550: Career Change Identity Crisis: Who Am I If I Leave This Job?

Learn how to untangle your identity from your career, uncover the internal obstacles of career change and ultimately find a path that aligns with your authentic self.



Michal Balass , Operations Research Analyst

on this episode

What happens when you get your degree and jump into that industry and spend 10, 20, 30 years gaining skills specific to that career and climbing the corporate ladder?

Well, you’re likely feeling a few things:

Accomplished. “Hey, I did the thing! I got the degree, went to work and built a career!”

But the other feeling that many people don’t talk about as much… you feel stuck.

This is what happened to Michal, and it began all the way back in college.

She spent years getting her doctorate and when the time came to get a job in academia, she did it without thinking… because that’s just what you do!

Right? Right???

Unfortunately, doing things the normal way, without question, put Michal in the same place many others are.

In a job that isn’t a great fit and doesn’t particularly line up with what you want out of life!

Michal tolerated it for years (probably for way too long).

“The troubling thing about that is when you don’t fit the role, you don’t fit the job culture, you’d get burned out very easily and very quickly and that’s what happened. But I’m an ambitious person and I held on and the whole time for a lot longer than I should have. And what the breaking point was is that I had my son two years ago and I didn’t want to go back to work.”

We see this all the time. High performers often resist the idea of change, fearing the loss of the identity they’ve built around their career. This reluctance to let go leads to a state of autopilot, where they remain in a job that is no longer serving them, and that’s when the burnout begins.

Michal knew that this job wasn’t the right one for her but honestly didn’t know what would create the best situation for her or what else she could do for work, since she had always been working in academia.

But then Michal had her son, and she knew something had to change.

“I didn’t want to spend my time that I was away from my son doing something that wasn’t fulfilling to me.”

She realized she shouldn’t stay at a job that was making her unhappy just because she thought “that’s what she was supposed to do” or because “that’s what she’d always done.”

That’s when she found HTYC and began working with her career coach. Michal realized she had never really stopped to think about what she truly wanted out of her life and career. She had picked a degree and career goal at a very young age, hit the ground running, and never reconsidered her direction.

She had put so much time and effort into her career and getting to where she was today, that she could not picture herself doing anything else. During her coaching, she discovered that she was having a difficult time separating herself from her career. She had been in Academia for so long that she just believed it was a pillar of who she was as a person.

Through her work with a career coach, a lot of self reflection and personal development, she realized she was much more than what she did for a living… and this declaration made all the difference for her.

Why? Well, identity and career often go hand in hand

When you’ve worked at a job for a long time, or you’ve worked in the same industry your entire career, considering a change can feel like you’re betraying yourself and everything you’ve worked towards.

As high performers, our careers often play a central role in shaping our identity. The roles we hold, the skills we develop, and the achievements we attain all play a role in how we perceive ourselves and how others view us.

This complex entanglement can make it extremely difficult to even consider changing careers. And sometimes, you’re so far in, that you can’t recognize that identity is the reason you’re resisting leaving a job you’re no longer enjoying.

We’ve put together a few points to consider that can help you recognize if your identity is making it challenging to leave a job, even if it’s unsatisfying. Here are some of the internal obstacles we’ve seen pop up and hinder a career change:

  • Validation: When you’re really good at your job (like most of the people we work with) validation from job success can make leaving a job harder. “What if I can’t find something else I’m this good at?”
  • Sunk Cost Fallacy: The investment of time, education, and experience can create reluctance to walk away from a career. You must come to terms with the fact that sunk costs are in the past, and they shouldn’t impact your future decisions. If you’re staying in a career you loathe because of what you’ve already invested, then you’re falling for this fallacy.
  • Social Expectations: External expectations can pressure you to maintain the status quo, even if it’s unfulfilling. There’s a certain way that society portrays that we should go to school, find a job in that field and work, work, work, until retirement. You may not even realize that the reason you’re feeling like you should stay is because everyone else has told you that you should — It takes guts to go against the grain!
  • Loss of Status: Leaving a prestigious profession might be perceived as a social status loss. If you’ve worked your way up in an industry or organization, it can be scary to make a change for the fear of having to “climb down the ladder.”
  • Identity Crisis: A drastic career change may trigger questions about personal identity and what truly matters. If you’ve always known yourself as a teacher, nurse, accountant, it can be scary and daunting to walk away. “Who am I if I leave this career?”

