, the path to happiness is more about tweaking that tearing down.
For every person who quits a job to follow their dream, there’s twenty for whom that’s not an option. It's not because they are cowards. The realities of life and career are not as simple as a hashtag. It's hard to quit your job and change careers when you’ve invested 10 or 20 years into your work. When you are a leader in your field, with a solid reputation and a life that depends on your income, advice like #quityourdayjob can feel more like a threat than an inspiration. Career change is one potential path to happiness, but for most of us, it’s not the right answer.
So does that mean you're destined to feel stuck for the next 20-30 years?
Absolutely not! You can create more happiness, engagement and fulfillment without leaving your job and starting over. This is a process, and a fairly involved one. Most of my clients spend anywhere from six months to a year identifying what they want to change, why they want to change it, and how they can make those changes happen. Sometimes the change is major, and sometimes it's almost imperceptible from the outside. But one thing is certain: it looks different for everyone, because each of us has our own unique recipe for happiness.
For some people, this means shifting some of their responsibilities to aspects of their job they find more fulfilling. For others, it involves taking on new roles outside of work, from board positions and volunteering opportunities, to mentorships or even new hobbies. Some of my clients take concrete measures to strengthen the boundaries between work and home life, putting greater priority on the things that matter to them. Others start side projects, like podcasts or bread making classes, pursuing ideas that inspire and excite them.
Even when you decide to continue with the career you have built, the options to deepen your engagement and pursue new challenges are practically limitless. Sometimes a change of perspective is what we need the most.
Don't quit your job yet. Figure out what you really need to be happy. Then do the work to make it happen.
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