How to Rebound From a Wrong Career Choice

Disillusionment can seep in quickly as a job plays out day to day. You may realize that your tasks don’t mesh well with your personality or talents. Thus, a research scientist with a vivid imagination may have to focus on one particular area for years and may conclude that there is little room for creativity, Mr. Lore said. Or a doctor may consider the work to be overly repetitive, he said, or a lawyer may see no enjoyment in arguing and dealing with paperwork.

Often, Mr. Lore said, people place too high a value on the external rewards of a job, like money, prestige and power. While these can be important, he said, a job’s intrinsic nature — the types of tasks you do, the skills these require and the perceived meaning and value of your work — are more vital to a sense of fulfillment.

Questioning your career choice is different from not being in the mood to work, finding your work difficult or not liking your boss or your co-workers. But it isn’t always easy to tell the difference between disliking a job and disliking your work environment.

“A lot of people who say that they hate what they do actually hate who they do it for,” said Barbara Safani, owner of Career Solvers, a career management firm in New York. In that case, she said, they need to work on managing their relationships rather than changing careers.

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Sean Kelly

Unhappiness with your career choice goes to the root of your identity and your sense of authenticity, said Robert I. Sutton, a professor and organizational psychologist at Stanford.

People whose careers aren’t the right fit often feel like impostors, even if they are very skilled at their jobs, he said. Another symptom is constant annoyance with the demands being made of them, even though these are reasonable for the business they’re in, he said.

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