Changing careers can be a real journey, and it’s easy to feel a bit lost in the process. When you feel like your job defines you, leaving it becomes a tough call. But here’s the thing – there’s much more to you than your job.

Untangling yourself from your career is a part of the career change journey, and it can sometimes cause an identity crisis. So, take a moment to tackle the emotional stuff. Consider working with a career coach, think about what really matters to you, and lean on your support system.

For Michal, she realized the best way for her to move onto something new was to walk away from the career she’d always known, so she quit! Separating herself from her career allowed her to spark a new interests by revisiting hobbies she had pursued outside of work in the past.

Remember, it’s not just about finding a new job, it’s about finding a path that fits the real you. Keep that in mind, and you’ll navigate your career change without losing yourself!

What you’ll learn

  • How to separate your identity from your career
  • 5 common internal obstacles that stop career change
  • How to recognize if you’re career has become stagnant
  • The impact of identity on career choices
  • The importance of seeking support if you’re struggling to make a career change
BOnus! Part 2 of Michal’s Story:

Michal Balass 00:01

I got to that point, and I didn't want to give it up. But the thing of it is, is that I didn't want that.

Introduction 00:15

This is the Happen To Your Career podcast with Scott Anthony Barlow. We hope you stop doing work that doesn't fit you. Figure out what does and make it happen. We help you define the work that is unapologetically you, and then go get it. If you feel like you were meant for more, and you're ready to make a change, keep listening. Here's Scott. Here's Scott. Here's Scott.

Scott Anthony Barlow 00:40

If you've ever hung on to something for way, way longer than you should, this episode is for you. Whether it's a job or a relationship, maybe it's something completely different. But all of them can leave you feeling completely drained. So the question becomes, "How can you motivate yourself to make the necessary change and then make sure that you move on to the first sign of trouble the next time? How can you learn from it?"

Michal Balass 01:07

I took the job. I didn't really think twice, because this is what my life graduate work was leading up to. Now looking back at it, I never really asked myself that questions of whether I wanted to do this.

Scott Anthony Barlow 01:21

That's Michal Balass. Michal was working at a university in a good, but definitely not a great job, that really wasn't right for her. And since it was a good job, she knew things could be much worse. So she, of course, did what many people do and held on to the role way, way too long. Unsurprisingly, she began to burn out. Finally, when she hit her breaking point, as he calls it, she decided it was enough. And she absolutely had to make a change. This familiar story might relate to you or people that you know. But she shares really great insight on why she feels like she held onto that job, and how this career change completely shifted how she thinks about success. But I'm gonna let her tell you all about it. Here she is. She first goes back to where her career first began.

Michal Balass 02:16

I graduated with my PhD in 2011. But I left graduate school a year before I defended the big dissertation. And it's pretty typical when students get towards the end of their graduate career is that if they land a job that they leave and they come back and finish up those loose ends. And I got my first position, which was a temporary position at a college in upstate New York. And it was really a big deal because this was a couple of years after the recession. And universities were not hiring. And so I thought that, and I did very, very big. So I was in that position for two years, I went back, I defended my doctorate. And then quickly after that, I knew that my position was temporary, that I needed to find something more permanent. And so I went on the job market as academics say, and I had several interviews, but I got one offer. And this was what we call a tenure-line job academic job, which is, again, a huge deal because there's not a lot of those out there. And that job is in Maryland. And I was so enthusiastic, and I took the job. I didn't really think twice, because this is what my life graduate work was leading up to. Now looking back at it, I never really asked myself the questions of whether I wanted to do this. Right?

Scott Anthony Barlow 03:50

Interesting. Yeah. Which is normal, right? Many of us don't do that.

Michal Balass 03:55

Yeah. And I want to say that the job that I had up to two months ago with that university was great, but it wasn't the right fit for me. And I think I knew that the first maybe month when I started. But I talked myself out of it. I said, "Well, you know, it's just a new job, and this is what you've been working for." And the troubling thing about that is when you don't fit the role, you don't fit the job culture, you get burned out very easily and very quickly. And that's what happened. But I'm an ambitious person and I held on a lot longer than I should have. And what the breaking point was is that I had my son two years ago, and I didn't want to go back to work. And a lot of people told me, "Well because you just had a baby and you want to stay home." I didn't want to stay home. I was happy to sort of transition back into work. I just didn't want to go back to that role. And that what sparked the career transition. And I'm smiling, as I'm saying this, but as I was going through it, I was very nervous. I was very upset all the time. I didn't know what was next. I had a lot of fear in being able to leave.

