I remember the moment it happened: I was in an annual performance review, rehashing the past year’s work and talking about next steps when it hit me. I didn’t want to take any next steps. I didn’t want my boss’s job. I didn’t even want my own job. I was done.
Well, not done exactly. Just ready for something new.
Millennials get plenty of flack for workplace flightiness, jumping from job to job. But for many, that urge for newness is valid—we recognize our skills and interests and see that they would be better applied elsewhere. After a certain point, it’s time to pivot, change careers, and, in many cases, go back to school for a new degree.
I was lucky to have an idea of what I wanted my change to look like. As a journalist, I’d interviewed dozens of mental health experts—from psychologists and psychiatrists to policy-makers—over the years, and I was starting to find myself wishing I were on the other side of things.
I wanted to be the one explaining how a treatment worked, or providing insight into a certain system. Eventually, I translated this vague desire into a plan: I would apply for a Masters in Social Work, get my licensure as a clinical social worker, and go on to become a psychotherapist, working directly with patients and, perhaps, continuing to write.
Coming to this realization took work, though, and a lot of preparation.
Unfortunately, this decision can’t be distilled into “three easy steps!”, but knowing what to look for is an excellent start. Here’s how it happened for me.
It’s not a new metric, but it is what helped me finally make a decision. My boss had worked her way up from my position, climbing each rung I now saw in front of me. But when I looked at her responsibilities—meetings, meetings and more meetings—I felt an overwhelming sense of dread.
It wasn’t how I wanted to spend my time, and I wasn’t even sure I’d be good at it. Staying in my current role didn’t seem like a viable option either, since it was becoming hard to drum up the energy to do my work.
If you’re bored in your own job and uninterested in the next step in your career, it’s likely time to make a change.
Chances are, you know deep down if there’s something you’d rather be doing. As much as I tried to convince myself that I needed to stay the course, that things would get better, I had another, stronger sense that I owed it to myself to try something new.
It was like I had a disappointed parent over my shoulder, watching me work.
“OK,” the voice said. “If this is what you want, I guess I’m happy for you. But I don’t think it is.” That voice, of course, was right.
Remove everyone else from the equation and think about how you feel. Are you proud of the work you’re doing, or do you feel like there’s more potential elsewhere? If you’ve answered “yes” to the latter, then it might be time to find whatever “elsewhere” is.
When I first started itching to switch careers, I thought I was dealing with burnout. I had all the classic symptoms, like trouble getting through basic tasks, and finding little interest in celebrating my wins. As it turns out, I wasn’t struggling to drum up the energy to work in general—I was simply getting bored with the job I was doing.
I thought about what it would be like to work in the mental health field, and that made me… excited.
Ao, I read up on the latest industry news, found reasons to interview social workers for my job at the time, and soon enough, I knew I had to make the leap. If you’ve ruled out burnout and you’re not raring to take on new responsibilities in your current role, it may be time to pivot.
Of course, deciding to pivot is one thing. Deciding what to pivot toward is another.
If you know you want to head back to school but aren’t sure what for, your passions might provide clues to your own next move.
A friend of mine had a promising job in higher education and a clear path ahead. But, before long, she found herself hung up on her department’s finances. This wasn’t totally out of her wheelhouse—she had access to the data, after all—but it wasn’t exactly in her job description. So after a few years and several conversations with those who worked in the field, she made the leap and began a Master’s in Business Administration.
If you’re fascinated by the wheels that keep your company moving, an MBA might be the move for you. The classes and connections can open up a wide network of opportunity, from banking to consulting, or even a move to a more management-minded position internally. The opportunities are (nearly) endless.
My sister knew she wanted to be a teacher from the moment she stepped into her first classroom. Seriously: She used to mimic her kindergarten teacher’s every move. So it makes sense that she’s now leading a classroom of tiny humans as a preschool teacher. But while her path may have been set, she has plenty of colleagues who came to teaching from HR, media, and other varied professions.
Teaching typically requires a masters-level degree, and for good reason: You’re in charge of shaping young minds. If you’d like to test the waters before committing, consider a program like Teach For America, which places untrained teachers in schools across the country, offering education and discounted tuition after a few years.
Maybe you love finding bugs in your company’s programs. Perhaps you enjoyed high school calculus but always wondered about the point of all those equations. Or maybe, you’re always thinking of ways that your favorite apps could improve.
A screen-centered career isn’t for everyone, but if you feel called to code, it’s worth considering a computer science degree. Boot camps offer select skills in a short amount of time, while longer master’s and doctoral programs provide a wider breadth of knowledge. Find our breakdown here, or ask a tech worker which path they’d recommend.
Personally, I decided to get a Master’s in Social Work because I’m fascinated by the way people move through the world.
I wanted to better understand it, and help others to better understand it, too. As with all endeavors, I’m leaving room for change. Maybe I’ll start the degree and realize my future career looks a little different. And maybe I’ll even end up writing again, with a deeper background than before.
All I know is that it was time to jump, so I’m jumping.
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