I’ll never forget the day that I’d finally made up my mind: I was no longer going to pursue a career in journalism. Teary-eyed and exhausted from a 10-hour marathon of editing, coaching and managing my college newspaper staff, my fiery passion for seeking the truth and reporting it had dimmed and snuffed itself out.
I felt like a failure.
I felt that all I had worked for led to a dead-end. That I’d wimped out on “real” reporting and was selling out to the dark side of writing 140-character tweets and quippy Instagram captions. Yes – I referred to social media as the dark side back then!
Since that day nearly five years ago, I’ve made more changes of heart in my career than I ever expected. I traded my dream of New York City for the Midwest. I said ‘adios’ to PR and advertising, and hello to social media and branding. And now, I have my sights set on relinquishing my grip on the daily grind of corporate life for a more balanced, giving, heart-filled career.
If you’ve ever had a moment in your car, or in the shower, or in your bed at night alone wondering, “What happened to me? I used to be the best. My career used to seem so promising,” you’re not alone, friend.
Here are a few ways that I’ve dealt with going through a change of heart in my career, and what I’ve learned along the way:
Truth bomb: you’re allowed to change your mind.
This one took me the longest to come to terms with, but it’s also the most true. Who you are now likely isn’t who you were 5 years ago – or even one year ago! – and this life gives us the grace and freedom to change our minds whenever we’d like to. For so long I held onto the notion that it was expected of me to move to New York City, land a job in magazine journalism and work from sun up ‘til sundown. My heart deviated from this, but my stubborn ego wouldn’t let go of my former dream
"This life gives us the grace and freedom to change our minds whenever we'd like to."
What work sits well with you soul and brings you joy? Go do those things, even if it’s wildly different than the ideal career that you’ve held so highly in your mind. Surround yourself with new acquaintances in that new industry or job you have in mind so that you can learn and breathe in the new path that you’re willing to explore.
Prepare yourself for the opinions of others – and let them slide.
One thing I’ve noticed is that as soon as you exit your comfort zone and begin to explore the why and how behind the change of heart in your career, a lot of unsolicited opinions will likely be thrown your way.
“I don’t see why you’re not staying in your industry – it’s practical and secure.” “Why would you leave a company when you’re this close to a fully-vested 401k?” “But you’ve studied your whole education to become an accountant! It doesn’t make sense to change now."
Only you will know when it’s time to make a career shift, and only you will know the right path to take. For far too long I let the opinions of others affect the way I made decisions in my career, and looking back, I regret not going with my gut and taking that lower-paying role with the amazing opportunity for growth and creative freedom, even if it didn’t mean immediate financial satisfaction. Listen to your gut: it will never give you an opinion that will let you down.
"Listen to your gut: it will never give you an opinion that will let you down."
Unapologetically journal your journey.
I’m a natural-born writer – words are my thing. During the change of heart in my career, channeling my negative and anxious energy into my journal was just the outlet I was looking for. A huge part of acknowledging your changing feelings toward your career path is by giving life to them, and journaling is a great way to get all of those confusing, scary emotions out in the open.
For me, journaling my journey during the unexpected change of heart in my career helped lead me to the conclusion that I sought the approval of others far too much in my career, and I was striving to please my peers, family and coworkers far too much in former roles. To this day, I still struggle with seeking the approval of others before myself, but journaling opened my eyes to that habit and I’m extremely aware of it.
If you’re currently grappling with an unexpected (or timely!) change of heart in your career, these words are for you. Find comfort in them and know that your story matters and your work matters. The corporate ladder doesn’t – and will never – define you, nor will taking the leap and exploring new work that truly brings you joy.
Have you ever dealt with a change of heart in your career? How did you recognize it and move forward? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!