Scott Anthony Barlow 05:27

I want to come back to that fear here in just a second. But before that, I want to ask you about something that you said just a moment ago, which was that you felt like you hung on a lot longer than you should. And I'm curious, you know since you've recently been through this journey, through the cycle, why do you think ambitious and high-performing people do hang on so much longer? Because I hear that again, and again. So why do you think that is?

Michal Balass 05:55

I think because you're sort of working towards this goal. And in that process, what gets you through is that you want to achieve this goal. And that goal for me in graduate school was to get this tenure-line job. And what it means to get tenure in academia, it means that you work really, really hard a lot of hours for the first five years, then there's a committee of people who review all of your work. And if you get tenure, that means that you are permanent, you can't be fired, and you get a lot more flexibility and autonomy. And this is what as academics, a lot of academics works towards. So I got to that point and I didn't want to give it up. But the thing of it is, is that I didn't want that. I worked towards it but I didn't want it. But I said to myself, "Well, I worked so hard, right?" It's sort of like this sunk cost effect– you've invested so much time and to step away from it makes you feel like you wasted your time. And I don't think I wasted my time at all. There's a lot of value in a graduate education, there's a lot of value in any role that you take on. I think now I'm so much smarter to know that if something doesn't fit, or whatever your gut is telling you, you're smart enough to know that, "Hey, you know, I got here, and this is great. But I'm going to move on." So I think this is a pretty common phenomenon among people who are very ambitious. You've invested so much time. And you get to that point, and you look around and you're like, "Well, this is not really quite what I wanted. But I work so hard for it. Why would I give it up?"

Scott Anthony Barlow 07:36

Yeah. That's so interesting, though, that this really is something that can take a hold of so many of us, especially when we do work so hard for. I mean, you're a professor of psychology and very familiar with sunk costs and how that impacts your emotions toward different things. And I think that's proof positive that it's difficult to be able to see yourself and recognize that you're in it when you're in it to some degree. So I'm curious, then, fast forward a little bit, you ended up having a baby. And then all these people around you are telling you, well, why you were experiencing what you were experiencing. And it sounded like that really wasn't the case, because you did want to go back to work. And what happened from there? What else caused you to begin to look at this in a different way?

Michal Balass 08:29

So you might be able to relate to this, Scott. When you become a parent, your time becomes very, very different, right? And your priorities change. And one of the things that came about from not fitting in with the role that I was in is that I was frustrated and angry, and I wasn't enjoying my family life. And I didn't want to spend my time that I was away from my son doing something that wasn't fulfilling to me. So the idea in my mind was, well, I'm sending my son to this wonderful daycare, and he's getting a lot out of it. But that time that I'm away from him should be something that was very fulfilling to me. And so that sparked the process. And I was Googling career advice on Google. And I came across your podcast, and I started listening to it on my commute home. So it was after maybe one or two episodes that I listened to. I went on your website, and I filled out a request for coaching and I didn't know what to expect. And you so kindly emailed me back so quickly, and you said that you were happy to have a chat. And I was so nervous because in my mind, I was talking to this career change God, and I didn't know where I was going to go. And we talked about some options. And one of the best things that I've think that has happened to me in the past couple years, besides having my son, of course, was being introduced to Lisa Lewis. She is a wonderful, wonderful coach. And from there, it just sort of spiraled on. We had these really wonderful conversations, and she made me think about things that I never thought before. And one of the first questions she asked me to think about is, what are the things that are really true of me. And when I started generating that list, I sort of understood that there were a lot more sides to me than just this job. And that job is not what is supposed to identify me unless I wanted to. And that's how the process started.

Scott Anthony Barlow 10:51

Let me ask you about that. Because I think that's another common theme that we see all the time. Even if we don't intentionally, and I know that has been true for me and I've heard the same thing from many of our clients and students, but even if we don't intend to, a lot of times, unintentionally, I think we find after the fact that we have allowed our career to be our identification, for lack of a better phrase. So I'm curious for you, as you started to untangle that, what was that process like for you? And then what did you start to realize instead?

