Career Revamp: How to Accept Lost Income and Savings?

I am trying to make it through my job, but at this point I’m acknowledging that my career is just not a fit. I’m very (incredibly) fortunate to be in a position where I’ve been paid a lot, which has allowed me to purchase a home and superfund my children’s college savings accounts. Compared to most of the world I’m in a really good place. It doesn’t feel that way, but I constantly I have to remind myself that I’m doing pretty great.

But it’s still hard to look at the future ahead of me and think about what to do next. I could pretty easily (with the right antidepressant anyway) stay in my current role and continue to earn $200k-$300k per year. If I knew 100% there was something else out there that would be a better fit I would be willing to give that up for lower compensation, but the reality is I don’t actually have any idea if another job would be any better. I could leave this role, take a position for $80k, have to dip into savings for years, and still be completely unhappy — maybe more so.

There are things about my career that aren’t a good fit for me. Some of these things are part of any job but maybe lesser so in another field. Having to influence people is really challenging for me. I am not a good communicator. I’m not great at being organized, but also I’m worse at it when I have a job that requires so much context switching and doesn’t have clear measures of success or completion. I worry that a job with clear measures of success and completion would bore me–when I’m bored I don’t do good work either.

I’m really seeking a career where I can be in “flow” more often than not. Maybe that’s unrealistic. I know I like working on projects where I’m collaborating with a team and building something and being part of that trajectory to create something from nothing and then get it out to the world. I think this is pretty consistent in the few moments in my career and life when I’ve felt in the right place. But this concept is not a career. This concept does not pay the mortgage.

I wish I could just figure out a way to do this job and not feel so horrible about it. But when it comes to creative work I find I’m either all in and doing really good work or I can’t engage at all. I can’t half engage. I can’t just get it done and not care and spend the rest of my day doing other things. It haunts me from the moment I wake up in the morning to the instant I fall asleep, and often even finds it way into my dreams and/or nightmares.

Really all I want is to feel good at something and like I’m actually contributing value. I don’t think I am now. Often I’m told that I must be or else I would’t be paid what I’m paid. Well, someone at the top believes in me despite my being a total mess, but not to the point where he cares to help my career make any sense. My job is to get random things done that are high-stress projects with no clear definition of success other than a bunch of people decide they are ok and then they are done.

The work I have is not impossible time-wise. It’s just impossible in the sense that I cannot do it. Or, I do manage to do it, at the last minute, after a whole lot of stress. Maybe that’s why I get paid so much. Because no one else really wants to do the jobs I do.

I’m just tired. Tired of not knowing what my career is. Tired of feeling like everything could fall out from under me at any moment. I realize I’ll never be perfect at my job, but I would love to have a real career where I start at a lower level and have regular promotions every few years because I’ve actually done a good job. Is it possible for me to do a consistently good job at anything? If I could do ANYTHING what would that be?

I think fundamentally I need to revisit if I’m really a creative person. I’m constantly pushed into creative type roles but I don’t think I’m creative at all. In fact, maybe I’m at the point in my life where I prefer to be quantitative in my work. Not that I know how to be, but maybe that’s an area to explore. I just can’t imagine myself in a job interview where I can hold my own where I’m asked questions about data. I process too slowly. No one would hire me.

And I like to do things my own way, which isn’t how the world works. People want you to know what you’re doing and follow the established path with minor deviations.

Part of me wants a job where I interact with people more. Again, going back to the drawing board — being some kind of counselor… or even a nutritionist? But then I realize that I’m just not mentally well enough to have a job that requires being stable enough to see clients regularly. So that crosses off a lot of jobs out there. I don’t know. Maybe my current job is the best job I’ll ever have. It pays well. It’s not that hard, it’s more like managing a puzzle that constantly has new pieces showing up and you just have to figure out how to put it all together well enough that people don’t realize you’re missing pieces and then you move on to the next puzzle. Nothing ever feels done or good. And that makes me feel sick.

I’m trying hard to start building a life outside of work. To at least focus on my health with exercise and eating well. If my entire career is going to go to shit then the least I can do is make sure I’m as healthy as I can be physically. I have to try to believe that there is an answer out there for me somewhere. I need to find it and I need to drive the change. I need to start believing in myself. I’m embarrassed of how I present myself to people. I’m going to be 40 soon. I need to get my shit together.  On so many levels. I should go to the psychiatrist and get meds and I will soon. I’m not sure how that really helps but maybe it does. I’m willing to try anything right now. To help me stop being this–whoever it is that I am. I need to grow up, grow a pair, and just get on with it. Life isn’t waiting for me and I’m too impatient to wait for it.

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8 thoughts on “Career Revamp: How to Accept Lost Income and Savings?”

  1. Hi Joy! Wow.. First time stopping by and I’m glad I did. I can really relate to your sentiment here.

    Your frustration with your current work, related to context switching and fuzzy success measures really hits home. I’ll add to that the maddening dysfunction of working for a large organization, where one’s effort is diluted and disconnected from end results… I’m thinking of your point about contributing value.

    I wonder.. Have you considered having your own business? You may make less at first but you will control your own destiny and ‘do things your own way’. And the boss can be as impatient as she wants!

    Btw, I’m 57… You have time. But not if you are unhappy. There’s no time for that! Either way, good on you for minding your health and diet. I fall down hard on that one.

    Thanks for your great blog.. I checked out some other posts.. Great stuff. Thanks!
    J Paul Hendricks recently posted..Grow Your Personal Life Assets

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I’m considering having my own business but I carry the health insurance for the family so it’s a bad idea. I would love to figure out how to build a writing business and I’m wondering if that’s possible. I start running pricing models in my head of how much I could make if I land a few solid clients and they stay happy. I love the idea of it. But I don’t think I have it in me to actually find clients and manage the relationships plus do the work. It’s not a horrible idea.

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