Recently we have seen an influx of clients coming into our Florham Park location seeking counseling to help with career transitions. I attribute this increase to recent talks I have given on professional development. This is an area that I absolutely love. It is also an area that a lot of people need help in. Recent surveys have shown that up to 60% of workers are dissatisfied with their jobs. In this article I am going to go over different reasons people struggle with transition. I am also including dialogues that illustrates these points.
Fear of having to start over
One of the first forms of resistance clients seeking to make a career transition put up is “starting over.” I have had countless clients who hate their job but don’t want to leave because they don’t want to start over.
Me: It seems like you really don’t like your job and that you would like to make a switch.
Client: Yeah I hate my job. I am miserable being there.
Me: That doesn’t sound enjoyable to say the least. So what is stopping you from making a switch?
Client: Well I have been with my company for 5 years. If I leave I will have start over.
Me: That’s right you’ve been there for 5 years. Tell me more about this concept of starting over.
Client: Well people know me at work. I know the company. Since I have been here for 5 years I have moved up. If I go somewhere else then I would lose all the time I spent at my current company.
Me: Ah I see. So you think that leaving will mean that you have to start over in your career.
Me: Okay I can work with that. For the jobs you are interviewing for, how do they compare to your current job.
Client: Well one of them would be a lateral move and the other two are actually steps up.
Me: Interesting. So it sounds like that if one of these three hit, then worse case scenario you will be making a lateral move to a company that you are much more excited to work for?
Client: Yeah. That’s actually interesting when you put it that way.
Me: Tell me more.
Client: Well I guess I wouldn’t be starting over. Starting over would mean that I would have to start at the bottom again. But these jobs aren’t at the bottom. In fact two of them would be promotions.
Me: Sure sounds like it. Let me look at this from another angel with you. Remind me of how old you are exactly.
Client. I am 35.
Me: Okay. So you are 35. And when do you plan to retire?
Client: Realistically not before 60.
Me: Hmm so that leaves us with 25 more years of working. Let me ask you this. Is it worth it to stay with your current company for 25 more years?
Client: Hell no. That would be beyond miserable.
Me: It sounds rough.
So this client brings up a very common fear; the fear of having to start over. He feels that he is too far into his career to hit the restart button. By asking about how much longer he plans on working I help him realize that he is settling for an unfulfilling career for the next 25 years. Instead of beating around the bush I bring this right out in the open. It helps re-frame the discussion to “Is this worth suffering with for another 25 years.” Once we start to label the fears and talk about them honestly we start to take the power out of them. This man has so many years left in his career that starting over isn’t a career killer. By talking about it honestly the client is able to see that he still has a long work career ahead of him. It helps the client to give himself permission to explore other opportunities.
Fear of being “the new kid”
My work as a therapist has shown me that what happens in childhood can potentially echo into adulthood. Coming out of grad school I was not surprised to see this occur in personal relationships. However when I started working with clients on their professional lives I was surprised to see those childhood experiences still echoing.
In retrospect it makes sense. I believe life is all about relationships. Who we are and how we act in those relationships is based on previous relationships. Several of my clients seeing me for career transitions really illustrated that point.
Me: So for the past several weeks you have expressed a desire to make a change. You identified what you want to do. You have gone through the interview process. Initially you were really excited as the prospect. Now that you are about to get an offer you are expressing serious reservations. What happened?
Client: Well initially I was so excited. I am really interested in this new job and excited to go in a new direction.
Me: Okay so you still feel good about the new job. What’s causing the friction?
Client: Well I guess I am somewhat scared.
Me: Having fear when making a change is perfectly natural. Are you scared that you won’t be able to do the job?
Client: No I can do the job really well.
Me: Is it the compensation package?
Client: No I’ll actually make more money.
Me: The manager?
Client: No I felt like I really connected with the manager. (Laughing) Besides you have heard plenty from me about how much I dislike my current boss.
Me (smiling): I thought I might have heard you say something along those lines.
