Thinking About Changing Your Career? Consider Modifying Before Leaving

Career DevelopmentPersonal Branding

There are many good reasons for considering a career change but sometimes change doesn’t have to be as radical as you think to improve your situation. I met with a highly intelligent woman who had been selling real-estate for many years and was successful even when the market was down.  The pressure of managing her real estate business along with running a home with two young grade school boys mounted and pushed her to the point of near collapse.  Each month she worried so much about paying her bills that she couldn’t turn off the switch from work to family and found herself constantly checking e-mails, texting clients, receiving calls at all hours of the day and night and throughout weekends.

She recognized that all of her discussion at home was strictly focused on her work as her young children repeatedly begged her to stop talking about work. My client confided that she knew her situation was spinning out of control when her 8-year-old screeched, “stop talking about real-estate!” when she mentioned while driving her children home from school that a neighbor’s roof needed repair.

The day she notified her boss that she had it with all the pressure and was leaving the firm, she felt a huge relief and noticed her back pain that had mounted over the last few years subsided. It seemed clear to her and to anyone she would speak to that changing careers was imperative. Her schedule was too demanding, pressure of a commission based job was pushing her too hard to work 7 days per week and there was no alternative other than quitting.

Here’s where I found that some perspective was needed.  On one hand, my client clearly needed a break to distance herself from her situation and reassess her life and her work and what had gone wrong.  She was a high producer but everything else in her personal life was falling apart.  I suggested she take a step back from her situation and consider some other pursuits that could offer her more autonomy and a better work-home life. Through investigating some other options she realized that making a change would be as disruptive as staying put in her current position.  She would need to refresh her skills and that would mean returning to school and taking on a part-time job while compromising her income.

Pursuing a career change at some point later in her life could be a great long-term goal but in truth, making any change now would actually add more stress to her busy life. What my client  ultimately learned was that even though her work situation was imperfect, some of it had to do with how she had failed to set boundaries for herself and with her work at home.

She recognized that there was lots of benefits to knowing her business and having solid name recognition and in light of the market being up it may not be the best time to leave real-estate job and take on a new career that would require refreshing her skills, going back to school and still bringing in some income.

After weighing out the pros and cons on a piece of paper we identified the areas she could affect change;  She carefully reviewed her priorities in life and we even discussed her greater legacy to put her work in perspective.  She then was ready to address how she could set healthy boundaries so her work would not constantly bleed into her family life.

First off, she agreed to take on fewer clients even though she realized that this would mean bringing in a reduced commission.  She also committed herself to rejecting clients who she could identify as particularly high maintenance or difficult in order to reduce her stress level.  She set her sights on increasing her work load in the future when her kids no longer needed her attention as much as they do now.

She decided that creating a schedule where she would carve out time at home that she would not compromise could help her restrict some of her obsessiveness about continuing her work while she was home.  Some time every day would be strictly focused on her children and husband and once per week they would set aside a regular time for a family activity that would prioritize creating a joyful family bond.  For instance, playing a board game with the whole family on a weeknight, reading a special story during the breakfast hour, cooking together on a Sunday night were some ideas for substituting her old behavior with a new one.  She decided to bring into her schedule some spiritual pursuits that were appropriate for her children as well so she could switch her conversation to share something meaningful that could allow for a family discussion in place of discussing business.

The end result was that my client didn’t need to leave her career entirely at this point but rather implement some parameters that would reduce her stress level and allow her time to refresh and recharge her battery.  The lesson here is to avoid making rash decisions when it comes to making a career change.  Although there are times when leaving a career and starting over makes perfect sense it’s not always going to reduce your stress level. Be mindful to weigh all the variables;  see if you can set boundaries that may enable you to be effective at work and happy at home before you drop everything you know and start anew.