Several times in my life I’ve walked away from well-paying jobs in order to pursue a more meaningful career, one that more deeply connected with the type of person that I wanted to be.
Recently in my Facebook Group, I was asked how someone could walk away from large sums of money to pursue a meaningful career. While at the same time raising two children.
This was a challenging questions since it’s not something that I have personal experience with. Every time I’ve walked away from a well-paying job, I was unmarried and childless.
After giving the question considerable thought, I came up with a four step process that can be used in these sort of situations. Several of the steps are also applicable if you are unmarried and childless.
Know What’s Most Important To You In Life And Commit To It.
The first step is absolutely critical. You have to start by spending time reflecting on what’s truly, truly, truly important to you in life and then committing to it.
I would suggest spending some time alone (in nature if possible) journaling or reflecting on what matters the most to you in life. Go deep, deep, deep into your heart. And once you think you’ve gone as deep as you can, go even deeper. Don’t go for the easy, superficial answer on this.
Depending on what emerges from this, you may decide not to make a career change after all.
On the other hand, you may end up feeling more committed than ever to pursuing a more meaningful career path.
If so, then you need to commit to it. You need to commit to it in your heart. You need to commit to it by connecting with others in your situation. You need to commit to it by sharing your desire with others who will support you.
Enlist The Support Of Your Family.
When you’re married or have children, you need to enlist their support in making these sorts of changes. You simply can’t go it alone.
If you haven’t spoken with your family members about your desire for change, then you need to do so. And you may need to talk to them multiple times about how you’re currently feeling and what you desire for the future. In doing so, you will also need to listen to their desires for the future.
When you have these conversations, you need to let them know how you feel about your current career and the negative effects it has on you.
But you have to go beyond that. You have to show them what’s in it for them. For example, changing to a more meaningful career may result in you being a happier person which in turn will result in you being a more loving partner and parent.
Here’s my guess…neither your partner nor your children want you to stay in a career that you don’t want to be in, particularly if you feel miserable in that career.
I can actually provide a little personal perspective here. My wife is absolutely miserable in her current job. I can see how her job affects her and our relationship.
Short of moving to Antarctica, I’d do just about anything for my wife to be in a different job. I want my wife to be happier and I know her happiness will positively impact our relationship.
My guess is that your partner and/or children would be willing to do the same for you. People who truly love you will support you in making positive changes in your life.
You and your family may need to come up with creative solutions so that everyone’s needs are met. And that’s why having conversations with your family is a critical step in the process of moving towards a more meaningful career path.
Figure Out What’s Next And How You Can Get There.
If you already know what you want to do next, then you have a head start. Of course, you may still need to figure out how to get there (e.g., do you need to return to school to pursue your new career path?).
If you don’t know what you want to do next, then you’ll need to spend some time figuring that out and probably coming up with 3-5 options to explore in depth. You may need to speak with a counselor or a life coach or work through a book like “What Color Is Your Parachute”.
Before committing to a new career path, you should definitely talk to a variety of people who are already in that career as well as people who have left the career. You want to get a range of opinions and not just talk to people who love the career.
Most importantly, you should reality test possible new careers by volunteering, job shadowing or doing an internship. Whatever it takes. You don’t want to go through the trouble of making a career change only to find out that you’re just as unhappy in your current career as you were in your prior one.
Ultimately you’ll want to put together a detailed plan for how to get from where you are to where you want to be, including short-term, medium-term and long-term goals.
When you’re single and childless you may be able to make things up as you go along. But when you’re not, when there are others who are depending on your income, you’ll want to put together a detailed career transition plan.
Make A Financial Plan For Your Transition And Your Future Lifestyle.
Career transitions often cost money. You may need to pay for schooling. Or you may experience a temporary or permanent reduction in income. Which means that you’ll need to save up money or possibly reduce current and future expenses.
The one thing that helped me tremendously when I was saving money for my transition to a more meaningful career was to track every penny I spent for about three months. I set up a spreadsheet and divided my spending into different categories. Every time I spent money, I entered it into the relevant category on my spreadsheet.
This detailed tracking is helpful in two ways. First, it shows you areas where you can cut back on your spending. Secondly, it creates awareness in the moment and helps you decide whether the item you’re about to purchase is truly worth it or not.
Obviously this is just one example of how you might go about saving money and changing your spending habits. Assuming you have a partner, you’ll need to decide together what works best for your family as a whole.
Making a transition to a more meaningful career is definitely more challenging when you have a family. You need to have deep conversations with yourself and with your family members. You also need to make concrete plans to support the transition.
Still, I am confident that if you follow the steps I’ve outlined above, you’ll soon be on the path to the more meaningful career that your heart and soul desires. Ed Herzog is a board certified life coach whose mission in life is to help people live on purpose by creating lives that are connected to their deepest, most important values. You can join his community of people creating meaningful lives through his Facebook group, Live Fully: With Purpose + Meaning + Joy. For more information about his coaching services and upcoming webinars visit edherzog.com.
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