Feeling unhappy and dissatisfied at work can also be confusing. You are not even sure you want to leave, and if you did leave, you are not sure what you would do instead. In these circumstances, giving up your current role just seems too risky.
Do not worry if you have an uneasy, flustered feeling. It is natural.
On the one hand, you do not know if you definitely want to leave your current role – this might all just be a phase and the grass may not be any greener on the other side. On the other hand, you have fleeting (or even frequent) desires to pack it all in and do something else. That ‘something’ would perhaps be better suited to your skills or just generally more satisfying.
But then maybe the ideal job does not exist. Or does it?
As a career coach who coaches lawyers and other professionals on being happier at work, I see clients in this confused state fairly often. They are not sure they really want to jump ship, and yet part of them also wonders what else is out there or possible for them.
Start now, in your current role
When the prospect of making a leap seems too scary and risky, know that there are ways you can kick-start a potential career change now, without leaving your job.
Start to invest time now into exploring what direction or directions you might potentially want to move into in the future. This has some fantastic advantages.
Firstly, exploring other possible avenues now can help shed light on whether your current role is actually right for you or not – but without the pressure of having to make up your mind immediately.
Secondly, you will have laid down some foundations so, if you do decide to make a transition later, you will be in a much better position to do so.
Also, you can do all of this while still in your current role and will therefore be in a more relaxed frame of mind. You might even enjoy it.
Goodbye confusion and so long unnecessary pressure.
So what are three zero-risk ways to start your career change?
1. Your interests
Grab yourself a notebook, start thinking about what genuinely interests you, and take notes! Have regular brainstorm sessions about what issues are important to you, what sectors appeal to you, and what you are drawn to – and why. Do not censor yourself. Also start to notice what aspects of your work you genuinely enjoy and what skills you have.
This may or may not be easy for you, but it is important to at least start to become clearer on these things. It is likely that the more you focus, the more ideas and possibilities will start to emerge.
2. Increase your knowledge
You may start to notice recurring themes and ideas around what else you might do. Start to build familiarity with these so that you can answer the questions you have. Knowledge is power.
For example, start reading more around the topics, sign up for related newsletters, watch YouTube videos, and go along to free events after work. If appropriate you may want to sign up for relevant job adverts so that you can familiarise yourself with the kinds of roles on offer, salary scales and the qualifications required.
3. Build your experience
You do not have to leave your job to start building your experience in other areas. Get creative. For example, you can sign up for an evening or weekend course on your top topics of interest or you could volunteer in a related field in your spare time.
You could also look out for ‘linked’ opportunities at your current workplace. For example, if you are considering teaching, check whether your organisation has a CSR scheme with local schools. Or if you are considering publishing, volunteer to edit your team’s newsletter, and so on.
The idea of making a change can be scary, especially when there are so many unknowns. The above actions get around this by removing the pressure and commitment. While doing them, you may find that actually you are quite happy where you are, in which case you have lost nothing. In some cases, the extra activities in themselves provide enough of the fulfilment that was missing.
Alternatively, you may start to become more curious about what else is possible for you, in which case you have the personal comfort of knowing more about it. If you do then make a move, a future employer is likely to be impressed by the groundwork you can already demonstrate.
So whether you are simply getting clearer on your career aspirations generally or slowly getting your ducks in a row without any pressure, you have nothing to lose. So go ahead, give it a try...
Nazish Bhaiwala, Founder and Career coach at Red Arbre, is a former employment lawyer who coaches lawyers and other professionals on being happier at work.
Wanting to find her ideal job, Nazish herself undertook a successful career change in 2010 and experienced first-hand how it can be done, what the challenges are, and how to overcome them. She combines a genuine fascination with happiness at work and a passion for coaching techniques, together with a unique blend of corporate and not-for-profit insight.
As well as career coaching, Red Arbre holds evening seminars in London. Details of the next seminar, ‘Considering a career change?’ are at career_change.eventbrite.co.uk.