My job isn’t a good fit anymore. What do I do next?
I have my first full-time job. I’ve got good pay, decent benefits, great coworkers, and I help make a difference in our community—but I don’t enjoy it. I think 2019 me would’ve LOVED working here after graduation, but after over a year of unemployment and pandemic worries, I feel so different, and I don’t think this position is right for where I am in life anymore.
I’m now eight months in, and I don’t feel any better about any of this. I want to finish this year and then go find other work, but I don’t even know what I’m good at or what I’d want to do next. I worry that I’ll be stuck in a job I’m not happy about or motivated to do for the rest of my life, that I’ll spend endless hours of my life doing something that makes me want to stay in bed every day.
What do I do when I no longer fit my old vision for my professional life, and how do I find a new vision that fits who I am now?
My first full-time job out of college was as a trainer at a boxing gym (yes, a boxing gym). While it wasn’t your traditional 9 to 5, I was there upwards of 40 hours a week. The pay was decent, my coworkers were super fun, and I loved the energy of my classes. Discovering my biceps and gaining self-defense skills didn’t hurt either.
But about a year into my job, I began feeling uncertain about my future. Like you, the position no longer felt right for me. The problem? I had no clue what I wanted to do or how to begin searching for another career. For almost a decade, I explored different industries—from hospitality and craft beer to marketing and SEO. And yet, none of it ever felt like the right fit.
It was also during this decade that I decided to go back to school for writing. I studied and submitted essays to online publications, all while working jobs that I didn’t love. Eventually (and very recently), that hobby-turned-side-project-turned-degree landed me a full-time writing and editing role—almost a decade after the boxing gym.
I share this with you because I believe my former jobs are the reason I’m here today, writing to you, and working in an industry that I love. And if I can offer any advice when it comes to building a career, it’s this:
We will not always feel “at home” in our current jobs—but perhaps there is a reason for that.
The long game is building a career that you love—not everyone gets to have this, so those of us who find ourselves in dream careers are incredibly lucky. But there is also the short game. And these are the seasons in life where we get to choose to show up despite a job feeling arduous, mundane, or like it’s no longer a great fit.
I have a friend who is in this season right now, actually. He loathes his day job, but he also understands that it’s a stepping stone to get to where he wants to be in his career. At night and on weekends, he studies for his future profession, all while remaining steadfast and present at his current role.
It’s ultimately up to you to decide when to make that big career move or transition. But I also want to emphasize that you don’t need to figure this out today or even by the end of this year. Neither do you need to leave your job to discover what’s next—though you can if you want, but have to be the one to assess your position and decide if that’s what is best.
Instead, I’d recommend slotting out some time in the coming weeks or months to sit down and think about your career. What does it look like for you? Do you envision yourself at a desk every day? At the same agency for many years? Or do you want to do something entirely new and different? Like become a doctor, or even opening a boxing gym? If you feel confused, it may be helpful to talk with family and friends, or even a therapist or career coach if that’s available to you.
You can also try the approach that worked for me. If you have free time, try new hobbies or take a class in a subject that interests you (online platforms are great for career exploration and they are much more affordable than going back to school). If there is a position you’re curious about, consider reaching out to a professional in that industry to see if they are willing to answer a few questions via email (LinkedIn is great for this).
Then, once you know what it is you’d like to do next, that is when you can begin mapping out your next steps. If your future career requires a pay cut, perhaps you need to save up before giving notice. Or, if you know that you may need to make a physical move depending on openings and positions, that may also take planning.
Again, it’s ultimately up to you when you decide to leave your job—and I hope you find support from loved ones regardless of your decision. But I will say that it won’t always be like this. Try to be present and enjoy what you can at your current job. It’s okay not to love it; you don’t have to stay there forever, or even for that much longer.
Also, there is no pressure to show up to work every day and identify with that career field. For many of us, we will have years or even decades of our lives dedicated to jobs that are a means to an end. But those jobs are worth celebrating too, even if we keep them simply to pay rent and put food on the table.
Wishing you a long and enjoyable career and also luck for the job hunt ahead. In the meantime, I’ll be holding space for you and whatever is to come next. xx
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Kayti Christian (she/her) is a Senior Editor at The Good Trade. She has a Master’s in Nonfiction Writing from the University of London and is the creator of Feelings Not Aside, a newsletter for enneagram 4s and other sensitive-identifying people. Outside of writing, she loves hiking, reading memoir, and the Oxford comma.