We are asked to choose a profession at a place in our lives where we have the least amount of work and life experience; in our late teens and early 20’s. And we then go into that profession with lofty ideals, or at least a lot of optimism. But not before we’ve put a lot of time, money and effort into getting educated/credentialed.
So, what happens when you discover the profession you chose isn’t delivering on what you thought you’d be doing (or how you thought you’d feel doing it)? It creates a crisis of identity.
When I chose human resources (HR) as a profession, it was after hearing a very inspirational talk from someone who worked in HR. She highlighted that HR professionals were sought after, consulted on business needs and part of delivering an amazing employee experience, one that could impact the success of an organization. I was in!
Three years and many thousands of dollars for courses later, I was working in HR and learned a few things. HR could impact the success of organizations, but I’d also learned many organizations didn’t know what HR could do, how to partner with HR practitioners to make it effective, or how to navigate the tension between business needs and human needs. It took me another 15 years of trying to make this profession work to figure out that it was not fulfilling; it was not the right work for me (at least, not any more). That was way too long… staying in a role that didn’t align with my values, and where I couldn’t have a positive impact, negatively impacted my health.
I could have changed sooner, but I was so invested, emotionally, financially and professionally I didn’t know how to identify as anything else. And it wasn’t even out of a fear of changing professions; it was more a belief that I must be doing it wrong for it not to deliver on the amazing outcomes I first learned about in that inspirational talk. I wanted to believe in the dream. It’s only now in the “rear-view mirror” that I can see what that belief cost me. Trying to do the same things over and over again and hope for different results wasn’t just holding me back, it was hurting me and the people I loved.
I am not alone in experiencing this crisis of profession, nor in it creating a storm of other consequences, one of which was burnout. It’s possible to appreciate your profession but hate the work. It’s more than OK if what you thought you wanted to do as a young adult is not what you want to do in mid-career. It’s healthy to admit that it doesn’t work for you anymore. It’s good to consider stopping before it impacts your wellbeing. It’s sensible to continue until you have a “plan B”.
And if you need help figuring this out, let’s talk.