Michal Balass 11:29

Well, that process was very hard. And I think I'm still going through it, especially because from day one when I started graduate school, I was groomed to be a professor. And so it became really entangled in my identity. And what really helped was to look for opportunities that were fulfilling that I could still identify with. And do I feel a little bit sad sometimes that I'm not a professor? Yes, but I don't think it's because of anything else besides the fact that it's this transition. And, you know, it's something from my past. But I, by no means, think that or regretted in any kind of way. It's just, I'm doing the same kind of work, just with a different title and a lot more flexibility. And doing, I think 90% of my job is doing things that I like, which is tremendous, right?

Scott Anthony Barlow 12:40

It's tremendous. Most people barely have 10 or 15% of their job that they really, truly enjoy. So especially if it is lining up so clearly with other things that you value, too, like that flexibility you're talking about, and like some of the other elements. So that's super interesting. Now, I know that you really, during this time, you actually started doing photography, as well as a more intentional piece of your life. So how did that come about? Because I know that was tangled up someplace here in the process.

Michal Balass 13:17

Yeah. So I have a lot of hobbies. I used to be a ballerina with a small ballet company in upstate New York, I did that for a couple of years. And that always had these other interests. And what I've noticed is when I stopped engaging in those interests, there's something going on in my life that is not going quite right. And I was always taking photos. And once I started my tenure-line job, I stopped doing that. And I want to backtrack a second and say that, in this process of transitioning out of this traditional academic role that I had, I actually took an unpaid sabbatical. So my supervisor at that time, was very, very supportive. I spoke with him, I said that I needed a little bit of time, and they allowed me to take an unpaid leave from my position.

Scott Anthony Barlow 14:18

And this was a difficult decision for you if I remember correctly. Very difficult, right?

Michal Balass 14:23

Very, very difficult.

Scott Anthony Barlow 14:24

What prompted you to decide to do that?

Michal Balass 14:28

The thought of... this is gonna sound really extreme. The thought of going back and teaching again just made me so miserable that I preferred to just struggle financially and not do it.

Scott Anthony Barlow 14:42

How long? And I am very familiar with that. I have been in that same place where that thought in some ways, and I think I took, at the time it's been 12 years or whatever it's been, but at the time, it was probably a less healthy approach because I think for me, it was less intentional than what I know that you did. Because you ended up talking with your husband and planning out and figuring out how could we do this, what would it look like. Mine was more, how do I do anything else, but this. I was running from which is exactly what we tell people not to do. And so I would love to ask you a little bit about what took place between the time where you started thinking about this, and you're like, "I have to do something else. And this thought is making me miserable. Just the thought of it is making me miserable, let alone the actuality." And what took place in between there and then taking a sabbatical?

Michal Balass 15:39

Yeah, absolutely. And I want to mention, I will tie this back to the photography eventually. So what happened was, is that I had my maternity leave, I went back to work. And a couple months later, the semester started, and I went back to teaching and that semester was okay, I just really slowed down these tests that I used to do really quickly felt so burdensome to me, I just wasn't as productive as I used to be, because I just didn't really want to do it. When I came back after winter break, that's when things really started to break down, I found it was really hard for me to get up in the mornings, I didn't want to go to work. And this was really unfair to the students that I was teaching because they weren't getting a professor that was there, you know, 1,000%. And that semester ended. And I had a little bit of time to think during the summer. And as time was inching closer and closer to going back in the fall, I just had this really nagging feeling that I just I can't do this. So my husband and I had some very tough conversations about what it would mean for me not to work for a few months and just take a break and step away. And there wasn't any dad that we were going to do whatever it took for me to feel better. And so we sort of planned ahead for this a little bit and put money away for me to be not working for about four or five months. And I went and spoke with my supervisor. And I explained that I didn't give too much detail that I was feeling burned out and I wanted some time. But at that point, I didn't quit. What happened was, so I started my unpaid sabbatical in August. And then by September, I had to let them know what classes that I will be teaching starting in the next semester. And I looked at that email, and I said, "I'm not going back."

Scott Anthony Barlow 17:52

This is not happening.

Michal Balass 17:54

Yeah. And so I spoke with him. And I explained to him the situation. Again, he was very, very supportive. And it ended there. And so I said that come January 1st, I will be resigning from my position. And once I did that, I felt this burden, and this heaviness lifted off of me. But I was still very emotionally burnt out. So I wasn't working. And I was supposed to be looking for another job. And the financial pressure was always there in the back of my mind. But I wasn't able to do anything. I was working with Lisa for a good few months. And I knew what I was supposed to do. And she trained me very well. I just couldn't do it. And so I would wake up in the mornings with my son, I would take him to, I would drop him off at his preschool, I would come home. And sometimes I will honestly admit this, I would sit on the couch and all I could do is just watch TV. And in my mind, I thought that I did that for a longer time than it actually did. I think it was maybe a period of three weeks. And one day I woke up in the morning and I just felt better. I don't know what made it better. And I started picking up my camera and I started photographing random things and posting them on Facebook. And then I asked if anybody would be willing to model for me for my portfolio because I just wanted to do it for fun. I didn't think of it in any other way. And I got a lot of volunteers and I went out there and I started photography. And people were asking for me to photograph them. And so I started this little business on the side. And I felt alive again that I was doing something that I was very passionate about. And that made me feel so much better that I think it was late October that I started applying to jobs and positions and networking. And once I was actually ready for that, the process went very, very quickly. So I think I mentioned this to you before that, in that span of time, I applied to five or six jobs, and every job I got at least a phone interview and an in-person interview. And it was because I was hyper-focused, I knew what was going on, I was sending thank you notes, I was having phone calls. And I don't know that I would have been able to do that while still working the other job. It was just taking up so much mental and emotional energy that for me, and I know that you don't recommend this to a lot of your clients, quitting was the best thing.

Scott Anthony Barlow 20:42

It's not right for everybody. And, you know, we get that question many, many times. In fact, we did a full episode on how to know whether or not you should quit. But yeah, it is a very, very particular thing that does not, it's not always the same answer for everybody. And it depends whether or not it's going to rewrite for you. Because actually, some of the pressures that you just called out, can influence whether or not it's a great decision. And here's the reality that I've come to terms with is that it's going to be difficult no matter what. A lot of times we get into the situation, and we think, "Well, if only I had more time. And if only I didn't have this job in the way, and everything like that, then it would be okay." But the reality is, one way or another, it's still going to be challenging. And it sounds like that was the case for you, because you had the financial pressures on your mind, you were still, in some ways, it sounds like recovering from the burnout pieces. And I think that's one of the important things that we've observed that people must have. When they get to that point of burnout, they must get some kind of time away. And then after that, like some kind of distance, sometimes it's not always time, sometimes it's space, but some kind of distance in some way, in order to remove themselves from the real world of their situation and what it's been in the past. And then how they have to get momentum again. It seems like you were able to do that through photography, where you felt alive again. So I'm curious, as you kind of went through that cycle, what did you think the big pieces and big takeaways for you that really, really helped you move through that? Because everybody goes through that in some ways or another.

Michal Balass 22:28

Yeah. I think being patient with yourself. The more that I pushed myself, and the more that I, in my own mind, beat myself down that I shouldn't be doing this and I should be doing that and I shouldn't be pushing harder, the more resistance I gave to myself, the more it took me away from the process. And the more I had this aversion to figuring out my future. And the moment that I stopped, and I sort of let my mind engage in something else, that calmed me down. And those fears were still in the back of my mind, the financial fear that "Oh my goodness, I'm never going to be employed again, what am I going to do? How much longer can we do this just on my husband's salary?" And I've heard this before. And once you sort of give yourself some space to just calm down, you become more solution-focused, and you can start to see a lot more clearly than when you're hyper-focused and pushing and resisting where it doesn't get you anywhere.

Scott Anthony Barlow 23:37

That's one of the things that we find that we are doing a lot of times with folks that we work with is helping them create that type of space. And it's not an easy, it's almost never an easy thing to do. But for you, now that you have done that for yourself, what do you think helped the most to create some of that space? I heard you say already that I just needed to stop being so hard on myself in some ways, but what else do you think actually made the difference for you there? At least from what you can reflect upon now.

