Thinking That Your Career Choice Was a Mistake? You’re Not Alone

Here’s why it burns you so much

Second-guessing your career path is going to be one of the hardest realizations you’ll ever have. I know that maybe at the beginning of the journey, you felt genuinely excited. I know that deep down you felt like this was the right path for you. When people asked you what you wanted to do, you told them proudly and you meant it.

I know that you put in a lot of money into training and hours into studying. I know all the effort you put into relationships that you were sure you were going to cultivate. I know that you fought just as hard as your peers for those elusive job opportunities. And in your off-hours, you probably tried to learn new things about your field to stay on top. Because this wasn’t just getting a job for you — this was going to be your career.

Then you finally got your spot in the place you’ve dreamt of since day one. I know how successful you felt seeing your name on the cubicle or your new workstation wiped and ready to go. I know you had your “yeah, I’m new!” introduction to coworkers rehearsed in your head and a story ready to tell all your friends by Saturday.

But as quickly as you loved it, I know that at a certain point…maybe you realized that it sucked. All of it sucked.

Everything about it: the work, the environment, the mission, even the people no longer inspired or motivated you. I know that everything just felt simply…awful.

At first, maybe you blamed yourself. I know that you tried to find reasons and give yourself pep talks:

  • You’re just nervous — it’ll go away with time.
  • It’s imposter syndrome — you’re better than you think you are.
  • You’re not getting it —keep learning and have patience.
  • You don’t fit in with the people— no one does at first.

I know that you got tired of trying to fix or rationalize your feelings. You probably ignored it. I know that you tried to put in more hours, be more helpful and work harder. You knew how much you wanted to do this, how much you put in to get to this stage. You didn’t want to let yourself down — or god forbid, everyone that helped you get here.

I know that you thought about your professors, the career counsellor and your previous employers. How you spent hours asking for in-office meetings and curating manicured emails to get their tips and references. I know that you even thought about your family, your SO and your friends. How they listened to you moan for months and try to pep you up for the next round of exams or interviews.

You can’t let them all down. You couldn't.

But I know what came next. I know what you felt when you entered your job that fateful morning — when it all didn’t feel right anymore. The fear and inability to breathe until you could visualize leaving eight hours later. I know that the feeling didn’t leave too, not really. Not ever.

It was your slow and bitter realization that it wasn’t your fear of the job or the intimidation of the industry, but something far deeper. And I know that eventually, you came to accept it too…that you just didn’t like your career anymore. You thought that your career choice was a mistake.

Then I know what you thought afterwards — all that hard work, all those hours, all that networking. Did it go to waste on you?

That was me about a year ago. After two years of grad school and $30k in student loans, I knew by my first month at the department I had planned my whole career around getting into, that it was all a mistake. And I’m still dealing with it.

Nothing will devastate you more than you being the reason why you no longer care about the career path you chose for yourself. Nothing will feel more self-deprecating than you second-guessing your supposed chosen path. I know there will be a pit in your stomach that will take a long time to go away. I know that it will feel like the world’s biggest pill that you can barely swallow.

So if you’re feeling like a failure in a field or industry that you didn’t know you would fail at simply because you didn’t like it anymore, trust that you’re not alone — and that it is going to be okay.

Millennial, noncommittal romantic, walking the tightrope between hope and depression. Sounds like you too? I’ll write something for both of us.

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