So You Chose the Wrong Career, Now What?

If you clicked on this headline, then you’re either facing a career crisis or, like me, facing my mom who has a smug look on her face, telling me that I should’ve listened to her when she told me not to pursue a degree in philosophy. Either way, you realized that you took a wrong turn somewhere and are now looking for a way out. 

It’s always difficult to admit that you took a career misstep. For some, it takes years of self-denial before they finally admit that the unrelenting hum of unfulfillment will only go away if they switch, not to a different company but entirely different industry. So, now that you’ve listened to the hum, what should you do? 

Don’t Jump the Gun

You’ve seen it in movies. A protagonist working at a toxic workplace careens into a meltdown, delivers a lengthy but impressive speech, grabs an office pet fish named “Flipper”, and walks out with a gorgeous staff accountant who later delivers the unforgettable line, “You had me at hello.” Sure, it seemed cool when you watched it. But doing this in real life doesn’t actually lead to the same results as Jerry’s. 

So before you tender your resignation, give yourself enough time to find some clarity on where you want to go next. Make a list. This may be a cliche tip, but cliches are cliches for a reason. They work. Jot down some questions that need resolving. What industry do I want to break into? Do I have the skills or education needed to pursue this path? In the same vein, how much training will I need? Can I afford it? More importantly, how would it impact my family? 

The first question may be the most difficult to answer. Sometimes, it’s easier to recognize that you chose the wrong path than it is to realize where you should go next. If you’re still on the fence about this, do your homework and research. Take a career test if you must. Cover your bases before making that life-changing decision.   

Go Back to Square One

Once you’ve decided which industry you’re breaking into, it’s time to do the dirty work. Just as how you went to school to prepare for your current job, so should you take that path once again to gain a deeper understanding and expertise of your chosen career. Fortunately, a myriad of platforms has emerged for people like you who may be on a tight budget or in need of a fast-tracked approach. If you want to move to a non-traditional path, then check out accredited trade schools online. If you’re thinking of transitioning to tech, then coding bootcamps may be worth your time. There is no shortage in numbers for bootcamps. In fact, over the years, the tech sphere has witnessed a bootcamp boom, all of which are geared towards generating a competent talent pool to fill the skills shortage in the industry. 

No matter the avenue you choose, remember that going back to square one is nothing to be embarrassed about regardless of your age, background, or previous accomplishments. Embrace the newness of things and take it as an opportunity to expand the breadth of your knowledge.   

With Crisis Comes Opportunity 

Last year, a survey found that 58 percent of workers are willing to switch industries even if that would mean lower pay. Forty-nine percent took the dramatic industry leap, including switching “from marketing to engineering” and “teaching to finance”. Everyone, at some point in his or her life, eventually has to look at the map and see if he or she is still on the right track. One would either keep driving down the road, take a detour, or choose a different path. Will it be easy? Of course not. But allowing a cloud of discontent to hover around you due to fear will bring you nowhere. Think of it this way: the sooner you charge toward a different lane, the sooner you’ll see clearer skies. For the sake of putting my philosophical background to some use, let me leave you with a piece of wisdom from a renowned philosopher: “Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda.

Artur Meyster is the CTO of Career Karma (YC W19), an online marketplace that matches career switchers with coding bootcamps. He is also the host of the Breaking Into Startups podcast, which features people with non-traditional backgrounds who broke into tech.