Michal Balass 24:18

Sure. So one is giving myself space. Two was in those days where I wasn't looking for a job but doing something to occupy my time it was photography, it was engaging in these day-to-day activities that was sort of preoccupied my mind. So I wasn't thinking about the job process itself. And then I said to myself that I was going to have conversations with people about what they do, and it wasn't about finding a job. I was just interested in somebody talking to me about what they do. So maybe that would spark inspiration for me. And I had some many networking conversations and when I came at it in that perspective where I was just going to talk and I wasn't going to ask for anything else, all of a sudden having these, I don't want to call them networking conversations, I don't know what to call them. But I would, you know, contact somebody on LinkedIn and say, "Hey, I'm really interested in what you're doing. I would love to hear more." And they would be really eager to speak with me. And that sort of sparked my own journey to say, you know, one of the things that was stopping me from moving on is that I didn't want to do anything academic, right? So I just came from academia. And I had this like aversion and I wasn't going to go back. Surprisingly enough, I'm still in academia, I still love academia. And I needed to acknowledge that. And I just needed to have conversations with people who are doing academically aligned careers, which there are a lot of people who are doing it. I just restricted myself from it, because I couldn't think beyond my current situation. And once I stepped away from it, it became pretty easy to do that. Yeah. And once I did that, things progressed very fast. I think.

Scott Anthony Barlow 26:18

That is so interesting. And we see that time and again, too. And I'm fascinated by the psychology elements of exactly that, where you come out of something and then you're like, I need to get the heck away from that. And you're sort of attributing that to be the problem when that isn't necessarily the problem. Sometimes it's something completely different. And then, you know, many times people end up in a variation, not always, but like in your case, you ended up in still academia, but in a completely different way, in a way that was much more in alignment with what you wanted and needed. And first of all, that is amazing. Because I think that a lot of people don't really realize what that takes to be able to do the work in order to get yourself the time and space and everything and all the conversations and all the things that have to happen in order to be able to get to that point and have that learning for yourself. But second of all, I would ask, what was the hardest part for you out of this whole thing? Or what were some of the most difficult challenges for you out of this whole journey, or piece of the journey?

Michal Balass 27:32

Oh my. Several things. As I mentioned before, letting go of the word Professor being a part of my career identity. And once I let that go, that released me a little bit from depression. The other hard part was the financial aspect of it. And I want to echo what you said before is that it's a dangerous thing to do, right? And it's not for everyone. And in my position, there wasn't any other way to engineer it. So before deciding to quit your job, I would recommend to talk with your supervisor, whoever is in a position to be a mentor to you and see what other things could be worked out. I think that's very important. In my situation, there wasn't anything else that could have been worked out. And it's really important for me to say, because I wouldn't wish that financial pressure and fear on anybody, especially if you have a young child, and you're trying to support a family. So I think that's really important. So in addition to this identity crisis, and this financial aspect, and the pressure of like having to do something right now, I mean, those were two big things about it. And I have to own this, that I was the one standing in my own way. You know, it wasn't that there's not a lot of opportunities out there. It was just me letting go and not trying to find the perfect next step. And I think that's really important. And that's the third aspect of this that was really, really hard. Like when I was looking for something the next step, I said, "I need to do something that is perfect and is going to fulfill X, Y, and Z." And that's really hard to do. And so you want to step into the process– A; being very patient with yourself, being very kind to yourself, and thinking about just improving from where you came from, to where you're going to go and make sure that that next step is gonna allow you the opportunities to grow. One of the most fantastic things that I love about my supervisor now is that when I interviewed him, he said that he doesn't expect me to stay there forever. He wants to create opportunities for me to grow. And the highest compliment to him would be if I stay in this role for a while, and then I move on to something else. And when he said that, I said, "Yes", this is what the process is about. It's doing something that fits your life in that mom

Scott Anthony Barlow 30:37

That is amazing advice. And I think, also, going back to what you said that you were the one standing in your own way, I think we've had exactly zero people that we've interacted with where the biggest challenges were something that was external. I have my personal experiences, then that literally 100% of the time, the biggest challenges are us standing in our own way, which is not what I think many of us go into this thinking. So that is amazing for you– One, acknowledging that. And then two, doing something about it. And then the not trying to find the perfect next step. I think that is so valuable. It's another type of pressure, like you were talking about the pressure earlier, right? That is just another type of pressure that we have a tendency to put on ourselves. And then it causes us not to be able to find any step.

Michal Balass 31:36

Right. Yeah, absolutely. And I think the difference between when I accepted the position that I'm in now, and the one that I accepted when I moved to Maryland was that I accepted my other academic job as I started it, I was going to get tenure, and I was going to retire from that institution. And I accepted this position knowing that I'm going to do this for a while, I don't know how long, I'm enjoying it thoroughly as we speak. And at some point, I'm probably going to grow into something else. And just that mind frame that different framing is so powerful, right? It's not something that I've ever started with any other job knowing that I may need to move into something else. And that's very powerful.

