How to Change Careers: Why Quitting Your Job Is The Wrong Next Move

how to change careersYou really hate your job. We’ve all been there, and so we all understand the urge to just up and quit.

But if you really want to know how to change careers or jobs, you might be surprised to know there’s more to it than you may have expected. 

It would be nice to realize you’re DONE at your job and that it’s time to move on, and just be able to quit, right?

It would be nicer still to be able to leave that terrible job and sail smoothly into the next perfect one.

Being ready to quit is not all about having your new job offer lined up or how much money you’ve saved.

Actually, quitting your job is a lot like leaving a relationship.

Once you leave, only a fraction of the work is done. Even though you might feel a huge surge of relief, the truth is in jobs, just like in relationships, you should be asking yourself what went wrong.

Because if you’re honest, only in the most extreme situations will things be completely one-sided. And if you’re not careful, you’ll end up repeating the past and find yourself back in that same godawful situation again – just like you can find yourself in the “same” relationship again and again.

I’m not telling this to blame you.

I’m not saying that your bad job, or your bully of a boss, or your insane co-workers are created or imagined or exaggerated by you. I’m not saying they’re your fault. Not at all.

What I am saying is that you – that all of us – tend to find ourselves in the same interpersonal situations again and again with different people playing the same roles – and this happens until eventually we learn the lesson that’s there to be learned.

So if what you want is a better job with people who feel functional and who don’t push your buttons, quitting your job is the wrong next move.

Just like in relationships, when you’re changing careers or jobs in search of a better one, you’ve got to do the personal development work, instead of believing that running for the hills is the solution to all of your problems. 


Personal Development Work & How To Change Careers

Like I said, I’m not here to blame you. 

It’s seemed right at times to point to the other guy (whether it’s the job or your partner) and think “That’s the problem.” 

And here’s the real shame: When it comes to your job, no one has really ever told you otherwise. 

Now, I’m ALL about finding the work that you’re uniquely suited to do. Work that you love. Work that you feel passionate about, and coming alive through it and making the world alive through it.  

Your current job may never be your passion.

But I don’t think that means that when you’re in a job that feels bad it means it’s time to get out immediately without looking back. Don’t be fooled into thinking that there’s nothing to learn from the situation. 

In fact, sometimes starting exactly where you are is what you need to do to find your way to your passion. 


Using Your Bad Situation for Personal Growth

You don’t need to believe in the law of attraction to believe that we attract the same situations into our lives again and again.

Sometimes, things do feel too weird to have happened by chance or even by our own unconscious design. And who knows, maybe the universe is conspiring to create situations to help you learn and grow so that you become exactly the person you’re here to be. 

But on a more concrete level, we all resonate unconsciously with people, roles and relationships that feel familiar to us, whether or not we “like” them.

So, if you had a domineering mother, you might have an unconscious belief that it’s really no use to form your own opinion, and that it’s better to surround yourself with very opinionated people – and then on a conscious level wonder what the hell is going on and why everyone always seems to be telling you what to do. 

Even in work situations, you may find familiar people – your mother again, or your father, your siblings – anyone who has a relationship with you that still has old baggage, especially baggage from when you were young.

And until you learn to relate to that relationship dynamic differently, grow through it, and heal it – whether or not it’s with the initial person (your parent for example), it can continue to show up in your life. 


What To Do if You Suspect a Recurrent Relationship Pattern

If you suspect that your dynamics at work are more than just a bad fit, here’s what you should do. 

First, determine if what you’re dealing with is deeper than just a difficult work situation.

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Am I more emotionally upset by this situation than the average person would be? 

You may be able to assess this by running the situation by a friend or two and getting their read on it. See how they might react.

If they’re not equally outraged or don’t see the situation the same way you do, you might be getting triggered.

It’s helpful when you’re asking a friend for an emotional read to tell them you need their honest opinion, not an empathetic “joining” with you, where they tell you what a jerk your boss is in an effort to help you feel better. 

2. Have I seen this situation or the people/roles (or something very similar) before?

Maybe you’ve already done therapy or other personal development work, and you’re already aware of your dynamics. So ask yourself, is this something I already know or have seen before? If it seems to fit your pattern, you can probably be fairly certain you’re dealing with a deeper issue. 

Once you determine you’ve got a deeper dynamic on your hands, ask yourself:

What is it triggering?

Write out the dynamic in detail. Who are the “players”? What are the roles? What is the story? It might look something like: domineering mother/submissive daughter/mother is in charge, daughter is without opinion or voice. 

How do I want to be able to respond?

Write a new story. If you’re the daughter in the story above, how do you want the new story to end? 

What lesson is here for me to learn?

What is the lesson you’re learning overall from this? Why does life keep presenting you with this situation?

In the case of our submissive daughter, she’s learning to find her voice – even in the face of domineering people, which might even carry more strength than someone who never had to fight so hard for her voice.

So why are you learning your lesson? 


Your Lesson

Once you understand your lesson, you can begin to learn it.

It still takes time. It can be painful, and it can be tempting for many reasons to revert to old patterns. But if you understand what the lesson is and commit to learning it, you can then move on from your job (or relationship or any other situation) with assurance that you’ll encounter new and better challenges.

And if you happen to run into your old, familiar challenge again, you will recognize it and be able to handle it with skill. You will no longer need to hang on to this pattern and instead be ready for bigger and better things. 



  1. says

    Great post, Jessica!

    I’ve found that being willing to learn from any situation (bad job included) can bring a wealth of growth and learning. It can allow us to figure out what we should or should not do when it comes to our own actions and attitudes.

