Crying on the Couch – How and When to Make a Career Change

Are you crying on the couch, unengaged and unhappy with your career? Learn how and when to make a career change.
How to Change Career Direction Poster Image

My phone rang. I recognized Kate’s number and answered. The voice croaked out, “Karyl, I’m crying on my couch.” A sob and a choking sound followed. Then, “I just don’t want to do this anymore!”

What could have caused a happily married woman and mother of a mostly well-behaved teenager to be immobile on her couch, sobbing to a Career Coach? The culprit: pent-up frustration and a desire to be doing something else; something more in her work life, yet not knowing what to do or how to do it. She felt stuck.

Career Crisis

Kate’s own story is much like that of others who find themselves yearning to do something different, to begin a new chapter in their work life. She’d invested time, interest, and education in her current field, yet she was unhappy and wanted to move to her next thing. But what? She was torn.

Next Chapter: New job or a new career?

daily grind

Kate and I began talking regularly. It was time to unsnarl her tangle of thoughts and reasons for wanting to course-correct her career. Why did she want to jettison her current career, switch it up completely, and begin again? Is that what she intended? Her job and her career are two different things: her job is a part of her total career… a building block. Was her misery connected to the specific job she held… the content of the job itself, the terms, conditions, pay, flexibility, leadership, or management? Or was her career choice no longer right for her?

We pondered the question together. Did Kate need a job change or a career change? Kate recognized that changing career directions would reset her learning curve and, most likely, her income for a while. She didn’t want to spend her work life sitting, mostly alone, problem-solving and documenting projects and workflow. She was aching to be more directly involved with others and see the direct impact of her work. Kate was looking for a career change. She’d arrived at a place where her personal motivations didn’t match her job’s requirements.

People are different – no new news there. What motivates different people to enjoy and engage at work in the exact same job differs widely. Not every job offers the same motivation and opportunity to be engaged.

Six Personal Motivations

Handcuffed to a job

Personal motivators to engage and feel rewarded at work are just that…personal. These motivational drivers are hidden from view…sometimes even hidden from ourselves. The six drivers of personal motivation I see most are:

1. Social – the need to connect

2. Intellectual – the need to use one’s skill or brain power

3. Activity – the need to do something, often using physical action

4. Meaning – the need to have a purpose or to matter

5. Impact– the need to influence or make a measurable difference.

6. Security – the need to feel safe

Different jobs and different careers vary widely in the motivations they provide. Kate was aching to find more meaning and a lot more physical activity in her work. Kate joined a large nonprofit organization that provides direct service daily to thousands of clients. She changed careers and jobs and will likely be leading the organization one day. She brought her budget and project management experience with her, and it’s a big plus.

What About You?

woman exiting

Are you thinking about your own next career chapter? If so, here are steps to guide you from “thinking about it” to “working on it.”

  • Give yourself the time. Set time on your calendar every week to work on this personal project. Give yourself action items like meetings, phone calls, and readings to do during your scheduled date with yourself. Explore different work environments and industries. Meet friends in their places of work, and get outside your usual “rut.”
  • Prepare. People want to know who you are, what motivates you, what you are good at, and what you’d like to avoid. Don’t wing it. Create your personal story, write it down, and learn to use it.
  • Clarify your goal. Want to change job, career, industry, or geography? What and When? Brainstorm with yourself and write down your goal statement. Don’t be surprised if your goal changes and evolves the more you think and work on your Next Chapter Plan.
  • Talk it through with a trusted friend, advisor, or Coach. Make talking about your change and sharing your progress a priority. The accountability of sharing progress with another makes the process more enjoyable and helps to ensure some progress.

If you find yourself sitting on the couch, silently telling yourself, “I just don’t want to do this anymore,” you are not alone. Over 50% of those currently employed are thinking about a job change. Make your next move count. Match your personal motivations to your work. Make it your Next Chapter!

Make a Plan

Know Your Worth - Purpose Driven Career Journal
Know Your Worth: Purpose Driven Career Journal, $19.99
Second Acts - Creating the Life You Really Want, Building the Career You Truly Desire
Second Acts: Creating the Life You Really Want, Building the Career You Truly Desire, $14.99
what color is your parachute
What Color Is Your Parachute? 2022: Your Guide to a Lifetime of Meaningful Work and Career Success, $17.99
Own Your Career Own Your Life
Own Your Career Own Your Life, $14.99
The Career Coaching Handbook
The Career Coaching Handbook, $32.22
30 Day Career Clarity Challenge Journal
30-Day Career Clarity Challenge Journal, $6.99

Read Next:

Encore Careers: The 10 Stages to Enjoying Your ‘Unretirement’

Second Acts Career Guide

5 Smart Career Moves


We are giving away a $50 Amazon Gift Card every month to one of our subscribers! To enter, simply add your email address below. If you already subscribe, you will automatically be entered. Winners will be chosen randomly.

Related Posts: