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I no longer love my career. Should I go back to school? Add to ...

The question: I’m 29 and have a good career. But for the past few years I have not felt as passionate about my work as I used to. I like the idea of embarking on a new career and have at times looked at going back to school. While I know it’s important to do something you are passionate about, I can’t help to wonder if this is the best choice at my age. I want to get married in the next few years, I have a mortgage and enjoy the lifestyle I have currently. I’m constantly in a debate about whether I should just try to make my current career work or give up my lifestyle now and start from scratch. What should I do?

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The answer: You are facing a dilemma that many young adults can relate to. You’re in a career that you once thought was great, but you realize now that you are not crazy in love with what you do. This becomes complicated when you have financial commitments and thinking about possibly starting a family.

There’s no right or wrong answer to your question. Ultimately, it comes down to your personal values and the weight you put on them. Certainly the work that we do in our day-to-day lives is an important part of who we are, and it can have a tremendous impact (positive or negative) on our level of happiness, personal fulfilment, sense of self, and overall quality of life.

The myriad options we have for jobs and careers, and the focus on finding a personally fulfilling career above and beyond all else is a relatively new phenomenon – certainly something our parents and grandparents didn’t emphasize nearly as strongly as we do now.

What I sense is that this is creating more than just fleeting concerns for you. As such, you need to pay attention to it and work toward a resolution.

Is age a primary barrier for you? If so, five words for you: You. Are. Still. Very. Young! Research tells us that the average person entering the work force now will make up to seven distinct shifts in their career throughout their lifetime. A number of factors (enhanced life expectancy, changing nature of society and work, financial demands) are leading people to work years longer than their predecessors did, with the average age of retirement now closer to 70.

Assuming you have 40 more working years left, ask yourself if you could truly and sincerely see yourself in your current career for the rest of your life? If that thought evokes considerable distress, you have your answer. It is certainly responsible to be planning for your future, but do you have immediate plans to be getting married? Are you even in a relationship? You are doing an injustice to yourself if you delay making a career transition because of future unknowns that may or may not happen as you have planned.

Maintenance of your current lifestyle (and financial obligations) is a very real consideration. Are there ways that you could be creative in working around this as a barrier? For example, you may consider getting a roommate to help with the mortgage while you go back to school. Starting a part-time program of study that allows you to continue to work and earn a salary may be a nice balance that fits with two important goals – maintaining your home and current lifestyle, while continuing to pursue alternate career aspirations.

I would suggest meeting with a career counsellor at a local college or university. This may help provide you with a range of creative options: For example, obtaining a specialized certificate or upgrading in a particular area may be enough to open other career doors, without you having to start from scratch.

Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych., is a clinical psychologist and organizational & media consultant. She is the host of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network’s Million Dollar Neighbourhood and is the psychological consultant to CITY-TV’s The Bachelor Canada. Her website is www.drjotisamra.com and she can be followed @drjotisamra

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