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Changing careers: Good and bad

May 31, 2014

I’m about 5 months into my new job, and I have to admit, it has been a bit of a roller coaster.  There have been a lot of really great things, and a lot of lows that I wasn’t really expecting.

My job is project based, and my first project is a longer term  (10 – 11 months) not-very-interesting project.  There are a bunch of plusses with this project:

  • it is great to be consistently assigned a project
  • I don’t have to travel
  • I work in the city
  • The hours are good.

I like my company, and everyone has been really friendly.  I’m working in new industries doing new things, and I didn’t have to take a pay cut to make a change.  All in all, things worked out as planned.

That said, I’ve had some challenges.  For this project in particular, the work is not very interesting nor very challenging.   It isn’t where I want to go with my career in the long run, although it is an OK place to be for now.  Coming from what I was doing before, the work is not inspiring, and that makes me sad.

I’ve also had to start over, at least much more than I would like to have.  I get it – it makes sense – but I don’t have to like it.  Perhaps I was naive, but I wasn’t really expecting it, at least not to this extent.  While I know my experience translates well, I have been less great at figuring out how to sell it, market it, and make other people see that value.  I’ve got some ideas on how to do better at this, but it is kind of exhausting to have to prove myself all over again.  It’s a hard change, but the only way to get somewhere better is to figure out how to thrive in the place I’m at.

I have been comparing my new job to my old job, and it really isn’t holding up.  That said, it is an unfair comparison.  I invested years into my old job.  I put hours of effort, lots of emotional effort, and it was even what I went to school for (undergrad and grad).  The reasons that I didn’t pursue a job more similar to my old job are still there.   Nothing has changed.  I still don’t want to make the commute required for a similar job, I still don’t think that I was getting as many marketable, transferable skills, and I still question the long term health of the industry.  None of these things are insurmountable, and if I end up deciding it is the best option, I can go back in that direction.  But the reasons I wanted to try something new still outweigh the fact that my old job was more awesome than my new job.  I’ll continue to search for a job that provides autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  I hope this job develops into something like that after I invest some time.

(Similarly, I am always comparing my new neighborhood to my old neighborhood.  My old neighborhood, in my opinion, was pretty much the best place in the entire world to live.  So, maybe comparing to that is unfair.  At minimum, it is unhelpful.)

I don’t know what my long term plans are.  I could stay at this job for years, or maybe not.  It could open some different doors for me, or I could go back to engineering.  I could even go back to school and do… something.  I do like to have a plan, but I’m really more concerned with having a direction or a strategy.  I will make choices that will put me in the best possible position for the future, given the information I have now.  I’ll seek out new information, and push myself to grow. Because that is the best any of us can really do.


8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2014 12:52 am

    I’ve been a little reluctant to totally spill my guts on the blog, but I guess I’ll do it in a comment!

    I think it’s accurate to say I find my actual work less personally meaningful now. Being the newbie I get the bleh stuff sometimes (before when I was the only person doing my job – lean mean team with, uh, 2 entire people, I did everything including the crap, but that’s because there was no other choice – no resource!). The commute is longer.

    BUT. I adore – no, loooove – all the other things. The environment, the people, the culture, the perks, the PAY. Even the meetings are interesting and I look forward to them. Lots more structure and process which has good and bad, but generally good IMO having come from a very unstructured place. I think I really ‘fit’ this role. While some of the stuff I’m doing on a day to day basis is a little more pedestrian than I anticipated, I also get to do other stuff at a much higher level than I did before. It’s a good mix of strategy, planning, coordination and execution, I think. Lots of new, marketable, transferable skills, even if a few of them are difficult. And a growing industry as opposed to a withering one, as an advisor succinctly put it for me. (I thought it interesting that you questioned the long term health of your industry – I take you didn’t mean engineering broadly but the specific field you worked in?) Honestly, the only way it could improve if it was more flexible, I’d love to work from home regularly.

    I think that learning some of the things you don’t want/like is painful but also valuable for helping shape your next steps – goals, visions. Like you I’m not sure what my longterm play is (and in my field nobody really does) but as you say all we can do is seek to grow so we’ll be prepared for opportunities that come up later on. Gaining more rounded skills can only be a good thing for us.

    • June 1, 2014 12:55 pm

      Yes, just my specific industry – engineering as a whole is very broad and def. has a good long term future. But it isn’t as simple as one might think to switch from one engineering area (even within a subdiscipline) to another.

    • June 1, 2014 1:13 pm

      Also, I liked reading your thoughts! It took me awhile to form these conclusions, which is why I haven’t said much yet.

      I think this job still has huge potential, but it will depend on what my next couple projects are. If they turn out to be similar to this with no signs of improvement, it wouldn’t be a good fit.

  2. June 1, 2014 11:29 am

    It’s never easy starting over in a new job when your old one is comfortable. On top of that, you moved from one city to another, which doesn’t help either.

    As someone who is used to different clients and projects, it’s one of those jobs where either you get used to always changing offices after getting settled in, and you love it, or you hate it.

    Maybe with this job, you’ll find out what you love and what you don’t… and end up either going back to your old job (something similar) or something new.

    • June 1, 2014 1:01 pm

      So far, I haven’t had issues with different clients/ projects. The area I worked in at my previous company for my final 2 years was very dynamic, with changing projects and teams, and I loved the pace and variety, so I don’t expect that to be an issue. So far, my main issue is that the work itself is just not as challenging or impactful as I had hoped (which is really project specific anyway). And sometimes, that’s just the job, and you have to do it anyway. So we’ll see.

      I’m definitely finding out things that I do and don’t like!

      • June 2, 2014 11:50 am

        Someone in the same industry once said that are a lot of components that make up a good engagement: team, location, client, the actual work/learning, and hours. And if you are lucky, you maybe 3 of those. But often times it’s a trade-off (as what you might be getting between the good hours but not-quite interesting work). The great thing is that the projects will change, and the law of averages state that your next engagement will be more interesting than this one. 😉

        • June 5, 2014 1:18 pm

          That is a great way to look at it! I guess I have 2 of these, and the two that impact my personal life the most (hours, location). I really would love to be developing my career more aggressively right now, but all-in-all, this is a first-world problem.

  3. June 12, 2014 12:47 pm

    I suspect after this job is over, I’m going to feel much the same as you do now – I don’t know what my next step is (which is unnerving) but right here, right now, my job is the most ideal it’s ever been. Every job before this has been very much like your list of pros and cons before: some things were good but much wasn’t and it was all one stepping stone after another toward the Platonic ideal of a fulfilling and pleasant job with engaging/engaged colleagues.

    I am learning, though for personal reasons not nearly as much as I should be, but the feeling of stagnation is definitely a frustrating one.

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