Client (Laughing): Yeah I guess I made my feelings about my manager pretty evident in my rants.
Me: Yeah I didn’t have to dig for that. Lay it on me. Straight up what’s tripping you up.
Client: I am scared of being the new kid again.
Me: Oh that bone sounds like its got a lot of meat on it. Give me more.
Client: Well if I go somewhere new then I have to be the new person again. I don’t know anyone there and its tough to start be new again.
Me: Courageous of you to voice that out loud. I noticed that you said “new kid again.” Tell me more.
Client: Well growing up my family moved around a lot and I went to 4 different schools. Every time I went to a new school I had to start over again in making friends.
Me: How did that feel?
Client (looking downward): Lonely.
Me: Ah I see. (Pause): Remember when I said what happened in childhood can echo into adulthood?
Client: Yeah defintetly.
Me: Seems like we might have a bit of that going on here.
Sometimes events or experiences that we have had echo into our present even if they happened a long time ago. This client had a childhood marked with uncertainty and always have to start over. He was slightly bashful about admitting that as an adult he still is scared “to be the new kid.” This is quite common. Many people will stay in jobs, careers, or organizations because at least it is known. It is familiar. Going somewhere else new can evoke the fear of having to start with knowing nobody again. They may find themselves thinking “Well I really don’t like what I do or being here and it kind of sucks but at least it is known.”
Struggle is an inevitable part of life. Adversity is something that society overall tries to avoid today. After all, who wants to struggle. However challenges are actually a real growth opportunity. When we are faced with making difficult decisions such as changing career paths or leaving a job its common to shy away from the unknown. However our experience here as therapists with clients and in our own personal lives is that if we lean into the discomfort when can come out the other side changed. We can grow.
Personally this is career number two for me. I chose my first career when I was a Sophomore in college. Looking back I can see that not only did I not know what career to pick, but I didn’t even know who I was. I was too scare of going with something I didn’t know so I stuck with what I was good at; business. I ended up in the oilfield in a highly rated leadership development rotational program. I was tabbed as a future business leader. I was highly compensated and had a clear career path forward.
I traveled non-stop. One memory clear sticks with me. One day I was on a plane. I was flying from somewhere or to somewhere. I sat on the plane and took a break from my work. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and allowed my mind to clear. A message came through. In that instant I realized that I would never be great at that job because it didn’t fulfill my heart’s purpose.
Now at that time, and even today, I am not a super gushy lead with my heart person. I have always been analytical and always will be. However I started to get in touch with what my heart was saying to me. It was telling me that it was time to leave the known, embrace the unknown, and find my purpose.
So eventually I left. I figured out what I wanted to do, and more importantly, who I wanted to be. I leaned into the unknown and uncertainty. I spent many restless nights wondering if I had made a mistake. However I kept coming back to the belief that life is an adventure and that my job was to find my purpose. After plenty of reflection and research, I came to believe that I have been put on this Earth to connect with other people and help them get in touch with themselves. That is what I do today and I believe I have the best job in the world.
Now I love what I do. However it has not always been sunshine and roses. Even though I love my work there are rough patches. Seeing a family torn apart by addiction is always difficult to witness. Working with clients who are terminally ill is heart-wrenching. Hearing clients discuss traumas they have experienced brings tears to my eyes. However, even in the hard times, I would never choose a different path.
It was really difficult to start over from scratch and be the “new kid.” But it has been worth it. Professionally I can help you get there with your own career. If you have fears or uncertainty please realize that that is very common. Getting through to the other side is worth it. Turns out that sometimes in life the grass is greener.
How Counseling at The New Jersey Family and Addiction Institute can help.
If you found yourself identifying with the conversations above reach out to us. We have extensive experience with working with clients to help them determine what path they want to pursue moving forward. Pick up the phone or send us an email. We are here to help and are happy to have a free consultation with you. Remember, the grass sometimes is greener. Counseling can help you get there.