Stuck in wrong career - advice welcomed

Firstly, I’m aware in the scheme of things, this is not the worst problem to have. But it’s starting to wear me down, so I thought I’d chuck it over to the teeming millions for your two cents.

I have a reasonably paid, very secure post in a UK Government department within easy commuting distance of where I live and have done for five years. The people I work with, by and large are nice - my bosses are reasonable. The work, however is stupeyingly meaningless to me. I am not applying myself to it because no matter how hard I try, I cannot make it meaningful. (I can’t really give too much in the way of detail, but suffice it to say it is typical civil service type work). Every day I go home feeling hugely guilty about having done little and but not enough to actually turn things around.

It has dawned on me that I have not almost certainly not only trapped myself in the wrong post, but the wrong career. But I really don’t have any idea of what else to do. I’m college educated and I have no real hobbies that I feel passionately about so can’t draw on that. The only thing that possibly appeals is a utter change of career and taking up counselling but I am unsure if I have the appropriate skillset (and frankly if I am robust enough - I have had counselling myself).

Truth is, not only am I very scared to move, but I’m not even sure what I’d move towards if I wasn’t so chicken. It’s starting to get me down hugely. My father works in the same line of work and was so proud when I joined the Department.

I don’t really know what to do. Should I just suck it up and do my jobl? Or not - but then what else to do? All suggestions gratefully considered.

  1. Figure out how big of a risk you can and want to take. So if you are not married and have no kids or mortgage or other big obligations, you are likely able to take a bigger risk - but only if you know you have the stomach for it.

  2. Decide how serious you are about change

  3. Get ready to embark on a journey - if you: a) want to change things; and b) don’t know what you want them to change into, then you have to be ready to try a bunch of things - accept the fact that you have to bounce around a bit, try a few things and learn. If you don’t test a bunch of things, you can’t develop an opinion about how you feel about them. This does NOT mean you have to work 10 jobs to find the right one (although you might); it means you must be honest with yourself about what is working and what is not and be prepared to change, taking your new learnings with you, to the next step in your path.

  4. First figure out what you like doing - is it mental or physical, working with people or by yourself, etc. Figure out a few things that: a) you are good at; b) you enjoy doing; and c) can translate into a job.

  5. Be prepared to start lower than you are - and maybe have to get some more education (but preferably you should only make that investment when you know in your heart you’ve found the One). Change often requires that you take a step back in order to move forward.

This is big-deal stuff; ultimately it is about you - how you feel about yourself currently and how you want to feel about yourself. I changed jobs from a very respected, very high-paying glamor job (management consultant for a top firm) to working for a small start-up in a decidedly unglamorous, non-internet-sexy sort of field and couldn’t be happier - but I also tried a couple of other things first that did NOT work out that I had to learn from. But sticking with my desire - and not going back to the easy job waiting for me that wanted to pay me huge money (I was getting recruited hard by a couple of consulting firms) - and ending up at the job I currently have has completely changed how I feel about myself when I look in the mirror. If your voice in your head sounds similar to mine, there is a lot to be gained by listening to it.

Good luck.

Teach. It sounds like you have a desire to “do something” and I can’t think of anything more worth doing than teaching. Teach little tykes to tie their shoes; teach children to read and write; teach teens to respect each other and love Shakespeare; teach young men and women to think critically about Kant and quantum physics. It doesn’t matter what you teach, just teach. I promise you, you will never again go home at the end of the day slightly guilty about not earning your paycheck.

It sounds like you need to take some time to think about your goals and priorities in life. Maybe you started your career because of your dad, and were content with it because of the factors you mentioned, but are now realising that it just kind of happened without your having thought long and hard about it. If that’s the case it might be worth having a go at career counselling. There are heaps of providers - you’d have to sift through to find one that looks good for you. Alternatively a short OU course might provide a bit of extra mental stimulation while you’re deciding what step to take next.