Thoughts on career changes and dramatic moves

December 16, 2023

Last week, I read an interesting post by Geoff Graham, The Thin Line Between Admirable and Stupidity. Geoff contrasts how he felt about considering a career change and how it differed from how he felt about someone who shared they were making a career leap on social media.

The person on social media has found a new passion and realized that he does not have a sense of true personal fulfillment in their work. This person has decided to make a big leap to what he wants to do, be a chef. This person looks uncertainty in the face and decides it is time to make a change despite the obstacles that might stand in his way. Regardless of the result, we tend to applaud people like this and think they are brave and admirable.

Geoff gets personal and shares that he is ready for a career change. Geoff has made some investments to make the move but still sees a lot of the journey to go. It will take time, money, and sacrifices from both him and his family to make that move happen.

And yet, instead of having the same feelings of admiration or thinking he is brave, he feels stupid. He feels that the move would be a poor and irresponsible choice. He still enjoys the work he does but he has also identified that he could better leverage who he is by making a move. How can he ask his family to make the sacrifices for him to move forward?

I left the following comment:

I am guessing some of the reason for the difference is who is paying the cost. It is much easier to see it as “admirable” for the other person. But there is a cost to pay when you are the one doing it.

I would also say that I think “foolish” would be a better word choice than “stupid.” Because of the way you describe it, it seems you think the wiser move right now is to stay put and not jump.

I don’t think it is stupid to want to be in a role where you think you would be able to do more of what is best about you. But we always have to weigh those decisions with the cost.

This is a really hard one. It is much harder to make a career move the older you get and the more responsibilities you have. I wish you the best of luck as you figure out what is best for you and your family.

My comment on his post on December 5.

I think a lot of us have been in the same place as Geoff. I know I have read several social media postings over the years of “brave” people who are leaping to bring a closer match between the work that they do and their strengths or aspirations.

I was in a very similar place in 2012. I was working for a publishing company but what I wanted to do was work for an agency. I read a book called Quitter at the time that gave me a lot of valuable perspective. Jon Acuff, the author of the book, had quit a lot of jobs to chase his dream. But he realized that there was a smarter, wiser way to approach it. The book helped me to take a slower approach.

Here are some different thoughts about career change that were sparked by Geoff’s post.

  • Big dramatic changes are not the norm. They seem exciting when we read about them on social media. But I think most people find that slow and steady wins the race. Brad Frost made a comment on Geoff’s post that brought up this idea. I think there are smaller changes that can ultimately lead you to where you want to go.
  • I think it is much easier to make more dramatic changes when you are younger and have fewer responsibilities or fewer people depending on you (your family). I think it is very wise to take that into account and I think Geoff is wise to consider that in his situation.
  • There are times in life when dramatic change might be the only route. I left a job in 2010 after several months of trying to find a different job while on my current job. I was making the dramatic shift from working at a non-profit organization to the marketplace. I didn’t want to have to leap before I had a place to land. But it did work out in the end. I left another job 10 months later because it was not quite the fit I was hoping for. And that was a decision that was not pre-planned. But again, it worked out in the end.
  • At some point, you have to weigh whether the cost of staying at a job that is not personally fulfilling is hurting the rest of your life. It will affect your family and it will affect the quality of your work if you are just not into it. The good thing Geoff has going for him is that he likes what he does and it is probably not draining him to where he is at the point to consider that factor in a life change.
  • Everyone is different. What works for one person does not work for everybody. Everyone’s life circumstances are different. I share my thoughts but in no way would I tell anyone what to do. I think most people have a good idea of what is best for them and I try to encourage them in those decisions in any advice I would give.

Recommended resources

  • Quitter by Jon Acuff
  • Do Over by Jon Acuff – This is one of the best books I have read about career management. His basic premise is that career change is inevitable. He encourages people to invest in skills, relationships, character, and hustle to help them be ready to change careers due to career ceilings, career bumps (losing your job), career jumps, or taking advantage of surprise career opportunities.
  • My sketchnote for a live Do Over Event in 2015 – Jon even signed it.

This post is part of my attempt to post something every day for a month. I was inspired by Michelle Barker, who recently participated in National Blog Posting Month.

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