Is it too late to change career paths?

As I work with high-achieving men from all different career paths, I hear this question quite often. I hear it from young professionals who graduated during the recession and took whatever entry-level job in tech or sales that they could get. I hear it from mid-level medical professionals who followed their family’s dreams, dedicating significant time and money into an education. I hear it from seasoned executives who have spent years or decades climbing the corporate ladder to provide for a family. Regardless of how many times I hear this question, my answer tends to be ‘No - it’s not too late for you to change careers.’ I know, because I did it.

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I, myself, quit my day job to pursue Psychology, and I believe you can do it, too. However, there are several major factors and questions to consider beforehand.

First, if you tend to love your industry or job, but the issues lie around your team or your hours, there are certainly ways you can address those before deciding to pursue a new career entirely. For example, if your main complaint is your team or your day-to-day workload, try exploring other teams or roles your company may offer. Or, if your main hurdle is long hours, seek ways to set boundaries on what you’re willing to do. Oftentimes, you have far more negotiating power than you expect, especially if you are a productive, skilled and valuable employee.

That being said, if your questions reflect deeper issues regarding passion or lifestyle, a change in a career can be hugely beneficial. From increased happiness, to improved health, mental stimulation, personal growth, sense of self worth - the list is endless. Life is long, and priorities, as well as goals, change throughout our lifetime. Just as you may outgrow certain friend groups, you can outgrow your job. And, it’s actually far more common than you may think. The average person changes career paths five times in his or her life. That may sound surprising to you, especially if you tend to be a high-achieving individual with a no-quitting attitude; but overall, this is a very common feeling.

Now let me preface, there are some risks with making a change. You must factor in your responsibilities and your financial health before quitting a job or switching paths. If you do find you’re ready to explore new opportunities, here are some helpful steps to start off:

  1. Spend time self-reflecting. I don’t recommend sitting down with a list of jobs and start making assumptions about what each one might be like. Instead, start by reflecting on your own strengths, weaknesses, wants and needs. For example, rather than thinking “I like to write; maybe I’d make a great journalist,” think more along the lines of your qualities. “I’m a marketing director who loves to write, but I’m also empathetic, highly creative, and skilled at motivating others. I thrive most when I’m given autonomy, and I crave working with new personalities as well as flexibility outside of a traditional office environment.” Well, did you know community colleges and local universities look for experienced professionals to teach courses? Maybe that’s a path you never knew about, and it could be a great fit!

  2. Consider your priorities. No job is perfect. Take time to be honest with yourself about what’s missing and what you’re willing to compromise. Are you willing to commute a bit farther for more opportunity? How about taking a potential pay cut to start out in a more interesting field with better hours?

  3. Do your research. There are plenty of forums and self-help guides for those who are pondering new jobs. However, I recommend you look among your own friends, family and acquaintances to ask them about what they like and dislike about their jobs. If someone has a role that intrigues you, invite them out for coffee and pick their brain. You may be surprised by the roundabout ways people arrived at the role they’re in now. Not everyone who works for a local congressperson got a degree in Political Science.

While there are many questions to consider and risks and rewards to weigh, this can be an exciting time to think outside the box about improving your life. You have many unique strengths and skills that make you successful, and with the right ambition, you can build the career that’s right for you. I’m here to help you through every step of the process. If you’d like to explore more, contact me to make an appointment for men's therapy.