Patricia Redlich

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Career Doubts

1st November, 2009


At age 33 I am thinking seriously of a career change. And this is happening just when I am getting to a stable place in my current job. I have worked really hard to get here, but now feel that the demands on me in my newcurrent post are too high, and do not suit my personality. I just can't work out whether I'm lacking the confidence to do myself justice in this job, or whether I'm sensibly running from something I'm simply not good at.

What I do know is that my confidence is very low, I am permanently stressed, and I cannot communicate. I find it extremely hard to make conversation with people in work about anything except work. I come across as stilted and one-dimensional, but really crave friendship and acceptance. How do I even start to sort all this out?

I know it's become a cliché, but getting a better work/life balance would be my suggestion. Look at what you're telling me. You crave friendship and acceptance from your workmates. Why? I understand you want the workplace to be reasonably sociable. Everyone does. But craving friendship and acceptance there? That's not a problem with your job. That's a problem with your social life, or rather lack of it. Job skills, in other words, are not the issue.

Yes job skills also involve the social skills of interacting with a work team. But I think you have those skills. What's blocking easy interaction with your work mates is not an absolute inability to talk to them - since you tell me you can talk to them about work - but the fact that you're looking for too much out of these work relationships. You're feeling stilted and one-dimensional because you yearn to be best buddies, rather than just settling for getting along sufficiently well to make the job work.

You can see that a career change wouldn't solve that. You can also see that this isn't a question of work stress, or promotion beyond your capabilities. Yes, I understand that perhaps you're now a boss, or somehow in charge, or in some way seen as an authority on your subject, and all of those things can lead to work-place isolation. But that still doesn't mean that the job is the problem. You want to be loved. That's a legitimate desire. It's just not a good idea to bring that need into work. Sure, some workmates are indeed best buddies. But it is not necessarily so.

My guess is you spent years focussing on your career, leaving other needs strictly to one side. Now you're there - and the loneliness of your life is all too apparent. The point I'm making is that this is a fresh task you have to face, not to be confused with settling down into your new job. Having got the job, you now have to get a life.

Get fit in whatever way takes your fancy, preferably joining some club where you might meet others, however superficially. Breakfast out at the weekend, sitting in a café with a coffee and the Sunday Independent. Link up with some member of your family, if that's possible, even if only for an odd drink. Check out the local female talent. Rent a motorbike to see if you'd like one - whatever. You get the picture. Shift the focus from your career. You've delivered on that front. Now tackle your loneliness. And if that means getting some counselling about emotional isolation, then do that.

No, it's not easy. But you'll have a much smoother path if you can manage to believe you will make it. It's the doubt that gets to us, not the endeavour. And faith is, in fact, an act of will, however philosophically silly that sounds.
Irish based professional therapist and journalist. Website By : Deise Design