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Considering a Career Change? Check Your Baggage First

Check your baggage

Warning: I’m about to get all up in your business.

If you’re feeling frustrated or exhausted or stuck in your career, maybe it’s not your job that’s the problem. Maybe it’s you.

I may be right or I may be wrong, but you should at least consider the possibility. A lot of people bring a lot of baggage with them to work. Things like this:

  • low self esteem
  • workaholic
  • control freak
  • need for validation
  • perfectionism
  • severe anxiety
  • bullying
  • approval seeking
  • passive aggressive
  • untreated depression
  • constant need to be right
  • combative
  • overanalyzing
  • won’t listen
  • easily offended
  • unwilling to compromise
  • self sabotage

What’s some of the baggage you carry around with you at work? Try to think of at least three things. They may or may not be on the list above.

You’ve just got to deal with those issues. I say that without judgment. We all have issues – you, me, and every other human being on the planet. If this stuff is getting in your way at work (hint: it is), you need to devote some of your energy to doing something about it.

My personal struggle has been with approval seeking, excessive striving, and perfectionism.

Let me tell you, perfectionism is a noose you knot yourself. tweet it

For most of my life perfectionism really got in the way of my happiness. Big time. I wouldn’t say I’ve totally slayed that dragon, but I’ve made huge strides and I’m much happier for it. If you struggle with some of this stuff and don’t deal with it, it’s going to affect your work, and even if you change careers you’re just going to carry it with you to your next job.

So, the question is: Is the problem your job or is it you?

Maybe you don’t have the confidence to speak up at work. Maybe you’re doing too much work with not enough pay and you’re burning out. Well, did you ask for a raise? Did you ask for a reduced workload? You have to ask for the things you want.

What’s one thing you can do this week to start dealing with one of your issues? Make it a baby step or a big step. Maybe it’s reading a helpful book. Maybe it’s speaking to a doctor or therapist. Maybe it’s having a conversation that is long overdue, or talking about it with a friend or colleague. Maybe it’s joining some kind of support group, or working with a coach, or enrolling in a workshop. Or maybe it’s just a commitment to notice when the issue creeps up so you can start to self-correct.

Bailing on your job without examining your issues is like bailing water out of a boat with a hole in the bottom. It won’t work. You can bail until you’re bone-weary, but you’re still going to get wet. That’s what happens when you focus on the symptoms of a problem instead of the cause.

Let me be clear: Just because you have some issues (and, honey, we ALL have issues), it’s no reason to stay in a job that sucks until you’ve battled all of your demons and slayed all of your psychological dragons. That takes a lifetime…if you’re lucky.

You are going to be a work in progress for your whole life. Don’t let this stuff get in the way of making an important change, but don’t ignore it either.

If you’re yearning for a change in your career, do it. But deal with your baggage and personal issues too. If not, they’ll follow you to your next destination. Ask yourself, “How am I getting in my own way?”, and work on that stuff alongside any other ambitions you may have.


This is an excerpt from Careergasm: A Course for Discovering Your Calling.


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