Stuck in the Wrong Job? How to Approach a Career Change

I became an accountant because that’s what my parents encouraged me to do. They wanted me to develop marketable skills, and I had a natural aptitude for numbers. Accounting was the obvious career path. Within the span of six years, I worked in accounting for three different companies. I was good at what I did, and I established strong relationships at each organization. But one day I realized that I moved quickly from job to job because I got bored easily. Just because I was skilled at accounting didn’t mean I was passionate about it. Don’t get me wrong – I can geek out over a spreadsheet with the best of them. But I needed a career that offered a more dynamic experience. I was also discouraged because compensation in accounting did not seem to be tied to hard work or results, at least not in the company I was working in at the time. But I didn’t want to throw away the time and effort I had invested in earning my CPA license. I had waited tables while taking the Becker CPA review course the summer after I graduated while my friends backpacked across Europe. Those sacrifices had to count for something. I was 26 at the time and really felt the pressure to figure things out. Amongst other things, I read What Color Is Your Parachute?, hoping to find answers there. As I met with recruiters to discuss new opportunities, I realized that becoming a recruiter for accountants met all my criteria. Recruiting promised the dynamic work experience I desired, while still allowing me to draw on my accounting expertise. My financial success also became tied to my performance, as opposed to a salary that remained fixed regardless of my efforts. I started recruiting in 1998, and the rest is history. My experience is not uncommon. Many people start out in one career only to realize it’s not what they expected. Transitioning to a new path is achievable. In fact, it’s often easier than you might assume. Here’s how to determine your next move and identify your dream career:

1. Explore Opportunities With Your Current Employer.

If you feel unfulfilled in your current position, don’t give up on your employer just yet. You’ve already built relationships, proven that you’re capable, and integrated yourself into the organization. There’s a good chance that the organization can use your education and experience in a different capacity. Tell your manager about your misgivings, and ask whether there might be other opportunities for you at the company.

2. Meet With A Recruiter.

Recruiters do more than schedule interviews and prep you to meet with potential employers. We can also help you determine what type of position you should seek. Schedule an appointment with a strong recruiter to get to the heart of the issue. What aspects of your job stimulate you? Which bore you? What makes it the wrong fit? Maybe you’re an auditor. You enjoy the research elements of the job, and you thrive when working with numbers. But you don’t like having to visit new client locations all the time. You’d prefer to be in an office where you can build relationships and collaborate with a consistent team. Teasing out the positives and negatives of the experience will provide a clearer picture of your next move.

3. Network, Network, Network.

Schedule informational conversations with people whose careers intrigue you. Ask friends for referrals or reach out to interesting professionals on social media. Be open to different fields, even if they pose a high barrier to entry such as an advanced degree in a different field of study. A few years of additional education could lead to a dream profession that gives you decades of happiness. One disadvantage of choosing a career immediately after college is that you don’t have the opportunity to try different fields. There are many options that you might not have known existed until you joined the workforce and learned what’s out there. Allow yourself the freedom to investigate all your potential interests.

4. Determine Your Next Steps.

After you’ve researched several paths, you’ll have a sense of what the transition will require. Can you shift into a new position at your company? Or does the move require a radical investment, such as going back to school? If you’re able to parlay your current skills into a new job without additional schooling, you need to find ways to open the right doors. Prepare to take a short-term decrease in compensation in order to gain experience and cultivate relationships in the field. Networking proves invaluable at this point, as you’ll find it easier to pivot if you have someone vouching for you and helping you land those opportunities.  

5. Emphasize Love Of The Job.

When presented with offers, take the job that will bring you joy on a daily basis. Too often, people chase after the glory moments – closing big deals or working on highly strategic projects. But those are few and far between. If you don’t enjoy the daily process, occasional wins aren’t going to sustain your excitement. I knew that recruiting was the right field because I love hearing people’s stories, learning about their struggles, and coaching them toward their next chapters. The thrill comes from those soul-nourishing connections, not from seeing how many placements I can secure. Choose jobs based on passion and whether an employer will be supportive of you as you grow. Nothing worth having comes easily, especially in the professional world. Just as you lived on ramen noodles while finishing your college degree, know that the challenges you face now will lead to something greater. People may be taken aback when you announce that you’re changing careers, but be bold. The only way to reach your full potential is to find a career you truly love.

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