Ask Elaine: I’m burnt out and ready to change careers. Now what?

Hi Elaine: I’ve spent 25 years in one career and I feel beyond burned crispy. I’m trying to transition careers but I can’t seem to decide what to pivot to. Everyone has great ideas about what I should do and I have a lot of different skills but I just can’t seem to figure out which direction to go in. I also don’t know how to support myself financially during the transition or when to just let one thing marinate before deciding it’s not working. I started to try out coaching but am not finding clients. I looked into professional development but my resume doesn’t show enough experience in that area. I want to explore my music and creative endeavors more but I also need to pay bills and eat. Help!

Too Many Interests: Sounds like you need to get clear on your priorities. You can chase all your dreams in this lifetime — just not all at the same time. When you have too many career interests and not enough money or time to pursue them all, clarify your priorities to determine your order of operations and take the next step confidently.

Since you led with being burned out, let’s unpack that first. What were the factors that led to burnout in your previous career? After leaving your old job, the last thing you want is to get burned out again. Identify the root of your unfulfillment so that you can steer clear of those pitfalls as you chart a new course.

No one wants to hear this, but often our own unhealthy work habits and lack of boundaries contribute to burnout. It’s imperative to do some internal work before expecting different external results. Have you reflected on what patterns you brought to the job that put you on the path to burnout? Have you developed a practice of setting healthy boundaries, advocating for your needs and delegating when appropriate? Do you take planned breaks throughout the day? If not, consider all of that part of your new job description, no matter what career you pursue next. Remember, your bad habits are as transferrable as your skill set.

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Now that you have the advantage of spending 25 years sharpening your skills, which ones actually energize you when you use them? Which skills have you picked up along the way that you’d prefer to put down forever after you pivot?

Make a list of the careers you’re considering and the primary skills you’d use daily in each. Make sure your next career is in line with how you really want to spend your days. If your previous career wasn’t in line with your passions, and that was the biggest factor that left you drained, this exercise will help you pick a career you’re passionate about in practice, not just on paper.

Next, it’s important to root yourself in a very sturdy sense of purpose that will fuel you through the inevitable ups and downs of pivoting. What is the impact you want to make? Write a mission statement for your career to help clarify which investment of time will align with the life you want to design and the impact you wish to have. What do you value most and is that in line with the career you’re choosing? I like to define values as the things that matter more than money to you.

This brings us to money, because we all need to eat and pay bills. What are your monthly expenses, and will your projected income comfortably cover them while leaving enough left over to hit your savings goals? Are you willing to downsize or change your lifestyle as an investment in this new career dream? Ultimately, you will need to make this decision based on your financial reality.

All of these are questions only you can answer. It may feel daunting at first but putting in this self-reflective work upfront will set you up for a more fulfilling second career. Whenever you feel anxious about where you’re at or where you’re going, revisit these questions and revise your game plan accordingly. You’ve got this!

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