Is it time for a career change?
I have a successful career in finance, but I find it unfulfilling. I work absurdly long hours and I’ve noticed that I’m not performing as I should. I’m in my 30s, and would like to do something where I can make a difference in people’s lives. I’m thinking of teaching, but I’m not sure about the day-to-day. I’m also concerned about going from making $100,000 a year to much less and going back to school. My wife works, but I feel I should be the breadwinner.
Go for it! Make the move, because if you stay where you are you’ll be forced out due to your continuing decline in performance. This is not too different from a bad relationship: The longer you stay in it, the greater the dissatisfaction and likelihood of poor behavior driving you out. You’re a young guy with many years of accomplishment ahead of you, and you have the benefit of knowing now that you desire something more fulfilling. Many clients come to me in your situation; they are in often their 50s and make changes. You can too.
You’re anxious about whether a new career is right; that’s normal. Do your homework. Meet with a school’s admissions committee to learn about the application process and course requirements, and talk to professionals in the field. Get a clear sense of a teacher’s daily workload. Explore programs for professionals wishing to start a second career as a teacher. You’ll be looked at very favorably, as you’ll bring a body of knowledge and real-life experience into the classroom.
Your concerns about money are legitimate, as you’ll be taking a cut. Think about what’s most important: Is it making several hundred thousand despite working “absurdly long hours,” or is it doing something rewarding and having time to enjoy your family, even if it means less money? Sure, you might have to modify your lifestyle — but in the end, I suspect that enjoying time with loved ones will win out over a huge bank account.
As for your need to be the breadwinner: That’s something you’ll have to reconcile with your ego and the fact that it’s 2011, not 1950. Consider yourself lucky.
– Jonathan Alpert is a licensed psychotherapist. E-mail him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
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