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What To Do When Your Career Doesn’t Go The Way You Intended

What To Do When  Your Career  Doesn't Go The  Way You Intended

Unless you are very lucky, it’s highly unlikely that your job will remain unchanged throughout your career, whether that means transitioning to a new role in your industry of choice or switching to an entirely new industry.

Everyone (myself included) learns a lot through trial and error; what seems like an ideal career for us on paper may not be the best choice for us. While I support listening to your instincts, especially when it comes to your career, it’s also important to note that although you may be feeling restless or dissatisfied, it does not mean that the experience you gained was a waste of time.

There are things you can do to make the most of your experience and utilize your time in your current position to the best of your ability. Here are a few of them.

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What To Do When Your Career Doesn’t Go The Way You Intended

1. Focus on the things you can control.

No job is perfect, and inevitably, you will be asked to do something that you don’t want to do. Even if you are lucky enough to make a living doing what you love, you will encounter things that you don’t like or cannot control. Focus on the aspects you can control instead.

I’m talking about the little things, like your appearance, your punctuality, the effort you put into your responsibilities day in and day out, and how prepared you are. These things may seem insignificant, but they do make a difference.

Like it or not, the little things we do and how we look can send a very strong message to the people around us. These details matter; not only that, they are within your control. Focusing on those things and being proactive is a far better use of your time and energy.

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2. Focus on developing transferrable skills that will serve you.

When I first started my career, I believed that unless I could check every single box off of a job description, I didn’t have the experience an employer was looking for. I wouldn’t take the time to reflect and think about how the skills I already had could translate into something beneficial for an employer. I simply focused on what I didn’t have and let that limit me.

I am happy to say that since then, I have changed. I now continually look for how I can utilize the experience I have to my advantage and how I can use that experience to benefit a potential employer. Whether you’re aiming to grow in your current company, or looking five to ten years down the road, these are valuable to have on hand . 

Reflecting on your past experience is a powerful thing; chances are that you may have already developed some of the skills you initially thought you lacked in another position. You may also find some way to use the skills you have to your advantage.

While I may not have been aware of it at the time, my seasonal retail position allowed me to learn how to do more than make a sugary beverage in a timely manner for hungry customers. The position allowed me to develop my customer service skills and enhance my ability to communicate with people from various cultural backgrounds, something that I continually use to this day.

Identifying the transferrable skills you are using in your current position and focusing on honing them not only gives you an appreciation for your current and past experiences, but it may also prompt you to consider how you can use your current experiences to your advantage in the future.

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3. Find a goal that you can focus on.

I am aware that not everyone on the planet is goal-oriented. Some may find goals and deadlines restricting. However, I have found that having a goal helps to focus my energy. That goal, whatever it may be, is entirely up to you.

Whether it be going to graduate school, taking a language proficiency exam to expand your potential employment opportunities, starting a business, becoming an entrepreneur, or finding a new job, having a goal that you can focus on can motivate you to fulfill your duties to the best of your ability regardless of your feelings about your current position.

4. Take time to reevaluate.

Regardless of how you may feel about your current position, there was a reason you decided to take the job in the first place. It may have looked like your dream job on paper or been a stepping stone to developing skills that you need.

Are there aspects of your current position that you enjoy? If so, what are they? Is there another job out there that will allow you to continue to do those things? What are the things that you dislike about your current position (if any)? Why do you dislike those aspects of your current job?

This is not an extensive list of questions that you need to ask yourself when you are taking the time to reevaluate your career. However, using the time you are currently employed to reflect on these questions and the answers they yield will help you tremendously.

If, for example, your current job has taught you that you absolutely hate working in a particular environment or utilizing a particular skill set, you can focus on finding positions that allow you to use different skills and avoid positions that would require you to work in an environment you know you would not thrive in.

Use this time to network with people in your community or city who have similar backgrounds or people who have made a similar transition. Tapping into their expertise can give you hope and expand your awareness of opportunities that are available to you.

It can be a jarring thing when your career doesn’t go the way you expect it to; however, that doesn’t mean that you can’t use your past and present experience to your advantage. Yes, transitions are difficult, but they are a natural part of any career. You are not the first to experience this, and you will certainly not be the last.

About the Author

Alisa Tanaka

Alisa Tanaka graduated with a Communications degree from Lewis & Clark College in 2012. She hopes to develop a career that allows her to make a measurable impact on the world while doing something that she loves. Her interests include psychology, linguistics, and mental health. She can also be found reading, watching documentaries, and writing her blog.