Scott Anthony Barlow 32:25

Well, in some ways, and I love what you're talking about. In some ways, it is really setting us up for different types of unneeded, I hesitate to use the word failure, because I think really failure is actually good in a lot of different ways. And we try and engineer failure into a lot of different things that we do. So we can have fast learnings. But it really is setting yourself up for whatever the opposite of success would be, and the opposite of what most people actually want. If we're going into it, the way that you did and I did many years ago too were thinking that, "Hey, this is the end." Like, because you're leaving the job, you're leaving all jobs one way or another. There is, whether you leave or whether they decide you leave, or whether I don't know, like something's going to happen, eventually, somewhere something in life is going to come up. And so it is really an impossible thing to find that perfect place where you're going to stay forever. And yeah. My last question to you. And you've given so much great advice so far. What else, aside from not trying to find the perfect next step, and getting out of your own way to some degree, what else after having gone through this would you give as advice to people who are in that place back where you were, way back where they might be thinking about the role, and be like, "I don't know how much longer I can do this. And I'm trying to figure out what would be right for me", but what advice would you give them if they're back there to be able to really figure this out and let them know what's coming?

Michal Balass 34:11

Yes, I would say first of all, and I said this before, be kind to yourself, be patient to yourself, and that things do always work out. That's one. The other thing I would recommend is to keep on having conversations. Don't have conversations because you're looking for another job, have conversations with people who are doing things that are interesting because you're interested in it. And that's going to open a whole world to you that you don't know about because you're not having conversations. And I want to say that I'm a very introverted person. When I walk into a party, I'm not the center of it and never was. But I can have these conversations now and I am still connecting and, you know, even now where I'm very happy with my current position, and I'm not looking to do anything necessarily in terms of leaving or anything of that nature, I'm still having conversations. I'm having conversations with other people at universities. I'm having conversations with people outside of my department learning about interesting things, because I don't know what circumstance is going to change, which is going to spark another move or another desire for a career change. And I think that's really important. And the important part of having conversations is about that it enlightens you about the possibilities. And when you hear about somebody who's doing something that is so fantastically interesting to you, I don't know, for me, it's very inspiring, and it keeps me going, it keeps me growing as a professional.

Scott Anthony Barlow 36:02

Hey, if you love this story where we talk through and walk you through step by step how someone got to more meaningful work, then you'll absolutely love our audiobook– Happen to Your Career: An Unconventional Approach to Career Change and Meaningful Work. I even got to narrate it, which was so fun. And something that I really enjoyed doing and will definitely do for future books as well. But it also contains firsthand accounts from career changers on how they made the move to more meaningful work, just like we include on the podcast here. And actually, it's been called the best audiobook experience ever by some reviewers. You can find those reviews, and the book itself on Audible, Amazon, or any other place where books are sold. Seriously, just pause this right now and go over to Amazon or Audible or wherever you want and download it. You can be reading it and started on your career change in literally seconds.

Scott Anthony Barlow 36:57

Now here's a sneak peek into what's coming up next week right here on Happen To Your Career.

Scott Anthony Barlow 37:01

When you think about leaving your current company, they often fall into one of two categories. Movie-worthy visions, lighting the office on fire while flipping the bird on the way out the door. Well, the building slowly crumbles behind you. Or the option number two, being worried that your boss and all the people you care about are going to feel as though you flip them the bird and burn down the building, leaving everyone in the lurch while you go on to take care of your own life. But what if there were a completely different way? What if you could have your boss help you find a new role? What if your boss and co-workers supported your efforts to make a change while simultaneously you worked to set everyone up for success? That way when you left, they know that they're well taken care of. Let's put this another way. What if you didn't have to worry about burning bridges at all? And what if you have the support of the people that you work with to cross over your new bridge? That bridge still remains and everybody wins.

Scott Anthony Barlow 38:03

All that and plenty more next week right here on Happen To Your Career. Make sure that you don't miss it. And if you haven't already, click Subscribe on your podcast player so that you can download this podcast in your sleep, and you get it automatically, even the bonus episodes every single week, sometimes multiple times a week. Until next week. Adios. I'm out.

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