    Before quieting any job (good or bad) we have to have a plan in place so that we would be able to provide enough income to survive. Blindly quieting with no plan will only lead to frustration. I’ve found that having a bad job can be the motivation for a person to take action on the steps that would allow them to eventually quit and move into something they are passionate about.

    Great post and thoughts!

  2. says

    Jessica, this piece is on the right track.

    The key to finding the right job is self-knowledge. If you don’t know yourself you will never be in the right line of work (nor will you be with the right person… and you won’t be happy either!).

    If you don’t know your gifts, talents and abilities–as well as your weaknesses– you don’t have enough information to make the right decisions for yourself in the area of career choice.

    It takes internal detective work to learn who you are and what you want out of life.

    Most people are reluctant afraid to do this inner work for various reasons. Some because because they fear they will not like what they find, that they will not “measure up” (that means they are using the wrong measurement criteria) or because they simply don’t yet realize the enormous benefits of self-knowledge.

    Identifying a job that suits you is not difficult once you have self-knowledge. Landing one that you want in this economic climate is another story!

    • Jessica Sweet says

      Thanks for your comment, Frank! It’s really true – doing that work is really key to so many aspects of our lives. Once we know who we are and what we want, we’re able to consciously move forward, aware of the roles we’re playing in interpersonal interactions. It’s much easier to know what you’ll like when you know yourself – and that doesn’t just mean finding a job you’ll find fun. It’s also about knowing what you need out of a job. Are you someone who needs a job that provides a reasonable level of contentment so you can work it and go about your life, or do you need a job that provides meaning, fulfillment, and profundity? Knowing yourself will help you answer questions like these as well.

  3. Michael Kotowski says

    Interesting article. As I read it, the title starts to take shape in the “next right move”. If one is unfortunate as to already out of that position (not of their doing), the same applies in that opportunity for recognition, surrender and redirect are more closely at hand, or at least accelerated towards getting that “next right position”.

    Even once you’ve done the introspection and are addressing your character faults, you’re only part way there. The next hardest thing is to convince your target/prospective employers to hire you – despite the reality that you may not have directly performed the role you’re seeking with his/her company.

    This is where the same strengths and realizations gained above come to play in representing your unique qualifications as an asset, NOT a liability.

    Here’s to the next chapter!

    • Jessica Sweet says

      Michael, thanks for commenting! Yes, it can sometimes feel like a long road, but I think that the emotional work that’s done really can only be seen as strength. It’s easy to pretend not to have any emotional work to do, but the truth is NO ONE is without work. So if you haven’t done any, it means you have some to do – not that there isn’t any to be done. Having come through the other side and lived to tell about it can only be positioned as a strength in my opinion. I think that emotional maturity is an asset in the eyes of employers, regardless of other skills that an employee may or may not have.

      • Michael Kotowski says

        Jessica – I fully agree that our own introspection and work is the key and foundation to a successful next step.

  4. says

    Thanks Jessica,
    This is a very good article. I’ve been doing the emotional work that you mentioned here with a great therapist and I have prepared myself for new challenges that are presenting themselves in my life. My attitude determines my altitude, and I had lost that part of myself when I was stuck in old patterns, that kept repeating themselves. I am happy to say that I have moved on in a healthy way and I have challenged myself and I have been able to inspire on purpose.

    I work on my dreams and passions every single day and I am presented with wonderful opportunities. I manage to do the necessary work so that I don’t fall into old patterns that did not serve me well. Your blogs help. Thank you!

    • Jessica Sweet says

      Thank you SO much Leanora. It’s wonderful to think I’m helping, even in a small way. It sounds like you’re doing the work! And it’s amazing to hear that opportunities are unfolding for you. I can’t believe what starts to happen when those unhealthy boulders of “old patterns” and “fear” start to get cleared away. Your attitude really does determine your attitude! Go get ’em!!

  5. says

    Great article, Jessica! Tweeting this one! =) Personal branding can help people make the career switch easier, but I love how you explore the psychological effects of changing careers. Very insightful!

  6. says

    Hi Jessica – some good thoughts here on evaluating a situation at work before running for the hills and quitting. I’ve left jobs in the past because of a certain kind of intensity and emotional ups and downs of the job. I don’t think it was me (lol) but working in politics and advocacy work, it’s the nature of the profession to be very caught up in highly intense situations. This is not the normal workplace and the emotional intensity was expected. I could do it for awhile and then had to leave to take a breather. From each job, I’ve learned how to more effectively manage the ups and downs and also be more mindful of myself in these stressful situations.

    For now, I’ve decided to have less of these extreme situations in my life so have moved over to a less intense job. I didn’t mind doing the other work and it’s definitely helped me get perspective on my life. After dealing with high emotional energy at work, I was better able to deal with it in other areas of my life. Sort of like applying work lessons to my personal life.

    • Jessica Sweet says

      Yes, Vishnu of course you’re right. :) There are always situations that warrant heading for the hills, and it sounds like yours was certainly one of them. Again using relationships as an analogy, there are toxic ones that just need to be left, and the emotional clean up can happen later. I thought about adding this point into the post itself, but I knew a wise soul like you would help illuminate it (and I didn’t have to temper my emotions).

      But still, the point is the emotional clean up does need to be done – and it’s not all about healing the wounds. It’s also about understanding why you felt so wounded in the first place, or what it was that left you so vulnerable to wounding. Once you can answer those questions, you’ll be a stronger person ready to take on (more of) the world!

      I’m really glad you were able to extract yourself from your intense work environments. What a shame it would be not to have YOU here in the form you’re here in today.

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