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Careers Café

What to do when a career option loses its lustre


Maybe you’ve spent some time exploring career options. But, the deeper you dig, the less you like the options. It happens. My last post was about how to work around fears that new career paths are out of reach for you. But what do you do when your potential new career choices lose their lustre?

The urgency people feel to replace career uncertainty with a new job title makes it tough to say no to a new potential career. As much as we logically know that progress isn’t linear, it can be a punch to the gut when an option that seemed promising turns out to have an insurmountable flaw. Before you cross it off your list, ask yourself:

  • Do you have the complete picture? What would the same role look like in a different size of organization, in a different industry, or even just in a different size of office? (I’m thinking of two people who were officially HR generalists in manufacturing organizations. One was a one-person department; the other was part of a large HR department. Their jobs were radically dissimilar.) It takes some detective work to answer these questions. If you’re willing to draw on informational interviews, go ahead and ask how much variety there is in how this job is done. Or ask more leading questions, about how factors X or Y impact what the job is like on a daily basis.
  • Are there options related to the one that no longer appeals – options that retain elements that you like, but that don’t have the downside that has changed your mind? Again, informational interviews can be your best friend.

It’s also perfectly reasonable to drop an option, even if you can’t yet name different options that you’d like to pursue. On the plus side, you’ve figured out something that you don’t want to do, and you have probably furthered your understanding of what you want to avoid. Some of us ended up on a path we no longer want just because we never ruled it out. Dropping options isn’t actually the loss of progress; it is progress.

Liz Koblyk
Liz Koblyk is the associate director of the Wilson Leadership Scholar Award at McMaster University.
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