Sunday, January 6, 2008

Career change success stories

Changing careers is not an easy decision to make. People settle into a line of work for whatever reason and oftentimes people eventually realize that they are unhappy with that vital element of their lives. Feelings of being trapped in a stagnant position can spill over into other parts of a person’s life, creating a nagging aura of unhappiness and malaise. If you’re one of the many who feel unfulfilled or generally unhappy with your current position, taking a chance at just might be the jumpstart you need towards self-fulfillment and a more satisfying life.

As a high school student, I always got good grades. I consistently ranked at the top of my class and had my choice of a variety of high-quality universities. After graduation, I entered Fordham University, a well known institution in New York City. An education at such a university would have opened doors not available to many. Nevertheless, during my first summer vacation, I started working a full time job. In my youthful naiveté, I believed it to be the greatest thing in the world, earning a full-time paycheck. By the time September rolled around, I quit school. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this would become the single worst decision of my life to that point and thereafter.

Following my departure from school, I dallied in many jobs. I was a busboy and waiter, an office clerk, and even a stock boy in a department store. A high school diploma does not quite afford one many opportunities for a well paying job. Not one of these occupations would be considered a real career, only a job. By the time I reached the age of twenty-five or so, I began to yearn a better life, to do more with it, and to find a career that I could be happy and financially comfortable with.

At the age of twenty-five, I got lucky. I found myself a job at a nationally recognized corporate bank as a teller. With a few years, my determination and intelligence allowed me to work my way up to the management side of the banking floor, and I had found myself a bona fide career.

As I worked my way through the ranks at the bank, I became more and more enmeshed in the company. Earning a manager’s title signified a new commitment to the company that felt a lot like giving up my life. My time was no longer mine. I became stressed and started to hate my job. I had felt lucky to have salvaged a respectable career, but in my heart I knew it just wasn’t what I wanted. For the last several years of working at the bank, I dreaded waking up in the morning.

One weekend, in the spring of 2000, I had an epiphany. I had gone to the suburbs of Washington, D.C. to visit an old high school friend who had become a lawyer. We spent the weekend relaxing in his beautiful home, with a manicured lawn, a kidney shaped pool and a Jacuzzi. We played pool in his air-conditioned game room. I spent the weekend quite impressed with all the amenities my friend’s livelihood had afforded him. Towards the end of our relaxing weekend, my friend told me that he had resigned his position at his law firm. He was feeling unfulfilled in his job and wanted to go back to school to become, of all things; a librarian.

I was stunned! I spent the five hour drive home completely astonished at my friend’s revelation. I just couldn’t believe that a lawyer, with all he had in life, wasn’t happy. I began to reflect upon my own life. I concluded that if someone like him could make such a drastic move, why couldn’t I? The next morning, I handed in my own resignation letter to the bank. At first, I had no real plans as to what I was going to do. I truly believed, though, that if I didn’t try, I’d be doomed to spending the rest of my days feeling miserable and unfulfilled, stuck in the quicksand of a job I hated.

Many people in my life have since lauded me for bravery in abandoning my career. To me, I didn’t have a choice. I was always feeling unfulfilled, but hadn’t realized it. By the end of that summer, I had enrolled in a teacher preparation program at a local university at the age of thirty-five. Before I knew it, I had finally received that long-elusive Bachelor’s Degree I had always regretted not achieving almost twenty years before.

Today, I am in my fifth year of teaching English to speakers of other languages at a local school district, and I couldn’t be happier. The life lesson that I’ve learned from this experience is that one should never plainly accept their lot in life. If a person’s not happy with their career, they will never really be happy in their own skin. A career is a major component of a person’s life, and if that slice of their pie doesn’t fulfill them, there will always be a regrettable void lying somewhere within them that will follow them wherever they go. Never believe it’s too late to change! Take chances, seek happiness, and it will come.

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