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Home  > Article

Help! I'm Stuck in the Wrong Career

By Kate Lorenz,

Are you a copywriter trapped in an accountant's body? Or are you a sales manager who longs to be a clinical therapist? Not everyone gets things right coming out of the gate. Our first job tends to be doing something we may or may not have real talent for, in an industry that doesn't really interest us.

From there, you get promoted or change companies, but usually stay with what you're familiar with. Before you know it, you're on a career path you never intended. If you think you're stuck, think again. It's not too late to try something else.

Lawyer to Football Coach
Tim was an associate with a Chicago law firm. His parents were proud and his friends were impressed. But something was missing.

"I wanted to be a lawyer, because I thought it would prove I was a success," Tim admits. "But it just didn't feel natural. I couldn't stand the sedentary nature of the job and I wasn't using my talents as a motivator.

"I began thinking about what excited me... what I naturally gravitated toward," he recalls. "I realized it was football and mentoring young people."

Tim met with his high school football coach who just happened to be looking for an assistant. Tim asked for the job -- and got it.

"People thought I was crazy when I quit the firm," Tim says. "My father -- a plant worker -- was furious at first, because having a lawyer in the family had been his dream as well as mine."

But Tim loved his new life, has had great success and today is the head coach of a Division III college.

Stay at Home Mom to Aesthetician to Doctor
Karen was a 38-year-old stay-at-home mom who had recently gone through a divorce. She had a college degree in biology but hadn't worked in 12 years. She found a job at one of the many med spas opening in Southern California. She began as a receptionist and showed such an aptitude for dealing with customers that the spa's sales grew dramatically.

When the owner complimented her on this, Karen asked if he would help her get an aesthetician's license. He agreed, and within six months, Karen began performing procedures at the spa.

"I loved helping people improve their appearance," Karen recalls. "But after two years of extracting blackheads and performing Brazilian waxes, I needed more of a challenge."

So Karen applied (and was accepted) to medical school. "Money is tight," she admits. "But there are some wonderful government programs out there which I am taking advantage of."

She is set to graduate in June and will begin her residency in dermatology.

Is a Career Change Right For You?
If you're considering switching fields, take the following litmus test to help you decide:

  • Are you changing careers for the right reasons? Many people switch careers because they're running away from a problem in their personal life. If that's the case, you're better off asking for a new assignment or getting a new job within your field. Be sure you understand what your desired career entails and that you're truly passionate about it before taking the plunge.

  • Do you have the right stuff? You may have the will, but do you have the skill? Gauge your aptitude through volunteering or vocational testing.

  • Can you afford to make the switch? Do you have a cushion to get you through the transition? If it involves further schooling, have you checked out the possibility of a grant, scholarship, student loan or educational assistance from your employer?

  • Is there a demand for your chosen profession? It's easier to make the change if there's a shortage of workers in the field you wish to enter.

    If you answer "yes" to all four questions, embarking on a new career may be the answer. Sure it will take planning, courage, faith and some sacrifice. But with the average worker estimated to put in over 11,000 workdays in his or her lifetime, wouldn't it be great to be doing something you love?

    Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

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