By Aaron Woods
I was set. I had a challenging career, made enough money to live well, and had a future that would allow me to retire early if I was prudent. But there was a problem. I hated my work and it was affecting my life in all aspects. On paper, I had should have been content--maybe even happy. The further I achieved more success, more promotions and more responsibilities, the worse it got. After years of feeling more and more disconnected to my work, I realized at age 42, something has to change.
My career exploration began with a lot of soul-searching about where I was in life and how I needed to find work that was more meaningful to me. I worked with a counselor, I read books, I talked to family and friends. There were so many choices I could make and so many ways I could fail and be back to square one. The financial security was very hard to let go. I needed a solid plan before I would leave my current job.
I had always been drawn to psychology and the counseling field. I got a bachelor's degree in psychology earlier in my career but feared the unknown of what a counseling career would look like. Could I do it? Would I like it? It took a couple of years of wrestling with this idea to finally take the plunge of leaving my career behind, going to graduate school, and making this career pivot.
Now, I am nearing my graduation and starting to apply and interview for my first job in career counseling. Some of the questions and fears are still there but I am slowly feeling this transition working. I don't expect that my career change will be a complete turnaround where work does not feel like work anymore. There will always be deadlines, paperwork, stress, and other challenges. Change takes time, along with growth. I have moments where I actually miss my old career. I miss knowing exactly what I will be doing tomorrow and having the confidence to do it.
Luckily, I am now experiencing these little moments, sometimes daily, where I know that what I am doing is more meaningful. These little moments add up and there are days when I am finished where I can feel the shift towards connecting with my work more. There is still much unknown to me about this new career and how it is going to work out. At this point, I know that I have to be patient and not think too hard about where I will be a year from now. While the goal is a more meaningful career, right now, all I really need is to know I am moving in a better direction.
Aaron Woods is a graduate student in the Clinical Mental Health Program at George Fox University. He is currently in an internship at a general counseling site, William Temple House, and also interning at Oregon Health and Sciences University focusing on career counseling for their employees. He is transitioning from a 20-year career in high-tech where he was an Engineering Technician, Project Manager and Program Manager.