Far too many people are stuck on a career path that makes them unhappy. Many times people feel like they have invested too much in their training and experience to quit and start over. If you aren’t satisfied with your career choice, taking the time for professional career counseling can avoid costly mistakes that can affect the rest of your life. Not all personality types are suited to every kind of work. A qualified counselor can help you find out what jobs are suited to your skills and personal characteristics. That can help you be more productive at your current job or help you to find something new. We typically spend a quarter of our lives at work, so make sure it is something you love to do.
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Medically reviewed by Julie A. Dodson, MA, LCSW
Many children imagine themselves as adults and give some thought to what they want out of their future lives. Maybe a child dreams of being an artist, a scientist, a teacher, or a firefighter. The career(s) that child chooses for their life is ultimately up to them.
As children grow older, their interests often change, and so too might their career aspirations. Many people reach a point in their lives where they are not sure what exactly they want to do, or perhaps they are not completely satisfied with the path they have chosen. Identifying what brings an individual fulfillment and happiness is an important aspect of this journey, as happiness can contribute to an individual’s career success.
Jobs Versus Careers: What’s The Difference?
If a person works at a grocery store as a cashier, that is a job, but is it a career? Maybe! Perhaps this person works as a cashier and builds their way up to a management position. They may find themselves in a career in management. The key difference is this: A job is generally a shorter-term position focused on earning a paycheck, while a career is a longer-term pursuit driven by personal passion and desire for advancement in a chosen profession.
For this reason, working a job is not necessarily the same as being on a career path. For example, if a person is working at a job of which they are not particularly fond, it will likely not lead to a satisfying career. Many people work jobs that they do not particularly enjoy. A student may work somewhere simply because it helps them pay the bills while they finish their education. A parent may take on a position that they dislike to support their children. Working at a job that they love — even when the pay is not as good or is at a lower level than they prefer — may serve as the foundation they need to build their career. Although these job choices might ideally be a temporary step toward a budding career, this is not always possible.
Working at a job for money is not “wrong” — there is no universal “right” or “wrong” way for a person to support themselves. In fact, studies report that working any job is a strong predictor of varied measures of happiness. The potency of this predictor increases when an individual works in a position that provides long-term satisfaction. Autonomy, task significance, skill variety, and feedback are some factors that contribute to job satisfaction. Individuals may thereby place importance on creating a career where they feel fulfilled.
What If Your Desired Career Path Does Not Suit Your Strengths?
Say, for example, that an individual wants to be a veterinarian, but they know that science is not a strength of theirs. This incongruity is not necessarily an indicator that they should abandon the field of work altogether. This person might find it valuable to ponder the reasons why they are interested in being a veterinarian. Maybe at the core of their desire is a passion for helping animals. Using this new information as a guide, this person can redirect their path in a way that serves their core values and accentuates their strengths. For this individual, that might mean working as a pet sitter or opening an animal shelter.
Some people might find this kind of thought exercise helpful, but others might find it difficult to sort through on their own. In such cases, it can be useful to reach out for help from loved ones or other trusted sources like a credentialed therapist.
What If You Are Unsure Of Which Career To Pursue?
Not everyone has a clear passion, and it might take some effort to discover what path resonates. This may require some exploration of different interests. Volunteering might be a great way to test out an environment. In doing so, an individual could gain relevant experience while networking with others in the field.
Some may find this exploration process overwhelming or otherwise have trouble starting. Talking with trusted family members or friends can act as a sounding board as an individual moves forward. For those who might feel uncomfortable being vulnerable with their loved ones, working with a therapist may be an excellent option.
Counseling And Therapy As Career Support
If you are having trouble deciding what profession to pursue or are navigating a career transition, career counseling is designed to help. Career counselors assist people in the exploration of different career paths by considering not just skills and talents but all aspects of an individual’s personhood (including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disability). Online career counseling has been proven to significantly increase career decision-making skills.
Perhaps you are not ready to start your career search because you sense other aspects of your life are holding you back. Maybe you want help defining your core values. Whatever the case may be, credentialed therapists with online service providers like BetterHelp can tailor their services to meet you where you are and help take you where you want to go. Collaborating with an online therapist is an excellent option for people who are too busy with their current occupation to commute to an office.
Careers are distinct from jobs in that they constitute longer-term pursuits driven by personal and professional advancement in a field. Studies show that aligning one’s career with one’s strengths and core values makes for a more fulfilling career, resulting in heightened levels of lifetime happiness. Even if the desired path does not initially seem to suit an individual’s strengths, this path can be redirected to determine a more appropriate match. Career counseling and online therapy are two proven methods of helping people in their journey.